How Often Should You Change Your Needle?comments (6) May 4th, 2008
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.