How to Change a Sewing Machine Needle in Four Easy Steps

No matter what sewing machine model you have, here we explain how to replace a needle easily.
Last updatedLast updated: August 02, 2021
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With today’s hi-tech sewing machines, pricked needles and problems with threading are a thing of the past. But that’s only if you know how to change a sewing machine needle properly.

Replacing the needle on your sewing machine often is one of the most important ways to avoid common sewing challenges such as uneven stitches, dropped stitches, or damaged fabric. In worst-case scenarios, neglecting a dull or bent needle can result in damage to your sewing machine.

Most people have either a Brother or a Singer sewing machine, but the process of changing the needle is very similar across the board. Once you learn how to change the needle on a Singer sewing machine, for example, you can handle any other model easily. Plus, some of the best sewing machines for beginners are designed to make it pretty easy for you.

When should you replace a needle?

How to Change a Sewing Machine Needle in Four Easy Steps

Sewing machine needles are designed to be replaced quite often. A new sharp needle pierces through the fabric more easily and results in a perfect stitch. In general, this is how often you should change the needle on a sewing machine:

  • Every time you start a new project, unless it is a small one
  • When you change fabrics, especially when you move to a denser fabric such as leather
  • After you have been sewing continuously for 8–10hours, and even more frequently when you’re quilting
  • When you start noticing issues like threads breaking often, the needle making a popping sound, uneven stitches, or a noticeable bend in the needle

Sewing machine needles are a dime a dozen, so there really is no reason not to change them as often as is necessary. A 50-pack like this one Universal Regular Point Sewing Machine Needles will set you only a few dollars behind and is compatible with Singer, Brother, and Varmax machines and has a whole range of needle sizes.

What you will need

  • A new needle
  • A flathead screw driver
  • A needle insertion tool

Some models such as Brother sewing machines come with a dedicated insertion tool, so you have to know how to change the needle on a Brother sewing machine as well. Needles come in many types and sizes, and each is designed to be compatible with a particular type of fabric.

If you don’t have such a selection of sewing needles, this Singer Universal set of regular point machine needles will get you started. It is a pack of 20 needles ranging from size 80/11 to 100/16 that are compatible with all major brands of sewing machines such as Singer, Brother, Kenmore, among others.

Picking the right needle for your sewing machine

Singer has a nifty guide on how to choose the right sewing machine needle with information about needle sizes, overlock needles, and needles for various types of fabric.

In general, however,

  • A size 60/8 ball-point needle is perfect for lightweight fabrics such as organdy, georgette, silk, and chiffon
  • Use a size 70/10 or 80/12 regular point needle for medium-weight fabrics such as Lycra, linen, of calf leather.
  • Heavier fabrics such as canvas, upholstery, denim, and vinyl should be sewn with larger wedge-point needles between sizes 90/14 and 120-19. When sewing such heavy fabrics, however, you will need one of these heavy-duty sewing machines.

How to change a needle

Changing the needle on your sewing machine is easy. It only involves four basic steps:

  1. Loosen the old needle using your fingers or a screwdriver.
  2. Pull the old needle downwards at an angle.
  3. Insert the new needle correctly.
  4. Tighten the needle set screw.

How to remove an old needle

Make sure that your sewing machine is turned off at the outlet before starting, then proceed to loosen the needle clamp screw a little to release the old needle. Singer sewing machines are easy to do by hand because they use wing nuts, but changing the needle on a Bernina sewing machine or a Brother is a little different. That’s why you’ll need a screwdriver.

When the needle is loose, pull the needle out at an angle and toward you. You may want to remove the presser foot first to give yourself more space.

How to insert a new needle

Inserting the new needle is easy, but you have to ensure that it is positioned correctly to avoid problems. Hold the new needle with your fingers and press it upwards into the needle shank, taking care that the flat part of the needle faces the back (or exactly as the old needle was facing.)

Push the needle up as far as it will go, and then tighten the screw as tight as you can get it. If you have a clearance plate, the procedure is almost similar except that you will use the hole in the plate to hold and position the needle before placing it into the shank.

Here’s a quick video guide on how to replace a sewing machine needle in case you still have questions.

Final thoughts

Learning how to change a sewing machine needle correctly is important to avoid pricked fingers and damaged fabric. The key in in how you position the new needle to ensure that it faces the right direction and that it is tightened enough.

Additionally, you also want to make sure that you change the sewing machine needle often enough to keep your project running smoothly. If you’re experiencing problems such as dropped stitches or torn fabric, then it’s time to follow this guide and change the needle on your sewing machine.

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