The reasons for sewing machine needle breakages are many, but if it keeps happening again and again, it could be a sign of sewing machine problems. Let’s dig into reasons why your sewing machine needle keeps breaking, and the different solutions that you can try!
Common Problems Causing A Needle Break
Lets have a look at some of the common sewing machine problems that can cause a needle to break:
- Bobbin Case
- Bobbin Tension
- Needle Plate
- Presser Foot
- Sewing Needle
- Thread Choice
- Thread Tension
A very common cause of broken needles is an incorrectly placed bobbin case. If it isn’t locked into position correctly, the needle can hit it and break off.
Always make sure that you bobbin is properly loaded in it’s case, and the case is inserted correctly!
Thread tension is very important when sewing. If your bobbin thread is too loose or too tight, your stitches will be skewy.
Bobbin tension is just one part of your thread tension, the other part being the upper tension. If your bobbin tension is too great, your needle can buckle under the pressure.
Needle Plate / Throat Plate
The needle plate (also referred to as a throat plate) is the section of your sewing machine surrounding the feed dogs, with a hole for your needle go into and ‘connect’ with the thread of your bobbin.
If the needle plate is damaged, your sewing machine needle can catch on it and end up being damaged.
There are many types of presser foot, and using the wrong one along with an incorrect needle position can result in your needle point being damaged, or worse yet, snapping.
Always check that you have clipped on the correct presser foot *and* positioned your needle in the right location for that foot!
Using an incorrect sewing needle for the task at hand is a sure way to end up with a broken needle.
Just last week I had just started sewing my DIY apron and had forgotten to change the needle out – so i was inadvertently sewing a stretch woven cotton with a leather needle. Not my brightest moment, and unsurprisingly the needle snapped in half.
The thread that you choose to sew with can also have a big impact on how your sewing needle performs, and whether it breaks mid stitch or not.
In the above image, you’ll notice that the three threads are different thicknesses:
- Orange on the left is a standard sewing machine thread from Gütermann
- Ecru on the right is a polyester topstitching thread from Gütermann
- White thread on the left is a basting thread – brand unknown as I had hand-wound it on the spool
If I were to success in threading a 70/10 needle with the topstitching or basting thread, chances are the needle will break.
If you spot a skipped stitch, it could be that your thread tension is off – which can then cause a broken needle. Always test your tension on scrap fabric before sewing to reduce the risk of broken needles mid-project.
Checklist For Avoiding Needle Breakage
If your needle has just broken, think of this as your personal checklist to avoid breaking any sewing needles!
1. Are You Using The Correct Needle Type?
Always select the correct needle type for the sewing job at hand:
- Ballpoint Needle – used for sewing knit fabrics, the rounded tip of the needle allows the needle to penetrate the fabric in a non-damaging way.
- Leather Needle – for sewing leather and other leather-like materials. The point is cut differently, which allows the needle to cut into the leather when forming stitches.
- Stretch Needle – another needle with a ball point tip, works best with stretchy fabrics that have elasticity.
- Topstitch Needle – designed for sewing with thicker threads such as topstitching thread.
- Universal Needle – a standard needle with a sharp point, can be used for sewing woven and knit fabrics.
2. Are You Using The Correct Needle Size?
Make sure that you’re using the right needle size for the fabric you plan to sew. the size refers to the diameter of the needle shaft. The lower the number, the thinner the shaft, the larger the number, the thicker the needle shaft. As a very general guide:
- Lightweight fabrics – 60/8 – 70/10
- Medium weight fabrics – 80/12 – 90/14
- Heavy weight fabrics – 90/14 – 110/18
3. Is It A Damaged Needle?
Always check before use that you’re not about to sew with a bent or hooked needle! Any sign of damage and the needle should be disposed of!
How do we dispose of needles? I usually put mine in a small pot which I then dispose of when full.
4. Are you Starting A New Project?
Did you change your needle prior to starting the project? A blunt needle will do a bad job of stitching and can end up breaking!
5. Is The Needle Securely Installed?
Is the needle placed in the shaft correctly with the flat side to the back? Always check that the needle is properly secure using the needle clamp screw! Is it tight enough?
6. Is Your Needle Positioned Correctly?
Always make sure that the needle is directly lined up above the needle hole in the throat plate!
7. Are You Using The Correct Thread Type?
Are you using the correct sewing thread for the fabric you’re sewing and the needle you’ve chosen to use?
Sewing with a metallic thread can be tricky and requires a special needle while sewing a heavier fabric will need a bigger needle to pass through the fabric.
8. Does Your Tension Look Good?
Evaluate the stitches that were made before the needle broke – is your tension off? Try tweaking your tension if so to remedy.
Final Thoughts On Broken Sewing Machine Needles
Breaking needles is not fun. Not only is it annoying when it happens midway through sewing a seam, a broken needle that you just installed is an unnecessary expense too!
The checklist above will help you to know whether your broken needles can be avoided or whether you need to get your machine serviced for a more serious problem.
If this was helpful, do check out my basic sewing machine course ‘Master Your Machine’ – its a beginner friendly online course that will help you understand and use your sewing machine with confidence!
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.