Broken Needle: Best Practices to Prevent it Happening to You

broken needleA broken needle flying into the eye is a fear that seamstresses share all over the world.  Something like walking into a spider web and not knowing whether the spider is stuck on your hair or lurking on the floor ready to strike –but potentially much, much worse.  Those that have experienced the consequences of a broken needle often wear eye protection in the form of safety goggles or spectacles.  To avoid this unfortunate incident, here are the main reasons why this happens and some best practice tips to prevent it from happening to you.

Avoid pulling the fabric

This is a mistake made mostly by seasoned home sewers because they are experienced and get distracted by music, internet, or tv and cannot hear when the machine complains.  The sound of the machine always tells you when it is working too hard or something is misaligned.  Pulling the fabric will result in skipping stitches, a bent, or a broken needle.

broken needle

Below shows the correct positioning of your hands to avoid a broken needle.  The feeder underneath the fabric is helping the fabric pass at the correct speed for the machine. Use your hands only to keep the fabric feeding straight and flat under the needle NOT to pull it through at a pace faster than the machine can handle.

avoiding a broken needle correct position of hands

Clean your sewing machine

Experts recommend that you clean your machine once a month. In fact, it depends on how often you use it and the type of fabric you are using.  If you use the sewing machine a lot, you may have to clean it more often.  

Materials such as felt and fleece will drop short fibers and clog the area under the feeding plate.  For better enjoyment of your sewing experience and to prolong the life of your sewing machine clean it regularly.  If you have never done it before, please watch one of our videos below on how to clean a sewing machine where Deby explains in detail how to do it.

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If you want to take it one step further, here's how to really Pamper Your Sewing Machine.

Pamper Your Sewing Machine: a Cleaning Tutorial

Check the needle regularly

If you are familiar with the movie “The Usual Suspects“, then you may appreciate the comparison, at the end of the movie the small crooked man, the mastermind of all the mess, turns into the smart, self-confident shiny suit.  In this scenario, the needle is the unusual suspect.  Before we blame that blunt and bent little thing at the end of the shaft, we blame the tension, the timing, the fabric, and even the thread –when most of the time the problem can be rectified by changing to a good quality needle.

Change your needle often especially after sewing thick or sequined fabrics.  Use the appropriate needle and thread for the fabric you are working on.  

Here is what often happens just before a broken needle:

  • You have sewn over a pin or zipper
  • The thread looks frayed
  • You have skipped stitches
  • Your stitches give your project a puckered appearance.

A clean and well-oiled sewing machine and a good quality needle will decrease the chances of injuring your eye and prolong the life of your sewing machine.  It will also improve the creative satisfaction of your sewing while most importantly reducing the chances of injuring your eye.  

Use a high-quality sewing machine needle

One of the best overall sewing machine needles we've come across is from a company in Illinois called Schmetz Needles.   They have needles that fit any make and model of sewing machine including Brother, Singer, and Janome just to name a few.

What are your experiences with a broken needle?

Let me know in the comments section below.

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75 Responses to Broken Needle: Best Practices to Prevent it Happening to You

  1. Gloria Young says:

    Sarah, Yes there is definitely danger of a needle tip flying into your eye at some time if you are breaking loads of needles. I wear glasses all the time. I once had a needle tip hit the bottom of my glasses and cut me on my cheek just below the glass. And a friend of mine who worked with me at a Bernina shop insisted that it was okay for her to sew over pins even though I mentioned to her that it wasn’t a good idea. A needle tip flew into her eye (she wore contacts) and she had to go to emergency right away and did not return to work that day. When I’ve worked on industrial machines we always wore goggles since those machines are going many thousands of stitches a minute faster than any home machines can move and there is always the danger of a possible needle tip flying. Of course we might be sewing through even heavier layers than the average home sewer might be using.
    The other big problem with breaking needles is that they might damage the hook tip which is the heart of your sewing machine. The hook tip is what actually forms every stitch on your machine: it grabs the loop of upper thread from that tiny indentation behind the needle (called the scarf of the needle) and brings that loop around the bobbin thread. If that hook tip has a ding on it, the ding can break that upper thread, or skip the stitch, or hang onto that thread too long & cause really bad stitching that isn’t strong (bobbin thread will pull right out of the seam). When you damage your hook tip, sometimes a technician can smooth it out for you, but if you damage it badly enough you will need to purchase a new hook and that can be costly (on top of the cost of repair of your machine)!

