7 Things to Know About Sewing Machine Needles

Paperdoll from The Paper Doll Says “Let’s Have Tea!” was kind enough to award me the Irresistibly Sweet Blogger Award.  I don’t remember being sweet (me? never), but I do thank Paperdoll for the award!

I already told you all my secrets, I don’t have any more.  Carolyn at Handmade by Carolyn recently faced a similar problem and used the “7 Things” as an opportunity to give some top notch tips on blog photography.  Thanks, Carolyn!

Photo from About.com

In the same spirit, I thought I’d address “7 Things to Know About Sewing Machine Needles”:

  • Always use the sewing machine needles made for your sewing machine.  Using improper needles leads to all kinds of machine malfunctions.  Needles are engineered to work with a particular machine. (Bobbins, too!) If you don’t know what needles to use, write down the make and model number of your machine and check in a local sewing shop.  They should be able to help.

L-R: Sharp 12, Denim 16, Ballpoint 12

  • Fine fabric, fine needles.  Heavy fabric, heavy needles.  Believe me, it makes a big difference.  If you use heavy needles on a fine fabric, you’ll end up with needle holes.  Fine needles often break in heavy fabrics.  I always keep 12’s in sharps and ballpoint (medium, all-purpose weight) and Denim needles.  They’re amazing for working with heavier fabric.  They’re stouter, sharper and have larger eyes than regular sharp needles.
  • Sharps vs. Ballpoints- Sharps are, well, sharp needles.  They’re designed for use with woven fabrics and tend to pierce the fibers.  Ballpoints have a slightly rounded tip; they’re designed to part the fibers and slide between them.  Sharps on knit fabric creates unsightly runs.  I don’t wear half my knits outside the house because I sewed them with sharps and it shows along the seams!
  • Sewing On Pins- Most of the time, nothing will happen.  Sometimes, you’ll bend a pin.  Occasionally, you’ll break a needle.  Rarely, you’ll throw off the “timing” of your machine.  That means the top thread won’t pick up the bottom thread anymore, and the only solution is a service.  (Incidentally, most warranties don’t cover “timing” because it is considered “user error.”)
  • Breakage- It’s not a big deal.  It’s really not. (I have had to scrape people off the ceiling in classes over needle breakage, it can be startling…) Simply unscrew the needle screw and remove the broken needle.  Then replace it with a fresh one.  Most needles are flat on one side.  Turn the flat to the back and insert it.  Gently push it up as far as it will go and tighten the screw with your fingers.  Then use the screwdriver to give it an extra tweak so it doesn’t shake loose while you’re sewing.
  • Change Them Often- I remember watching in awe as a more experienced coworker walked by one of my classes, cocked an ear and told me the little Husqvarna on the end needed a new needle.  She could hear it!  Needles are not eternal.  They pick up nicks and burrs, and the tips wear out.  Manufacturers recommend you change needles every 8 or so hours of sewing.  I do, and enjoy pretty uniform stitch quality.
  • Make A Sharps Bin!  I use an old honey bucket.  I cut some slits in the top and it lives behind my sewing machine, to the right.  Mine has acquired used light bulbs, razor blades, shards of glass- prickly things I don’t like putting into the trash on their own.

Thank you, Paperdoll!

I don’t know who else to award this to- everyone I can think of is irresistibly sweet and has done something like this fairly recently.   If you’d like to pick up the torch please do!

Check out my Pretty, Sparkly Giveaway.  It ends next Friday.

Edited to add: Have you seen the penguin sweaters for New Zealand?  It’s to protect birds caught in the oil spill.  The photos made me smile.


  1. That post had uncanny timing! I have just spent some time this evening cleaning the fluff out of my overlocker and doing a rethread and needle change. It is running so much better now (and I hope I haven’t just jinxed myself by sharing this). Your comment about walking past the machine and knowing it needs a needle change is a good one – there is a machine at school that I walk past at the moment and I know it needs a change because it has a distinct thudding sound when being used. I just have to get a moment to do it, when I’m not helping one of the cherubs!

  2. Why did I not think of making a sharps bin? I have one for needles when I was taking injectable medication, but it’s a great idea to have a household version. Thanks for the tip!

  3. A tip I recently learned was “don’t bother with universal needles”. They’re basically a cross between a sharp and a ball-point, which makes them mostly not sharp enough for dense wovens and not smooth enough for most knits.
    Having a sharps bucket in the sewing room is such a great idea! That will be a first project for today, I think. So much safer for my kitties and my feet than just tossing burred pins and spent needles into the wastebasket.

    • I don’t use them much, but never had a problem with them either. I guess it’s like anything else in sewing- you do what you prefer and what works. :)

  4. I always have a little pile of old machine needles in an out of the way place. Putting a little container there to put the needles in is a MUCH better plan! Especially for the times I toss something on the pile or knock into the thing the pile is piled on, and then I’ve got needles all over the floor.

    You’re a genius! :D

  5. I just put my needles in the trash :-s Maybe I should be good and make a sharps bin!

    Regarding the penguin sweaters, they are almost all going unused as they have found that the sweaters just stress the penguins out more. So please no more penguin sweaters! :-(

  6. Pingback: Quick Tips for Handling Linen Fabric « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

Is it kind, useful or interesting? Great!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s