How Often Should You Change Your Needle?

comments (5) May 4th, 2008     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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Remember to change your embroidery needle often: some designs, such as this one from Heather Bailey, may require at least one change per project to ensure clean, crisp lines and beautiful design definition.
This lovely rose embroidery design can be downloaded for free from the sidebar of Heather Baileys blog.
Learning the anatomy of an embroidery needle can help you to install a
replacement needle properly. (image used with permission: hhembroidery.com)
Remember to change your embroidery needle often: some designs, such as this one from Heather Bailey, may require at least one change per project to ensure clean, crisp lines and beautiful design definition.

Remember to change your embroidery needle often: some designs, such as this one from Heather Bailey, may require at least one change per project to ensure clean, crisp lines and beautiful design definition.

Photo: Courtesy of Heather Bailey

One day, a very nice lady came into my store with her sewing machine that wasn’t working. She explained to me that she heard a clicking noise and that the stitches didn’t look very nice. She couldn’t understand why her machine was acting up because she took very good care of it—proudly proclaiming that she was still using the original needle that came with the sewing machine!

I had to smile (to myself.) Often, customers don’t realize that a needle is like the brakes in a car, they wear out! I gently explained that her problem was most likely caused by the vintage needle she was still using. Needles bend and wear out, causing sewing machines to not work properly.

I typically tell sewers to change their needle after every 8 to 10 hours of sewing. Others recommend that you use a needle as long as 20 hours, but I think that if you pay attention to how your sewing machine sounds as the needle is piercing the fabric, you’ll begin to recognize when it’s time to change your needle.

When you’re embroidering, the needle has to go up and down, over previously embroidered areas and over the seams in the fabric. This can cause the needle to bend slightly and become dull. If you are working with synthetic fibers, needles tend to dull even faster.

There are several reasons why you need to change your needle often. First, there is very little room in the bobbin area for a bent needle. If the timing is off and the needle is not in sync with the movement of the bobbin case, a bent needle can scratch the bobbin case and create burrs. A burr is a troublesome little pest that frays and breaks your thread. If your thread keeps breaking and you have a cute little “fly-fishing lure” at the end of your thread, chances are, you've created a burr. Changing your needle may help, but you may need get your bobbin case fixed or replaced as well.

The second reason for changing your needles often is near and dear to my heart: A dull or damaged needle can pull or tear your fabric. It would be tragic if you made a hole in a project that you’ve already invested hours in.

The good news is that needles are not expensive. Start with a fresh one every time you start a new embroidery project. Change your needle even if you just think you’ve damaged it—even if it has managed to last unscathed for 8 hours, which is a rare occurrence in my world.

 

posted in: embroidery, needle, heather bailey, bobbin, burr

Comments (5)

JenniferStern writes: Hi all,
I used to think you could sharpen needles when I first started to sew...I've discovered that it's best not to try. I like the idea that Crafty gal had for using old sewing needles to hang pictures with, I'm definitely going to give that a try.

I'm going to find out about how often you should change you hand embroidery needle...I tend to loose them so frequently that I never need to consider trading in an old one for a new one! I suspect that MindlessPursuits is correct in assuming that fabric comes into play... in general synthetic fabrics dull needles faster than natural fibers (in Machine Sewing) I'll find out the answer for hand stitchers!


Posted: 11:08 am on June 5th
crafty_gal writes: Hi,I learned last week from a co-worker that old sewing needles make great picture hangers!

Posted: 11:17 am on May 9th
Patriciawarr writes: Mindless Pursuits--Thank you. That makes sense.
Posted: 4:47 pm on May 8th
MindlessPursuits writes: This was a nice little article. Maybe you could do a followup on appropriate needles for the type of fabric/stitching being done? Far too often I see sewers using the wrong needles for the projects and that's hard ont he needles, the fabric and the machines!

Patricia- any needle will suffer wear over time as a result of piercing fabric. I'm not certain how often you would need to change a hand-embroidery needle, but at some point, you should. I would also expect that the frequency would change based upon fabric types.
Posted: 2:03 pm on May 7th
Patriciawarr writes: What a wonderful web site! I check every day to see what new things I can learn. Thank you for making all this delicious information available.

Now here are some silly questions from a novice (but "green") needler: what does one do with old needles? Can they be resharpened? Should they be dicarded? Can they be tossed in recycling bins that take metal? That's one reason I don't do it more often. I don't know what to do with them!

Also, does changing embroidery needles apply to those of us who do hand embroidery?

patricia/nashville
Posted: 11:46 am on May 5th
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