Broken-Needles – Can you prevent this?

How to deal with bent and shattered needles and how to prevent this from happening for safety sake and for smooth sewing experience.

broken needle reasons and how to prevent breaking

You can ask me how a needle can break into three pieces – what atrocity did I do with the machine, for this to happen? But in my excuse, a little bit of carelessness can result in this. And a little mindflness will prevent this. 

Shattered needles are more than a small inconvenience – the fragmented parts of the needle can deflect and straight up pierce any part of your body- that too at high speed. So making sure that needles do not break is more for your safety than the inconvenience of stopping for a moment and changing the needle. 

Dealing with shattered needles – 10 questions to ask

Do you need a new needle? Are you already using a bent one?

a bend needle can lead to broken needle

The first thing to check (better to do this before your needles start breaking) is whether you are using an already bent the needle.

If you start with a damaged needle, there is no use at all in looking at any other setting. Even a slightly bent needle will hit the edges of the presser foot sooner than later; it need not be as severely bend as in the picture above. Just change the needle to a new straight one.

All experienced sewists change their needles very frequently – sharp needles make sewing more fun.

Is the top-thread tension too tight ? If the tension is too tight the thread can pull and bend the needle.

Did you check that the needle is inserted correctly?

If you have a high-end display on your sewing machine, it will display in its touch panel LCD that the needle is not inserted correctly. But for other ordinary mortals with ordinary sewing machines, you have to manually check.

Turn the handwheel towards you – this will bring the needle to the highest position; switch off the machine. Remove the needle and insert a new one if you are even slightly anxious about its condition. The needle is usually inserted with the flat side to the back. Ensure that it is inserted all the way up.

Did you check the needle clamp screw?

My machine has a loose needle clamp screw – this slips the needle down while I am sewing. This happens a lot more frequently when doing free-motion embroidery. And it is what causes the needle to break almost all the time.

Before you start sewing and in between, check that the needle clamp screw is holding the needle correctly in position.

Did you check that the presser foot and the stitch you are using are compatible?

Are you using the zig zag /all-purpose presser foot or the straight stitch foot? Increase or decrease the stitch width only after ensuring everything is conducive.

When switching to zig-zag stitch, remember to check that you have the presser foot with the wider hole. Straight stitch foot is nice to sew a straight stitch, but if we forget for one moment that we have that on it is a disaster on your needle.

When straight stitching foot is used, set the needle position to the middle.

Are you using needles based on the thickness of the fabric or the layers?

Needle breaking is common when sewing a lot of thick layers together.

Usually this is what happens – first the needle will try to penetrate the thick fabric layers ; and being unable to do this, the needle will bend first, but as you are busy sewing, you will not realise that the needle is bend. You will continue sewing and the next thing you know your needle hits the assembly inside and gets broken and heaven forbid, is stuck on your unsuspecting hand. I know all this from experience. I have the photograph to prove.

finger pierced with a broken needle - choosing the right needle is important

For most fabrics, you can use a standard 90/14 needle. But when sewing with thick fabrics like canvas, denim, etc do not use normal standard needles ; use appropriate thick needles like 90/15 to 100/16. You even get numbers as high as 21.

You are not going to break needles when you sew with thin materials, but you will get better sewing if you use thinner needles. For thin fabrics and knit fabrics, you can use 70/10 or 75/11 needles.

Related post : Selecting the right needle for sewing machines. 

Did you check Throat plate and needle position and width setting in double needle stitching?

twin needle stitching is always complicated if not careful - it can result in broken stitches ; not all ziog zag stitches are suitable for this

Needle position and Width dial should be set correctly for Twin needle stitching

There are different sizes of twin needles – the size indicates the distance between the two needles. The needle swings from side to side when making the zig-zag type stitching, and when two needles do this, it can set all your calculations wrong if you have calculated only for one needle sewing.

In high-end machines, there will be a thing called twin needle safety – In this, when a twin needle width is selected, the width of all stitches is limited to prevent needle breakage.

Not all stitches can be used with twin needles.  Always test that the needle position is in the middle and that the width is appropriate for the needle size. If you are using a different-sized twin needle than you did earlier, you will have to test this again. Turn the handwheel slowly towards you to move the needle slowly to check if the needle will hit the presser foot.

Did you check needle position and width setting in blind hem stitching?

needle can break if the position of the needle is not right when blind hem stitching

Blind hem stitching is tricky – it requires the needle to be in a left position. And it also needs a special type of zig-zag type stitch which goes in one direction. So if you change the needle width a little bit, or the position of the needle is not right, it can result in needles breaking.

Read more on blind hem stitch here.

Or are you pulling on the fabric as you sew?

This happens when you are sewing thin fabrics. You are afraid that the fabric is going to be taken inside through the throat plate of the machine, and you start by making it taut but end up pulling the fabric, which pulls the needle as well, and then it hits the presser foot side and breaks. A very common scenario when I am sewing, so I know.

Did you check the threading?

If everything is checked, see whether the thread spool is set correctly and the threading is done properly. If these are wrong, the thread can catch somewhere and cause the needle to break.

Is the needle hitting the bobbin case?

Your machine may need a small adjustment or a whole calibration by a sewing machine expert. You can first try some simple home repair – follow this tutorial on sewing machine repair.

Related posts : how to fix sewing machine not stitching ; Different types of sewing machine needles; Sewing machine safety

Photo of author
Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

1 thought on “Broken-Needles – Can you prevent this?”

  1. Great info…Although I am not an everyday sewist . I have had needles break. I will have to keep all this info in mind. Thanks!

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