Changed Your Sewing Machine Needle Lately?

When it comes to sewing stitches, why is something so important so easy to forget? We're probably all guilty of it: pushing through too many projects before swapping our sewing machines needles for new ones, or simply forgetting. 

New needles for my machine.

I got a gentle reminder recently when I took my sewing machine for service.  As the technician took a peek at my machine, she stopped to scrutinize my needle. 

"How long has it been since you changed your needle?" she asked.

I scanned back through the project Rolodex in my mind, but couldn't light upon exactly when. Was it after making my niece's baby quilt? Before patching the holes in a pair of shorts? 

Having a new needle can be the difference in creating a really clean, beautiful sewing stitch. It also keeps your machine happy, and in working order. The general rule is to replace your needle after eight hours of use. 

My none-too-quick response meant it was time to buy a pack of universal needles and throw out my old needle. It also got me thinking: I probably need some sort of log or reminder system to help me know when to change my needle.

I hope my writing this serves as a welcome reminder that it may be time for you to treat your machine to a new needle.

As you embark on your next project, if you're looking for some inspiration or new ideas, check out these PieceWork collections. 

Also, I'm curious: what system, if any, do you use to remind yourself to change your needle? A written log? An electronic calendar alert? A string tied around your finger? I can't wait to hear.

Happy stitching! 

Other sewing topics you may enjoy:

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Sewing for Beginners
Abby Kaufman

About Abby Kaufman

Abby Kaufman is assistant editor of Stitch magazine. When she's not scoping out new fabrics for her collection, Abby enjoys outdoor activities, and spending time with her husband and two dogs. 

42 thoughts on “Changed Your Sewing Machine Needle Lately?

  1. This works for me. I change my needle every time I start a new project. It’s part of change out my bobbin thread and threading my new needle. This may not be every 8 hr. but it’s better then not changing it at all.

  2. I always have trouble remembering the size of the current needle in the machine and when I put it in there. I attach a small piece of paper (3×3) to the right side of my machine and scribble the size and type of needle.
    If I want to put one back in the package after using (if I think there’s some sewing life left in it), I put it in upside down to show it’s already been used a little.
    Learning about using the right needle for the job made a huge difference in my sewing and quilting projects.

  3. Every time I change projects like others have said. If I use a needle for short time such as mending, when I put it back in package put flat side up. But only do this once so I don’t have to remember. It is possible that I only use a needle for two 5 min sessions but it seems a cheap price to pay. The idea of a log may be intriguing but maintaining it?? What a pain. I use too many different needles.

  4. I replace my needle at the beginning of each new project. And if I have to change to a heavy duty thread, I use a new needle, as well as putting in a new one when I return to regular thread rather than reinserting the one I removed. It means I use a few extra, but it keeps my sewing clean and my machine happy….it’s all good!

  5. I too put little slips of paper taped on the side of my machine with the size and date started. I try to keep track of hours used by hash marks. But when in doubt I start with a new one.

  6. I had a similar less on changing needles. I do a lot of alterations
    so must have a needle that matches the project. Upon removing a needle that is old I put it in an old pill bottle. With a pin cushion in the same drawer as new and used needles, I can either put back the one removed in to the proper size and kind marked on the cushion if the needle is gently used or select a new needle.
    If I am doing large projects, “change needle for each project or sooner”. Norma

  7. Whenever I start a new project (not mending), then I put in a new needle. The old needle is put into a binder, and those occasions when I am doing some mending, or if it is just a small job or project, then I will put in the used needles. If they start causing problems then TOSS. Most of my sewing operator errors have been caused by old and used needles.

  8. Whenever I start a new project (not mending), then I put in a new needle. The old needle is put into a binder, and those occasions when I am doing some mending, or if it is just a small job or project, then I will put in the used needles. If they start causing problems then TOSS. Most of my sewing operator errors have been caused by old and used needles.

  9. I think most people don’t change their needles as often as they should because they don’t believe or can’t tell the needle has dulled after sewing one project. Additionally, needles aren’t typically on the regular notions shopping list, so they don’ t always have a replacement.

    I buy universals and ball points every time I go into a fabric store. I buy specialty needles during the big % off notions sales. These practices save me time and money, respectively.

  10. I use many different kinds of needles in my sewing so I keep a Post It on my machine with the kind and size of needle in the machine. I use hash marks to keep track of the time that needle has been used. If it still has some life in it, I stick that needle into the piece of paper when I need to change it out for a different needle. I toss the paper and needle into a small box I keep just for this purpose and then it is easy to pick out the one I need when it comes time to change the needle again.

  11. Every 4-6 hours of sewing time! It is a cheap fix to problems with stitching! Throw that old machine needle away when you change it so you don’t accidentally pick it up to use again!

    Also, I use the correct needle for the project. There is a needle named Universal but that does NOT mean it is a cure all needle to be used on everything! Universal is a cross between a ball point and a sharp so it is not much of any thing!

    I have been sewing for 60 yrs and learned the hard way that the correct needle for the project cures a lot of headaches!