  2. J says:

    Okay, your machine labors and/or balks over a thick intersection of seams or through through a similar tough area. For me it isn’t practical to change a needle, etc. for, say 10 stitches. The safe way, of course, is to hand crank thru these stitches then go back to powered stitching. But sometimes it suffices to SLOW DOWN and then give the feed-dogs just a little helping hand moving ahead to each stitch. I (almost) never break a needle doing this now, but broke one or two until I got the feel of letting up just before the needle enters the material each time.

  3. Karen Hulttman says:

    I have had the needle break in two and end up in my eyes . I wore contacts at the time. Luckily nothing happened to my eye. I don’t wear contacts now, so my glasses are my protective eye gear. I would highly suggest to wear eye gear to anyone who doesn’t wear glasses while sewing.

  4. Gail says:

    I broke my needle sewing pleats in the masks I was making. I never found the 1/4 inch piece that broke off the bottom of my needle. I’m concerned that it’s somewhere in the machine. I did all I knew to clean the machine, and now it works fine, but it still concerns me that it’s lost inside somewhere. Do I need to be concerned?

  5. Tenderwater Plants says:

    Making sure to clean the machine can fix a bunch of problems! Recently I couldn’t get the tension right to save my life on my machine and was about to give it up when I was poking around and ended up taking the bobbin area apart. Wouldn’t know right there bellow the part the bobbin goes in was a quarter sized piece of lent. took it out and the tension was PERFICT!

  6. Mary Ann says:

    Years ago a needle broke in three pieces with the center piece flying up and hitting my cheek.

    Since then I’ve kept a cheap pair of glasses beside my machine (and teach my sewing students to do the same) for use any time I’m sewing through thicknesses. Better safe than sorry.

  7. Luisa says:

    When the thread breaks more than once — and it’s good quality thread — change the needle. Thread will stop breaking and will prevent needle breakage.

  8. Louise McClain says:

    Thank you for this great information. I have had sewing needles to break but not fly into the air . Only into the fabric I was sewing. Now days I have to use eye glasses to sew. But again I Thank you.

  9. Kathleen says:

    Mayra I found your article very helpful. I have been sewing for 50+ years and have seen many good changes in machines and materials. Recently I have been teaching my 6 year old granddaughter to sew, and part of her accessories are a simple pair of safety glasses. My kids all think I’m a little over the top with worry, but young children sit with eye level close to the needle height. It is an easy fix to use the glasses and she respects the fact they protect in case of any needle fracture. It makes for a much more relaxed sewing session.

  10. Pegeth says:

    My MOST important caution: Reassemble the pieces to ensure you have them all. Match to a new needle. If a piece drops into your machine, it can cause problems.

  11. Laurilli J Bazille says:

    Good article. Thank you. When I was in 7th grade sewing class(eons ago!!) a girl was standing beside me while I was sewing (we were not suppose to) my needle broke and went flying and it did hit her eye lid. Thankfully she was ok, but the whole class learned a valuable lesson that day.

  12. Vlierbloesem says:

    It does not happen often to me. Schmetz needles tend to break when the problem occurs, but the point is always still atttached to the thread. Most needles I use nowadays are Singer brand. Most common needle problem with Singer is bending, not breaking. But that is just as rare as the breaking of needles.

    I do have safety goggles, but I forget to use them. Sometimes I use reading glasses with LED light. Those are handy and cheap.

    More often have I accidently dropped needles and pins on the floor. Those are mainly a danger to the cat. So have a magnet with my sewing stuff, to pick up all needles and pins I may have dropped.

  13. Sarah says:

    I have broken loads of needles, mostly due to quilting or topstitching with lots of layers or layers that were close to being too thick for my machine. Not once have I ever had one break in more than two pieces and it always breaks on the inside of my fabric with the needle eye intact, so I have never had it go flying. I mean it is good to know there is a danger, but is it really that great of a hazard? And aside from not trying to push your machine too hard or too fast, not sewing over pins, or hitting a new foot without changing position, is there any way you can prevent it from doing it from time to time? Probably not entirely. So do we all need to wear face shields or if we already wear glasses are we ok? A little more practical information and less fear inducing images would be appreciated.

    Really enjoy your patterns and article!

    • carmen says:

      Its best to learn from others experiences whether fortunate or not. Great article!

