It happens all the time. You’re sewing along happily, and then Ping! The needle breaks. It’s always annoying, and sometimes it’s even dangerous. So, why do sewing machine needles break, and what can you do about it?
Why Would a Needle Break on a Sewing Machine?
You might be surprised at how many answers there are to that question. Here are some of the most common ones.
You’re Using the Wrong Needle
Did you know there are many different types of sewing machine needles? Well, now you do. Using the wrong needle is a very common cause of sewing machine needle breakage.
When choosing a sewing machine needle for your project, consider:
- The purpose for which the needle was designed
- The fabric you’ll be using
- The weight of the thread you’re planning to use
Here are a few guidelines.
For heavier fabrics, use a thicker needle with a sharp point.
Lighter fabrics need a thinner, lighter needle, also with a sharp point.
For sewing knits and stretch fabrics, use a ball point needle, as this will lessen the chance of damage to the fabric.
Lighter threads require a lighter needle. Conversely, thicker threads require a heavier needle.
For more information about sewing machine needle types, check out our article on how to identify sewing machine needles.
Your Needle Isn’t Inserted Properly
When you insert your sewing machine needle, it’s important to make sure it’s inserted as far into the needle bar as it will go. If it’s not inserted far enough, it could strike the needle plate, or even the bobbin case and break.
Your Needle Isn’t Positioned Correctly
The shank of a sewing machine needle, that is, the part that inserts into the needle bar, has a flat side and a rounded side. On most machines, the flat side of the shank should face to the rear of the machine.
If your needle is inserted properly but facing the wrong direction, it could break.
Your Needle is Damaged, Dull, Old, or Bent
Many experts recommend changing your sewing machine needle before starting a new project. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, if you’re mostly working on small, short projects. However, after a certain amount of time, use takes its toll on the needle.
If your needle tip has grown dull, the needle could break during sewing. Sewing can also cause nicks, chips and dents, which can likewise lead to breakage. Bent needles are also likely to break.
Your Sewing Machine Isn’t Threaded Correctly
Sewing machines have a single correct way that they need to be threaded. Incorrect threading can cause the thread to tangle. This, in turn, can lead to a broken needle.
Your Thread Tension is Too Tight
If your top thread tension is too tight for the type of sewing you’re doing, it could put undue pressure on the needle and break it.
How can you tell?
If you can see bits of your bottom thread on the top of the fabric, then your top thread is too tight. If your top thread is being pulled onto the reverse side of your project, then your top thread isn’t tight enough.
You can adjust the tension using the thread tension adjustment wheel.
You’re Using the Wrong Thread
There are different types of needles, and there are also many different types of threads. If you use the wrong thread, it can cause numerous problems, including broken needles.
First, it’s important to match your top thread and your bobbin thread. Wind your bobbin from the same spool you’re using for your top thread. If you must use different threads, at least make sure that they match in terms of weight and fibre composition.
It’s also important to match your threads with your fabric. This means:
- Sew synthetic fabrics with synthetic thread and natural fabrics with natural thread
- Match your thread weight to your fabric weight: heavy with heavy and light with light
This, too, can help you to avoid breaking your needles.
Your Thread Isn’t Properly Secured on the Spool Pin
The spool pin holds your top thread. If your sewing machine has a horizontal spool pin, you’ll need to secure the spool with a spool cap. Most sewing machines come with a few spool caps, but if yours doesn’t, you can buy them cheaply and easily.
Your Sewing Machine Hasn’t Been Properly Maintained
Like all machines, your sewing machine needs regular maintenance by you. 
This can include:
- Using a brush to remove dust, fluff, and bits of thread especially from the bobbin case
- Checking the bobbin mechanism to make sure it’s moving smoothly and correctly
- Checking the bobbin tension and adjusting if necessary
- Testing the bobbin winder to make sure it’s winding bobbins tightly
- Lubricating your sewing machine if necessary
Sewing machines also need regular professional servicing. Servicing includes all of the above, plus:
- Testing and examining the electronic components
- Checking the timing and adjusting it if necessary
If your machine hasn’t been maintained properly, this, too, can lead to needle breakage.
Bobbin Case Full
If your bobbin case is too full, or if it’s full of dust or fluff, this can also cause broken needles.
You’re Pulling the Fabric
It can be tempting to hold the fabric tightly during sewing, especially if you’re working with something stretchy or slippery. But putting pressure on the fabric can put pressure on the needle, and putting pressure on the needle can break it.
You’re Sewing Over the Top of Something
Speaking of pins and clips, it’s easy to break a needle if you accidentally sew over them. The same holds true for pins, zips, poppers, and so forth.
You’re Using the Wrong Throat Plate
The throat plate sits beneath the fabric, on your machine’s sewing surface. A throat plate generally has a hole for the needle to pass through, and other holes through which the feed dogs rise to move your fabric.
There are a number of different kinds of throat plates, with different configurations of holes. The different designs correspond to different sewing tasks. Using the wrong throat plate for your sewing type can cause the needle to break.
Your Needle Clamp Needs Tightening
If your needle clamp isn’t tight enough to hold the sewing machine needle in place, the needle may come out of alignment. This, in turn, may cause the needle to break.
You’re Using the Wrong Bobbin
There are different types of bobbins, and although they may look very similar, they are slightly different in size. Using the wrong size bobbin can cause the needle to break.
Your Bobbin is Out of Position
Ordinarily, the bobbin and the needle don’t interact when the machine is in operation. However, if your bobbin is out of alignment, the needle may strike it and break.
What do you do When Your Sewing Machine Needle Breaks?
When your sewing machine needle breaks, one of two things may happen.
First, the broken bit of needle may fall clear of the machine. It may end up on your fabric, or even still threaded on the top thread. In this case, all you need to do is carefully remove the point, then remove the shaft of the needle from the needle clamp.
Alternatively, the tip may fall through the holes in the throat plate and into the bobbin box. In this case, you might have to go into your machine to remove it. See below for instructions.
How do you Get a Broken Needle out of a Sewing Machine?
If the broken tip of your needle falls through the throat plate, it’s not hard to get it out, but you will need to know how.
First, turn off your machine and unplug it.
Next, remove the shaft of the broken needle from the needle bar. Discard it. Use the hand wheel to move the needle bar into its highest position. This will give you plenty of room to work.
The next few steps will be different depending on the position of your bobbin case.
Instructions for a Top Loading Bobbin
If your machine has a top loading bobbin, use a screwdriver to unscrew the throat plate. Remove the throat plate.
Now remove the bobbin. Do you see the bit of needle? If so, remove it. You may need to use tweezers.
If you don’t see the needle tip, you may have to remove the bobbin case to get to it.
Once you’ve retrieved the needle tip, replace the bobbin case and the bobbin box. Put the throat plate back on, and secure it with its screws.
Instructions for a Front Loading Bobbin
If your machine has a front loading bobbin, open the front of the machine and remove the bobbin. If you can reach the broken bit of needle, remove it. If not, then remove the bobbin case, as above.
After you’ve retrieved the needle tip, re-install the bobbin case and the bobbin, and close the front hatch.
There are a lot of reasons that your machine needle can break. If you know how to avoid it, you can greatly decrease the chance of it happening. It can also help you to keep your machine in good repair.
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- P Leriche | How to Service a Sewing Machine | https://www.instructables.com/How-to-Service-a-Sewing-Machine/