Top 10 Needle Troubleshooting Tips

I just finished servicing a wonderful Singer 401A and noticed that this old machine that runs so dang well had a brand new needle installed. I was pleased to see this. This customer brought me her machine inherited from her mother for regular servicing. The customer note said, "Needs servicing, but I don't know of any problems".

You may be surprised at how many times I've run into people who tell me they have never changed their sewing needles, or can't remember when they did. It's usually during a conversation about something that is just not quite right with their stitching. So, I was taught to use the TNT check when something goes awry with my sewing. It usually does the trick.

TNT is Thread, Needle, Tension

  • Check your thread to see that it is still correctly threaded in the machine, that it is not too old, and that it works for the size needle you are using. Any of these simple assesments could fix your problems. 
  • Check your needle to make sure it's not bent, dull, or has any burrs (not too common though). Next make sure it's the right size and style for your fabric. Most machines today use the same needle system, so you should be okay there. 
  • Now check to see that your upper tension is appropriate for your project. You can tell by looking at how your stitches are formed compared to examples illustrated in your users manual or online.

Did you know you can receive new needles every single month without thinking about it? Check out our Sew Sharp Club . You can get the Stay Sharp Kit and then opt in to the Stay Sharp Refresh to receive fresh new needles and blades that arrive to your door without any extra effort! 

Now, let's get back to those needles and see what some of the issues are that can be resolved by selecting a new needle properly selected and sized for your project. The following Top 10 Needle Troubleshooting Tips are from Singer's website.  

1. For best sewing results, needles should be replaced every 8-10 hours of stitching time. 

2. Snags or pulls in woven (non-stretch) fabrics:
This can occur if the needle is either bent or dull, or you are using the wrong style of needle. Use a regular point needle (Style 2020) for woven fabrics.

3. Skipped stitches on woven fabrics:
This can occur when the needle is old, bent or dull.
Remove and discard the old needle. Replace it with a new regular point needle (Style 2020).

4. Skipped stitches on stretch fabrics:
This can occur if you are using a regular point needle instead of a ball point needle.
Switch to a ball point needle (Style 2045) which is specifically designed for sewing stretch fabrics.

5. Popping sound while you are sewing:
This is a good indication that the needle is bent or damaged. Remove and discard the old needle.  Replace it with a new one that is appropriate for the type and weight of fabric.

6. Thread is shredding:
This can mean the needle is too small for the thickness of thread, so change to either a larger size needle or a finer weight thread.
Shredding thread can also occur if the thread is old or poor quality (uneven filament).

7. Needles are breaking:
This can be an indication that the needle size is too small for the thickness of fabric being sewn, so change to a larger size needle. Additionally, when you sew, do not “push” or “pull” the fabric, but rather, let the feed dogs draw the fabric along. If you push or pull the fabric as you sew, the needle could deflect causing it to break.

8. Large holes in the seam line of lighter weight woven fabrics:
This can be an indication that your needle is too large for the weight of the fabric.  Change to a smaller needle size.

9. When removing and inserting needles, it can be helpful to place a small piece of paper over the presser foot area, so that you don’t accidentally drop the needle down into the machine!

10. When inserting a new needle, be sure that is inserted correctly into the machine, or it may not sew properly.  The flat side of the needle should be facing toward the back of the machine. Make sure it is all the way up in the needle clamp, then tighten the needle clamp screw securely. 


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