Sunday, May 20, 2012

What to Do if Your Sewing Machine Needles Keep Breaking.

When I made my last garment, I fiddled around with tension because my sewing machine needles kept breaking. Then I went and bought a different brand, thinking the brand I was using was cheap. But as I sewed, my needle would break. I tried a sharper needle. That didn't work either. Then it stopped. I think I was causing the breakage because I was pulling, not guiding the fabric.

Common causes for breaking needles:

1) needle too small for the fabric being sewn - try a sharper more durable needle (see my Needles for your Sewing Project post here. It includes a guide for needle size and recommended fabrics.)

2) thread jams caused by improper threading or poor seam starting

2 a) sometimes having the upper tension too tight will cause the needle to break or bend.
2 b) if the upper thread is caught on something this can cause the needle to break or bend too.

3) pushing or pulling the fabric under the presser foot (let the feed dogs do their work! You guide, it moves the fabric!)

4) needle not properly installed, usually not all the way up in the needle clamp or you don't have the flat edge at the back. 

5) needle too big for the machine (needle length increases with needle size: -- if the needle is too large for the machine, it may hit something and break. Check your manual for the proper range of sizes your machine can use.

6) timing is off, so the needle hits something, usually the bobbin case.

Notes: In my experience, #2, 3 and 4 are the most common causes, with #3 being the most common I've seen from beginners.

Quick tips to look for when trying to fix this sewing machine error:

  • Make sure the needle is going into the shaft/holder in the correct direction - usually with the flat side to the back of the machine.
  • Check the machine to see if there is a needle placement selector (left, center, right). Set the position to center.

  • Manually, turn the hand-wheel and watch to see if the needle is hitting the presser foot, needle plate, bobbin or bobbin case.

    • If it is hitting the presser foot or needle plate, take the needle out an switch the position of the flat side and try again.

    • If it is hitting the bobbin or case, reinstall them so they are properly in place.

  • If the needle is clearing all and catching the bobbin thread and is still breaking, you do not have a large/strong enough needle for what you are sewing - choose a larger needle.

  • When going over thick seams like jeans, the presser foot tips up in the front and this sometimes will cause a needle to break. Stop the machine when the foot tips. Lower the needle into the fabric. Lift the foot and place a rolled up scrap under the back of the foot. Lower the foot. The scrap will keep the foot even as you finish sewing across the seam.

I have a post for Needles for your Sewing Project here.


    1. thanks for the tips Nothy! I have the same problem too sometimes, I think I am pulling too hard as well. I am clueless when it comes to what needle for what fabric. So this is just the right post for me. I have needles of different sizes but I keep using the same needle for everything...haha..what a bozo I am!


      1. Hi Mongs,

        I pretty much use a universal needle for everything. I change needles for knits and if I am sewing denim. I do see a difference in efficiency when I use the correct needle for the fabric though.

    2. Good information Nothy. I find that my tension needs to be adjusted when the needle bends - so I fit into your list at #2.

    3. I am afraid I am one of those people who don;t change needles often enough. Then i waste valuable sewing time fiddling with dials and tension only to realize the needle is wrong and the shops are closed!

    4. I think my machine timing is do I fix it ?thanks.

      1. I would try re-threading your machine using the manual - you wouldn't believe how many things mess up if the machine isn't threaded properly. Also, is the bobbin wound tightly? You may want to rewind the bobbin and try again. Finally is the top thread the same make, etc as the bobbin thread. That can through things off.

        I had a lot of trouble with my recently serviced Kenmore and I was about to call the sewing machine mechanic again when I decided to re-thread. Viola, all fixed. ANd boy, am I glad I tried that before calling!!!

        If those three things fail - and you've checked that the needle is in correctly - you may need to service it.



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