  12. Another note: A dull needle is more likely to break! Breakage can cause damage to the needle plate and the race hook that holds your bobbin or your bobbin case. Those are very expensive to replace. So, please change your needles!

  13. I change the needle at the beginning of each project and then depending upon the duration of the project, sometimes once or twice during the process. The type of needle you should use is dependent upon the materials and the thread. I keep the packet of needles in my sewing table drawer to help me remember which needle I have in the machine. It’s the only packet in the drawer at the time, so it can only be that needle. Other supplies are kept elsewhere. I also clean out the bobbin and feed dog areas and oil my Bernina after every second bobbin change. A good habit to get into. (Always check your machine’s owner’s manual for the proper intervels for oiling.) If you can’t remember when you changed the needle, it time to do so. It is an inexpensive component and it can make all the difference in how your machine sews.

  14. I change (not necessarily replace) in between projects, because I usually use different weights of fabric. There’s a pincushion I use specifically for needles where I can place them by type, size, and hours used. I always inspect them before I reuse one.

  15. Reading the comments to et ideas because I am cheap an far from anywhere to buy needles and I know I don’t toss them as often as I should. (And I also know fixing my machine will cost more than a new needle should a dull one ever cause a problem!) The sticky note idea seem good, but what if, say, it’s a ball point you used for one hour and then you switch to a sharp? Turning them upside down or flat side up if you put them back in your case also seems smart, but has the same problem. I want to change mine often enough without wasting. I’m thinking the pin cushion with type, size, and hours of use sounds like the best idea. I’ll have to look into that next time I’m in town or, better yet, figure out how to make one myself!

  16. My favorite reminder USED to be digging the broken one out of my newest project. Finally, I decided to remove the needle when I was done with the most recent project. When you change the thread, you change the needle. Simple as that. My old machine is much happier and things seem to sew up much quicker!!

  17. Changed your needle lately post.
    If I have been sewing flat out all day, then the next morning I’ll change my needle, otherwise it’s when I hear the noise a blunt needle makes on the fabric.

  18. I use a post-it note on the flip-up lid on my machine that tells me what size needle is in the machine. When I change needles, the used needle does NOT go back in the needle package…I have a tomato pincushion that is marked for every size needle I use, and if it is only “lightly” used it goes in there to be used again. It’s REALLY important to have a sharp needle in your machine – it cuts down on SO much aggravation! I am a professional seamstress, and the 2 biggest tips I could ever give to someone about sewing are 1) make sure your needle is SHARP, and 2) use the BEST thread you can afford. One more tip – the best I’ve EVER learned – if you’re having trouble with your machine, before you do anything else, un-thread the top and bobbin and re-thread. 90% of the time, this will fix the problem! HAPPY SEWING, ALL!

  19. Well gee after reading all the comments these wonderful sewists have written regarding changing their needles frequently, I also must admit that I only change mine if the needle breaks OR if the machine starts sewing a bit “funny” and a rethread won’t fix it….. then I think Ahhhh I will change the needle,,,, yep, it usually works,,

    You would think it would come to me quicker after 30 odd years of sewing eh ?? LOL

  20. I have a piece of paper taped to my machine. Every time I change the needle I put the size of needle and date changed. I also do this for my embroidery machine and my serger.

  21. I’m glad to hear so many of you do change needles regularly. And thanks for the great ideas on how to remember to change needles. I like the “change after every project” rule and the sticky note idea sounds smart. Keep the ideas coming!

  22. I get free needles every time I order for a certain place, so I have a surfeit of extra needle cases. I use them for slightly used needles and for throw a ways. For the gently used needles I mark the flat side with a red permanent marker and the throw a ways are in an extra needle case marked with a big black marker X.

  23. I keep a small 3 X 4 inch spiral notebook in the pocket of my sewing machine cover. Each time I use a needle, I record the date, number of hours or minutes used AND the size and type of needle. This way each time I sit down to sew I check the notebook to see what needle was left in the machine. If the needle was only used a very short time and I need to use a different size at the next sewing session; I just remove the needle and stick it in the notebook paper next to the entry of the number of hours used. Then I put in the new needle and record the same information & so on. Works for me 🙂

  24. I never knew about how often to change my sewing machine needle, and I’ve known how to sew since age, oh, 9 or so. I’m 53! Every 8 hours of sewing? Wow! Thank you! I’m waaaaay over due! I just did it when it was bent or broken. Yikes!

  25. My reminder for changing the needle is a simple note of the date and size of the needle taped to the sewing machine. I then have no excuse for forgetting, or using the wrong size needle for the next project. I like to change after a large project or a couple of small projects.

    nannyannie

  26. When I received my first sewing machine, the wonderful lady who gave it to me said “always change your sewing machine needle after each big project, and make sure you have the right size and type, always clean out the lint and oil and take good care of your vacuum because that is going to be your best friend”. And for the last 20 years I still remember! Great post!!!!

  27. I write the size of needle and date directly on my sewing machine using a dry erase marker. It doesn’t come off (if you don’t smear it before it dries) and it in plain view.

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