How to Replace Your Sewing Machine Needle
(when it snaps, is damaged or goes blunt)
Changing your needle is a really simple operation.
If you are starting to get tangled a lot or drop stitches then changing your needle is a good first fix to see if that sorts it out. Snapping a needle can throw your machine’s timing out in which case you’ll need to get it professionally serviced (yes, I’m speaking from experience ~)
As a rule of thumb, it is best to change your needle every 5 hours of sewing or every second project. Replace damaged needles as soon as possible to reduce the risk of nicking and damaging your bobbin case as it swings past.
Choosing a Needle Size
The main thing to remember is that the lower the number, the finer the corresponding needle and therefore fabric you can use with it.
You can’t really tell in this photo but 70/10 has a thinner shank than a 100/16. It would be a better size to use with silk, satins or chiffons etc. whereas the 100+ are good for heavy weight denim and multiple layers.
You can tell what size a needle is by looking carefully at the end that’s inserted up into your machine.
I use an 80/12 as my normal everyday sewing needle. I use a denim needle 100/16 for topstitching bags.
Other key things to remember:
- Sharps have a point that is designed to pierce tightly woven fabrics.
- Ballpoint needles have a rounded tip to weave through the elastic fibres of knit fabric. Using a sharp needle with knits may cause the fabric to ladder or run.
- Universals are a good mix of the two – a slightly rounded tip but still sharp enough for woven fabrics.
- Denim needles are the best for heavy fabrics and multiple layers as they have a sharp point and thick shank.
- Topstitching needles have a larger eye to accommodate thick threads and are very sharp to produce accurate stitching
- Leather needles have a small blade at the point so they easily pierce a hole in leather and felt, not good for woven fabrics if you need to unpick
- Twin needles are great for decorative work on necklines/hems of knit garments. Don’t forget to buy two spools of thread.
There’s a good chart that explains all the different types of needles and their uses here.
How to Change Your Needle
Step 1: Hold the needle with your left hand and undo the screw at the top of the needle with your right hand. Holding the needle ensures it doesn’t drop down inside your machine.
You may have a tool like this one or screw driver that came with your machine to help you with this step.
Step 2: Remove the needle by pulling down and away from the needle clamp.
Step 3: With the flat side towards the back, push the new needle up inside the needle clamp as high as it will go.
Step 4: Use your fingers initially and then your tool of choice to tighten the needle clamp screw. The tighter you can make this, the better. A loose clamp may leave the needle down in the fabric you are sewing.
Step 5: Re-thread your needle, pushing the thread from front to back.
All done, and you’re now ready for sewing.
UPDATE: Heather of Feather’s Flights has an excellent post on sewing machine needles.