How to solve your sewing needle and thread breakage problems
Sewing needles for your machine should be chosen first, by type (according to what fabric and/or project you are doing), and second, by needle size.
To sum up this whole article (in case you don’t like to read) just remember this: the sewing needle tip is designed to pierce or slide through your fabric, without making a big hole, and the needle eye needs to be the right size for your
thread size and type.
If the needle and the thread are not compatible, you will have broken needles, frayed thread, and/or skipped stitches.
Unsure of which needle size and type to use for your fabric? We have a
"needle dial" to help you decide on the right combination.
Machine Sewing needles
All sewing machine needles have one side that is flat (installed to the rear of the sewing machine), and the other side rounded, with a groove (near the middle), which guides the thread down to the eye (near the tip of the needle). The different sewing needle types have various groove depths, eye size, and tips (rounded or sharp).
Types of sewing machine needles
Here are the types of sewing machine needles you might find in your fabric store:
Universal – This is the most common machine sewing needle. It has a sharp tip to penetrate the fabric. It works well on most woven and knit fabrics.
Ballpoint – Designed with a rounded tip, the tip separates the fiber threads of heavy knits and interlock knits without piercing the fibers.
Microtex/Sharps - Use on tightly woven fabrics and fine fibers, such as rayon.
Denim/quilting– For layers of heavy fabrics. It’s a strong sewing needle, but has a small eye. It has very sharp points to get through several thicknesses, including overlapping seams.
Wing – Used for decorative heirloom sewing, it creates small holes with its side flanges.
Stretch – Can be used on synthetic non-woven fabrics i.e. Ultra suede, or very elastic knits such as Lycra.
Metalllica/Metafil – Just like it sounds, use with metallic threads.
Topstitching - Designed to hold decorative threads. It has a very sharp point, a deeper groove on the needle shank, and a very large eye.
Double/Twin - Used for decorative stitching, with two evenly spaced side by side rows. You use two spools of thread – one for each needle. If you don’t have an extra spool holder, place the second spool in a heavy mug, and tape a safety pin on top of your machine to control how the thread feeds. Then thread your machine normally. Double check to make sure the needles clear the throat plate in the sewing machine.
Needles and their numbers
Needles come in different sizes. Once a needle is removed from its package, use a magnifying glass to read the size (it’s on the rounded side of the needle).
The number relates to the thickness, which might seem a little strange at first, but is easy to learn. The numbers are paired (i.e., 60/8 or 100/16) with the first number being the European size, and the second number being the American size.
Luckily, there is logic in the numbering system: the smaller the number, the smaller the needle size. So for lightweight fabrics you would choose a 60/8, for mediumweight fabrics choose a 75/11 or 80/12, and for heavyweight choose a 90/14 or 100/16.
One of the easiest ways to learn which needles to use with your chosen fabric and thread is a special tool called
"The Needle Guide".
Needle Brands and cost
Most new machines will have a recommended brand of needle. Use it. I’ve always used Schmetz, because it seems to be the most trouble free, and they carry all the sizes and types I need. My Janome student machines came with Organ brand. And Singer machines would always prefer a Singer brand needle.
Make sure you buy new sewing machine needles frequently. You should change to a new one about every 8-10 hours of sewing.
Sound like a lot? Well, think of how many times that needle goes up and down in your fabric and you’ll understand why your old needle might break easily.
It might also break if you run over pins – which is not just dangerous, but irritating – especially when you are in the middle of an important seam. So take out pins just before you get to them.
You can save money by buying bulk packs of the types of needles you use most often –that way you’ll always have a ready needle if you accidentally run over a pin in the middle of your "sewing till 3a.m." session.
Or buy a new package for every big trip to the fabric store.
Needle Rules for Easy sewing
+ Use the right needle tip for the fabric you’re using and the right needle eye size for the thickness of thread.
+ Always use the smallest needle size you can use for your fabric. A thick needle (larger size) can damage fine fabric.
+ If the eye of the needle is too big for your thread, your machine doesn’t control the thread and you will have skipped stitches.
+ If the eye of the needle is too small for your thread, your thread will fray.
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