    • Carolyn McCambridge says:

      I have found that needles are more likely to break and fly into your eye now that computerised machines run so fast. Machines tend to be so accurate that I am sure we allow them to run faster than we probably did when the machines were more basic and mechanical. I have my machine serviced regularly and clean it myself regularly. I have also always been very careful about changing needles and using the correct needle for the correct fabric and technique. Twice in the last year I have had a needle break and the piece hit my face. In one case I was very lucky because the needle point hit the corner of my eye but luckily my eye shut in time to prevent serious damage. It was quite a wake-up moment as to how lucky I had been. Now, I always wear goggles or glasses. I also wear them when I use my over-locker. I would advise anyone else to do the same especially if they are working with a high speed machine. Extensive eye damage is a real possibility.

    • Ginny Bennett says:

      I have been sewing for over 50 years. I have had needles break before with no problem. Recently I was sewing a patchwork quilt made of squares of old blue jeans. While sewing across the intersection of several seam, my needle broke and flew up and hit my eye glasses. Had I not been wearing them, it would have most likely been a serious injury. Just because it has never happened to you, it doesn’t mean that it won’t ever happen. I prefer to err on the side of caution.

    • Sandra says:

      I think a little common sense is appropriate when sewing. I had the needle to break and fly away and it hit my glasses. It’s a machine, be careful!!!! Just saying……

  14. Carol says:

    Hello everyone! Love all your comments. I have just started working with hemstitching. I am using Schmetz needles and have broken two wing needles already the first time they were inserted. One was the larger size wing needle, so perhaps my Janome did not accept that size. The second needle was perhaps not inserted correctly into the machine. I think wing needles are very “touchy” as to the way they sit in the machines. After these incidents, I was able to finish my tasks OK with a third wing needle safely. I was sooo nervous.

  15. Betarice says:

    am happy with the methods of preventing needle but ca i get more images to show the rest of my colleagues what would happen if they are not keen on their machines..?I will really appreciate

  16. Katie says:

    I just had one break on me this morning. It was on my serger. Broke because something on in the machine was bent. It scared me because my 19 month old was stand on a box next to me watching me. Not only was I grateful it didn’t get me but thanking God it didn’t get my baby. Since my serger was the cheapest one on the market (cause my mom is a cheap o) and it’s 8 yrs old, it went out with the trash. Never had this happen til today. Now to make sure it never happens again.

  17. Alice says:

    I wondered why you didn’t mention sewing over pins. That is so dangerous to do. I don’t do that but I accidentally left a pin on the other side of the fabric (I couldn’t see it). Next thing I knew I had the flying tip of the needle hit my eye. Luckily I wear glasses, and the needle left a nick on the lens. It was a constant reminder of “what could have been.”

  18. Rosemary says:

    Thanks for the info about the Jean-a-ma-jig. I am always asked to hem jeans, and hate doing it because the material is so thick. I will try this thing next time.

  19. marysydmary says:

    ive had a needle break and point dropped into the machine by the bobbin. Took me forever to get it out.

  20. I always have to hem my husbands jeans because jeans do not come in 27 inches in length. I always break a needle unless I go real slow but my machine will stop & will not go over the thick seams, then I try to pull the jeans through then sometimes break the needle, then it will hang up & not move. What should I do? What presser foot should I use? I use real good needles. My machine is a Bernina 930

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hello Annette, there are a couple of things that you can do to make it easier for you, there is a thing called the Jean a ma-jig believe it or not and what it does it allows you to stabilize the foot to be able to go over the thick part. There is another thing called the clearance plate, it comes in 2 thickness. This are accessories and do not come with the machine but can be bought at a big fabric store. Here are the links so you can have a look at what they look like. I also recommend a size 16 needle and Gutterman thread 1870 a very good quality and color for jeans.
      There is another way to do it, but I would have to make a video to be able to show you. I will keep you in mind. Hope this helps.

      • Linda G says:

        The Jean-a-ma-jig (or similar tool) does work to help to cross over thick seams on any project, but is almost required when sewing over the thick seams on jeans. It is inexpensive and easy to use and prevents having to tug or pull the fabric through the needle. Directions for using this tool are usually printed on or included in the package. In a pinch, I have created a similar presser-foot-lifting-tool by folding layers of fabric to place behind the needle and the thick seam under the presser foot or using a thick, flat piece of plastic of similar thickness to the seam being crossed. Just be sure to stitch across the thicker seams carefully and slowly until all the thicker material is through the presser foot.

