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Sewing Machine Tips - Needles

Sewing Machine Needle
By Ron Bergquist

Problems with sewing machines vary widely but many problems have but one cause.  Here are some common complaints.

  • My sewing machine won’t turn on.  
  • My sewing machine doesn’t run when I press the foot control.  
  • It speeds up out of control or pulls the fabric across the plate too slowly.  
  • My sewing machine is skipping stitches.
  • I select one stitch, but what I sew does not look like what I expected.
  • Threads bunch up under the fabric or balls up and knots on top of the fabric.
  • My fabric puckers or wrinkles.
  • My fabric gets hung up in the sewing area.

Guess what?!  The needle is the number one common cause of sewing machines problems known today and the fix is simple.

The Needle

Yes, the needle is the number one sewing problem today.  In our sewing machine repair shop, the very first thing our technician does is replace the needle with a quality needle.  Then we start our repairs and adjustments.  Off-brand big box store needles can be seconds and believe me, you do not want the type of issue off-brand needles can bring.  So cheap is not the answer as it can lead to bigger repair bills.

Needles are subject to their own problems.  Depending on your usage they can easily grow dull with minimum usage.  The tip can often develop a burr or flaw, especially when installed incorrectly.  A needle not properly installed can cause hook problems, scratches and chips.  These issues in turn cause other issues like thread breaking or getting hung up.  Use the correct needle for the correct project as the wrong needle can produce the wrong results.  Needles can easily bend and move from their proper location.   Improperly installed needles can cause big problems.  

Make sure needles are completely seated in place and are locked in securely.   If your sewing skips stitches, replace the needle.  If your fabric appears to bunch up or drag while you are sewing, replace your needle.  If your stitches look strange, replace your needle.  If you have recently replaced your needle and the sewing machine is not sewing correctly, replace it again.  No matter how long you have been sewing and know your sewing machine, needles can cause you big problems.

To prevent needle problems, here are some great guidelines.

  1. Replace needles every three to four hours of sewing and definitely before every new project.
  2. Do not sew with a dull or burred needle – never sew with a bent, burred, or rusty needle.
  3. Use the correct needle for the project. 
- Stretchy fabrics require stretch or ball point needles.  
- Woven fabrics require sharp or universal needles.  
- Lightweight fabrics require smaller needles: #8 or #10.  
- Medium fabrics require medium needles: #11 or #12.
- Heavy fabrics require heavy needles: #14 or #16.
- And remember - any needle smaller than #11 will most likely not work with your automatic needle threader since the eye is too small for the threader hook to get through.

  1. Make sure the needle is always installed in the proper position.  For the majority of the sewing machines, the needle back is toward the back, but there is an occasional exception.  Check your manual if you don’t know.  If your needle is rounded, make sure the scarf lines up with the hook assembly and the thread take-up system. You should never have to force the needle into position.
  2. Be sure the needle is installed fully into the upward position and locked in securely. Failure to do this can cause needle failure and lead to damage to other parts of your sewing machine.

Finally, if ever in doubt, check with your local sewing machine technician, or give me a call.  I am always glad to help!

Ron Bergquist is a certified sewing machine technician.  Not only that, he is co-owner with Barb, his wife, of A Block Away Quilt Shop.  After keeping Barb’s machine in running order so she can continually enjoy creating quilts for family and friends, he decided to become a certified sewing machine technician and today has serviced machines in Texas, Virginia and Florida.

Contact Us:

Phone: (956) 638-1961
Location: A Block Away Quilt Shop
                 2706 N. 10th Street
                 McAllen, TX 78501
Hours: Mon-Sat: 9AM-4PM, Sun: Closed

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