How to Change a Sewing Machine Needle

Changing a sewing machine needle is a regular part of machine maintenance. A sharp new needle will help your machine run smoothly and give you the best results. While there’s no exact rule for how often you should change your needle, you’ll want to change it when you notice it’s getting dull or if it bends or breaks.

Changing a sewing machine needle is a quick and simple process. Every sewing machine is a little bit different, but the main concept of changing a needle is the same. For instructions specific to your machine, refer to the user’s manual.

Here’s a photo tutorial on my Singer Tradition 2277 to show you how to change a sewing machine needle.

How to Change a Sewing Machine Needle

Step 1: Turn off your sewing machine. It’s important to always turn off your machine before you change the needle so you can prevent any accidents.

Step 2: Unscrew the needle clamp screw by turning it in a counterclockwise direction.

Step 3: Remove the old needle. Place the needle in a safe disposal box. I like to place my used needles in an old rotary blade container, but any hard plastic or metal container will work. Remember to mark this container so you know it contains dull needles.

Step 4: Insert a new needle. The flat side of the needle should face the back of the machine. Insert the needle as far up as it will go.

Step 5: Tighten the needle clamp screw by turning it in a clockwise direction.

Congrats! You’ve successfully changed your sewing machine needle.

How Often Should You Change Your Sewing Machine Needle?

Sewing machine needles should be changed frequently, but how frequently will depend on several factors. Some sewists like to change them after each project, and some after a certain number of sewing hours.

Singer recommends changing your needle after every 8-10 hours for the best results. Personally, I change my needle after every large project (I’m a quilter, so one quilt is typically 8-10 hours of sewing).

Here are some common reasons why you’ll need to change your needle:

  • The needle is broken
  • The needle is bent
  • Your thread is shedding near the needle
  • General tension issues
  • You hear clunking sounds from your machine
  • You feel resistance when sewing fabric
  • You hear or feel the needle catching the fabric

You will also need to change your needle if it is bent, broken, or dull. It’s not always easy to see when a needle is dull. You may be able to hear it catch on the fabric in a different way, or you may have tension issues. Did you know that a dull needle is a common reason why your sewing machine may have tension troubles? If you’re running into issues with your machine, be sure to change your needle.

Check out these other tips for troubleshooting your sewing machine!

Which Way Do You Put a Needle in a Machine?

The blunt end of a sewing machine needle has a rounded side and a flat side. You should place the needle into the machine with the flat side facing the back of the machine. The rounded side should be facing forward. Make sure the needle is resting flat against the back of the needle holder and is inserted as far up into the machine as it will go.

Now that you know how to change your needle, let’s dig a bit deeper into the different types of sewing machine needles and how to determine which one you need to use.

How to Identify Sewing Machine Needles

If you’ve ever gone into a craft store and looked at the sewing needle aisle, you might easily become overwhelmed. There’s a lot of different types of sewing needles.

Luckily, sewing machine needles are easy to spot. The biggest difference between sewing machine needles and regular sewing needles is that sewing machine needles have a shank that is thicker than the bottom part of the needle. This is the part that is inserted into the sewing machine.

Sewing machine needles also have one or two bands of color that show what type of needle it is and what size it is.

What Do the Colors on Sewing Machine Needles Mean?

The colors on sewing machine needles correspond to the size of the needle and the type of needle. Each needle brand will have its own chart that shows what each color means.

Here is a link to the Singer needle guide and here is a link to the Schmetz needle guide.

Are All Sewing Machine Needles the Same?

All sewing machine needles are not the same. While they will look very similar, the eye of the needle will have different features depending on what the needle is designed to do.

For example, Schmetz offers several types of needles including universal, embroidery, quilting, jersey, and jeans. The jersey needle has a ballpoint tip that is designed specifically for knit fabrics. The ballpoint tip does not damage the knit fibers.

The jeans needle also has a ballpoint tip, but the needle is reinforced to help it withstand sewing through extra thick woven fabrics without breaking. It’s important to choose the right needle for your project to help you achieve the best sewing results.

What Sewing Machine Needle Should I Use for Quilting?

If you ask 5 quilters what type of sewing machine needle they use, you may get 5 different answers. While there are some needles you definitely shouldn’t use for quilting (hello, ballpoint needles), there are several types that work perfectly fine. 

Many quilters choose to use quilting needles for their piecing and quilting. These needles are designed to go through multiple layers of fabric and provide even stitches. 

Some quilters prefer to change their needles when they are piecing and quilting. Microtex needles are excellent for piecing because the thin design easily passes through the fabric and helps with precise sewing. 

Lastly, I’ll touch on universal needles. Universal needles are multi-purpose needles that work well with many types of fabric. This is the preferred type of needle if you are planning to sew multiple different types of projects from one day to the next.

What Size Sewing Machine Needle Should I Use for Quilting?

Sewing machine needles come in multiple sizes. The larger the sewing needle number is, the thicker the needle is. The smaller the number, the thinner the needle. For quilting cotton, needle sizes 80/12 and 90/14 are the most popular. Personally, I use 80/12 needles because they work great with my favorite 50wt Aurifil thread. 90/14 needles are also common and can handle a bit of a thicker thread.

If you are a beginner quilter, I recommend an 80/12 sewing machine needle.

Although there are a lot of different types of sewing machine needles, choosing the right needle doesn’t have to be a stressful task. Each needle manufacturer will have a guide to help you decide which needle type is best. Unsure what sewing machine needle brand to choose? Check your sewing machine user’s manual to see if a specific brand is needed.

Pin this article for later so you can refer back to it the next time you need to change your needle!

xo, Hailey

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