The Life of a Sewing Machine Needle

Life Expectancy of a Sewing Machine Needle

During my Needle and Pin Knowhow Talks one of the most popular subjects we speak about is sewing machine needles and why we should regularly replace our needle. This always receives a gasp from the audience and sometimes with murmurs of “I change my needle when it breaks.” Here I delve into the mysteries of how long my machine needle last and why should I replace it.

Sewing Machine Needles


How long does my Sewing Machine Needle last?


Regardless of brand, a sewing machine needle does not last forever. However the quality does vary from brand to brand, which will ultimately affect the stitch quality. Schmetz machine needles are known as the “Rolls-Royce” of the machine needle industry and remember also that your sewing machine is only as good as the needle you use.

A sewing machine needle can have a life expectancy of one minute to one month and this really depends on the usage and indeed on the operator. On average a sewing machine needle should be replaced approximately every 8 hours of work.


Why do I need to replace my Sewing Machine Needle?

The life of a sewing machine needle becomes unfit for purpose once it starts to lose its functionality. The regular checking of the point of the sewing machine needle is highly recommended and replacing your needle is the first step to improving the quality of your stitching.

A needle that becomes damaged or worn can result in uneven and skipped stitches, and the fabric may become puckered resulting in broken or shredded threads, which ultimately may lead to the fabric being damaged.

If holes appear in your fabric it could mean that the needle is too large for the fabric being sewn.  However in most cases it means the needle is blunt and worn.

If the thread breaks it does not necessarily mean that the tension is too tight. It will most probably be because the inside of the machine needle eye is not smooth and it is this unevenness which causes the thread to break. 

Abrasion on the sidewall of the eye can be caused when, during stitching, the needle is slightly deflected and touches the throat plate. This action is not always sufficient to break the needle, but it will result in the side of the eye being uneven and worn causing snagging of the fabric and breakage of the thread.

We replace the sewing machine needle when it breaks and sometimes this can be immediate, even within a minute of sewing. The points of the sewing machine needle break because the needle has come into contact with a part of the sewing machine. It is very rare that the needle points break because of the fabric used.

Visually the sewing machine needle can sometimes appear dull, which is usually caused by certain fabric finishes or from the chemicals found within the dyes used in fabrics.

Sewing machine needle consumption is as different as the individual and the above scenarios are to be used as a guide. It is impossible to formally predict the life expectancy of a sewing machine needle because there may be other influencing factors in addition to the ones I have listed above.

If in doubt throw the needle out! Fabric is too expensive to risk over replacing your needle.