Changing a sewing machine needle is a important part of sewing. If this is your first time to change a sewing machine needle, don’t worry changing a sewing machine needle is a simple task. Your sewing machine may be a little different than mine, but the method for changing the needle for any machine is basically the same whether you have a singer sewing machine or a brother. But, you can check in your sewing machine instruction manual just to be sure what the process is for your machine. I’ll be showing you with my brother ST371HD sewing machine.
Do I Need a New Sewing Needle for Every New Project?
I personally do not change the needle for every new sewing project. But, some people do change the needle for every new project. If you’re on a budget and you can’t change the needle after every single project, don’t worry. There’s no rule that states you have to change the needle after every project, to me it’s just about preference. But, if you sew multiple layers of fabric having a new, sharp needle really makes a difference. Or, if you sew large projects like quilts, you may need to change the needle more often.
How Often do I Change The Needle?
The life span of your sewing machine needle is averaged between six to ten hours of use. Depending on your fabric’s thickness or the quality of the needle. If you’re like me, I don’t sew constantly through out the day. Maybe just a little bit here and there, or there maybe day’s that I don’t sew at all, so how do you know how long you’ve been using that same needle.
Unless you time yourself while you sew and write down every single minute spent sewing, you’re not going to know exactly how long you’ve been using that needle. So, I usually change my sewing machine needle on a fairly regular basis, when I hear a thud sound, or I notice a difference while I’m sewing. I can’t really explain how you notice a difference, I just know that after I’ve sewn on the same machine for a couple of years I can just notice when there’s a difference while I’m sewing. Also, when I sew I make sure to not sew over pins, I remove the pins as I sew, because sewing over pins can make the needle break or bend.
How do I Know That I Need a New Needle?
Here are a couple of signs that you may have a dull needle.
- you have uneven stitches
- your machine is skipping stitches
- you hear a thud or thunk sound as the needle goes through the fabric
- shredded thread
or you may need a new needle if you have a bent needle, blunt needle or a broken needle.
Different Types of Needle
There are many different types of sewing machine needles.
- Universal Needle (used for all woven fabrics)
- Ball Point Needles (used for knit fabrics)
- Stretch Needle (used for difficult to sew elastic fabrics like lycra)
- Quilting Needle (used for piecing and machine quilting)
- Jean Needle (used for very heavyweight fabrics like denim or canvas)
- Leather Needle (are spear shaped to help stitch leather)
- Embroidery Needle (designed for machine embroidery)
- Topstitch Needle (has a bigger eye than other needles)
Having the correct needle type for the correct type of fabric can make the sewing process a whole lot easier.
Different Needle Sizes
There are different sizes of needles for different fabrics from lightweight fabrics like chiffon, crepe, cotton voile, georgette, cotton lawn, and silk fabrics, to heavyweight fabrics like canvas, duck cloth, corduroy, wool tweed, suede, and of course denim fabric. Lightweight fabrics use finer needles like 70/10 and 80/12 and heavyweight fabrics use thicker needles like 100/16 and even 110/18 for really heavy fabrics like upholstery fabric.
I like to use Schmetz Universal Needles size 90/14 for projects that use cotton fabric.
The Anatomy of a Needle
The very top flat part of the needle that slides in the machine is called the butt.
The part that also slides in the machine that has the flat side and rounded side is called the shank.
The part that slopes down from the thicker part to the thinner part of the needle is called the shoulder.
The blade or shaft is the part below the shank.
The slit above the eye is called the groove.
The indention or flat part above the eye is the scarf.
The eye of the needle is the hole at the bottom of the needle.
The very bottom of the needle is called the point and the tip.
Changing the Needle
Step 1: The first step is to turn your sewing machine off and using the presser foot lever, lower the presser foot. Hint: it’s a good idea to place a piece of fabric or a piece of paper on the needle plate, before you lower the presser foot, to keep the needle from falling in the machine.
Step 2: Turn the hand wheel until the needle is in the highest position.
Step 3: Unscrew the needle clamp screw (I like to hold the needle in my left hand while unscrewing the screw with my right hand). My brother sewing machine came with a small disc-shaped screwdriver, but you can also use a regular flat head screwdriver.
Step 4: Slide the old needle out of the slot. You can place the old needles in any hard plastic container (a old, washed and empty prescription medicine bottle would work great), just make sure to mark it dull or old needles.
Step 5: Place the new needle in the slot as far up as it will go. The flat side of the needle shank (the top of the needle) needs to face the back of the machine and the rounded side needs to be facing you, to be in the correct position to slide in the slot correctly.
Step 6: Tighten the needle screw.
You now have a new sewing machine needle in your sewing machine and you have learned to change a sewing machine needle.
Here’s a couple of my other sewing tutorials.