Sewing Machine Needle Problems: 4 Common Issues (Solved)

Nothing is more frustrating when you sit down to sew than when your needle snaps in half. There are several reasons you might be experiencing sewing machine needle problems. 

A broken needle can signify a problem with your thread, bobbin, machine, or the needle itself.

Let’s look at when and why sewing machine needle problems tend to occur and what you can do to find a solution:

Why Does My Sewing Machine Needle Break on the Backstitch?

Backstitching is a commonly used maneuver on the sewing machine to reinforce the beginning and end of any seam.

Most machines will have a backstitch button that switches the sewing direction of your needle.

If everything is running smoothly, you should not experience extra pressure when you begin to backstitch.

However, if you experience any snagging or resistance in your backstitch, it’s a sign that your needle might be in danger.

Different parts of your machine become activated for the backstitch, so it’s possible that a rogue thread or some lint is interfering with this special function.

Open up the front panel of your sewing machine and check to make sure everything looks clean and free to move. If you see any tangled thread or lint, clean these areas and remove the debris.

Sometimes the inner workings of your machine are clear, but you are still experiencing resistance during the backstitch. This resistance might even be strong enough to break the needle.

The resistance might be due to problems with the top thread, the bobbin, the needle, or the machine itself.

Let’s look at each of these issues and what to do:

1. Problems with the Top Thread:

If you have a problem with your top thread, you can expect a problem with your needle.

If you incorrectly thread your machine, there might not be enough tension in the thread to keep it taut.

If there is too much slack in your top thread, you might find little loops turning to knots in the line as you sew.

These knots can be too big to pass through the eye of the needle. Your machine will try to force the thread through. If the knots are big enough, it can create enough pressure to snap your needle in half.

If you can see loops and knots building up in your thread, take a moment to start fresh and rethread your machine. Take your time to thread correctly, double-checking your work as you go.

For a refresher on how to correctly thread your machine, you can check out this informative video on Youtube from Joann Fabrics:

Tips to Thread Your Machine the Right Way:

To avoid threading problems, make sure the spool is correctly placed on the machine. Different spools of thread require different positions.

Check if you should place the thread you are using horizontally or vertically on your machine.

You can also keep an eye to ensure the thread isn’t getting caught on its spool. You might be using a spool of thread with little notches around the outside. 

These notches are handy for holding the end of the thread but can sometimes get in the way.

It can create enough pressure to snap the needle if it gets caught while you’re sewing. Keep an eye on your spool as you sew to avoid any snags.

2. Problems with the Bobbin:

Not all threading problems happen in the main spool of thread. Issues with the bobbin can also cause needle breakage.

There are a few common problems with the bobbin:

  1. Incorrect size
  2. Incorrect threading
  3. Lint buildup

If your bobbin is the wrong size for your machine, it will not move as intended, creating issues with the bobbin thread, including loops and knots that will get caught when they reach the needle.

Incorrectly threaded bobbins will also lead to similar issues. The bigger the loops and knots, the more pressure the needle will face and the more likely it will break.

Finally, make sure you clean out the bobbin compartment from time to time. Lint and other fabric buildups can get trapped in that small compartment.

As you sew, the thread and trapped lint can get intertwined. As this happens, it will put pressure on the thread, and you might find your needle snapping into pieces.

3. Problems with the Needle:

Once you’ve threaded your machine correctly and have checked on your bobbin, it’s time to check out the needle itself.

There are a few common sewing machine needle issues:

  1. Wrong size
  2. Too wobbly
  3. Bent or dull 

There are so many needles available to buy. It’s possible to purchase a size that doesn’t suit your machine. If the needle is too long, it can snag on the bobbin and become stuck, damaged, or even broken.

It’s up to you to ensure your needle has been securely fastened in your machine. Most sewing machines have a small screw to the right of the needle used to keep it in place.

If your needle seems wobbling, you will need to tighten it using this screw. A needle that isn’t being held snug enough can get caught and snap while sewing.

Keep in mind the fabric that you are sewing with will impact the life of your needle as well. Using a delicate needle on a heavy fabric like denim can be a recipe for disaster.

Needles can break when facing a fabric that they were not intended to be used with. If you see your needle starting to bend when used on heavy fabric, that’s a sign of stopping and changing needles to avoid a break.

It is a good practice to change your needle often. You might not notice if your needle has a slight bend or is becoming dull. If you use a bent or dull needle, you will encounter problems as you sew.

By changing your needle periodically, you will ensure you use a straight, sharp needle every time. A straight needle can carry the machine’s pressure accurately and move up and down without any issues.

4. Problems with the Machine:

If you have already checked the top thread, bobbin, and needle, it is time to consider the machine itself.

If you feel like your needle is rubbing on something and creating resistance that you cannot solve, your machine may have a misalignment.

You should service sewing machines from time to time to keep everything running smoothly, and bringing your machine in for a tune-up once a year is a great rule of thumb.

When your machine is serviced, they will check it for any misalignments, worn-out lubricants, and any other issues that can cause problems.

If you haven’t used your machine in ages, it is good to take it in for some preventative care which is a good strategy to solve any potential problems before they have a chance to interrupt your sewing project.

If you use your machine regularly, you will have a sense of when something isn’t right. If you notice a new noise or sensation when using your machine, you might want to get it checked out. 

If you’re unsure where to take your machine for service, try asking around at your local fabric store.

People active in your local sewing community are likely to have good contact and solid recommendations for sewing machine maintenance.

Final Thoughts

If your needle keeps breaking, check the four main problem areas.

You will want to inspect your top thread and spool, making sure everything is threaded properly.

Next, check the bobbin compartment for lint and any threading issues. Finally, check your needle to make sure it is sharp and straight.

Bring your machine in for a tune-up to solve any deeper issues if all else fails.


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