        After sewing many pairs of jeans and other denim and twill wear, I have learned to make sure I use “Jeans” needles. These needles have sharp points, unlike “Universal” needles that have slightly rounded points. The sharp point makes it easier for your machine to pierce the dense, thick fabrics used in jeans. These needles usually come in size 16 and size 18, and both are heavier, stronger needles. Size 16 is usually good for lighter-to-medium weight denims, including those with some spandex. Size 18 is terrific for the stiffer and heavier denims, like those in work jeans or overalls. They also have slightly larger eyes to accommodate decorative jeans threads. These needles are helpful when sewing denser home decor fabrics, too, especially when several layers build up the seam thickness with outer fabrics, cording and trims, fasteners like zippers, felt, and batting.

        I have found that careful use of an awl as a pusher can help to feed the thicker layers under the presser foot, too. This shouldn’t put tension on the needle when done properly and will help the feed dogs transport the fabric, without breaking the needle. Using the awl keeps your fingers away from the needle, too. Just don’t let the needle hit the point of the awl.

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Have you tried a Jean-a-ma-jig, made especially for hemming jeans, works great!

      • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

        Hi Tracy, you know, actually I’ve never used a Jean-a-ma-jig but it looks very useful. Perhaps we should do an article or tutorial on using one? Thanks and appreciate your comments.

  21. Ramona says:

    In my opinion, deliberately sewing over pins is not only lazy but irresponsible, with the strong possibility of damage to the machine, needle, or perhaps eye. In other words, it’s not a good practice.

    • Sarah Hairston says:

      That is why I use wonderclips whenever I can. I use them for almost everything and there is no chance of running over one of those.

  22. Linda says:

    I had a needle break and hit me right beside my eye! If the needle breaks into two pieces you’re ok because nothing can fly but mine broke into three pieces so the middle piece flew-right into my face. I teach sewing and am constantly having to remind the student NOT to sew over pins and I always tell them my story. Also, I hit a pin once as a young sewer and it threw the timing of my machine off so that it never worked right again.

  23. elena says:

    Oh my!!! I have broken three needles for sewing over pins, in a course the teacher told me it was ok to do so but I don´t do it anymore. But I was not aware of the eye-needle thing and I was sewing without any glasses 🙁
    For sure I will use some kind of plastic glasses from now on! thanks a lot for the post, very useful! 🙂

  24. Sam says:

    It is good advice to be aware that needles can break and fly anywhere – but I don’t agree that it more likely happens to season home stitchers – who says? I believe it is more likely to happen to inexperienced stitchers who aren’t even aware of the problem so don’t do anything to avoid it.

    Schmetz are excellent needles but are infact a German company – they have subsiduaries all over the world – – as has been said Organ are also good made by a Japanese company and usually cheaper. I find that my machines made in Europe stitch better with Schmetz, and my Japanese machines stitch better with Organ. Klasse are also a needle I use which is readily available in UK. Be aware than even a new needle can have issues so if you are still haveing issues after putting in a new needle, try another one.

    Other things that can happen to cause a needle break are that the needle clamp hasn’t been tightened properly, – same thing with the foot or ankle screw. These can work loose and result in a needle hit on the foot or the needle plate and result in a break. A classic is switching to a swing needle stitch with either the straight stitch foot, or the straight stitch plate still in place, though some modern machines now have sensors to warn if the wrong plate is in place for the stitch.

    Love your blog – very informative and great patterns!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Thank you Sam for your input and for taking the time to add to the article. I hope many members read your words. It is always nice to have different opinion even though we might not always agree.


  25. Debi says:

    The last broken needle I had was due to me getting in a hurry, I had changed foot on machine just before taking a break and when I returned flipped the machine on and forgot that the default needle position would not work with the foot. Now if I am using a foot that does not work with default needle position and have to step away I remove the foot so when I start to sew again I remember to adjust stitch.

  26. jlavrusky says:

    I am a new seamstress and don’t know what needles to use on what materials ?

  27. ROBIN, TX says:

    Good article. And I’m hoping that the eye patch in the photo is just a prop!

  28. ladyruna says:

    The one time i was glad I wear glasses was when I broke a needle sewing and the needle gouged a big scratch in the lens (instead of impaling me). After that, I paid more attention to how I handled the fabric. I change my needle before every new project, and if I’m working on a project that requires a lot of sewing time, I’ll sometimes change it half way through the project

  29. Carole Cristi says:

    Happy Girl….modern machines, electronic type, may lose their timing if you sew over a pin and the needle comes in contact with it. Learned that from a friend when she did that and had to have machine repaired…not cheap.

  30. Gina B. says:

    Watch the real experts in the online classes or tutorials… you will never see one sew over a pin.

  31. Gina B. says:

    My wonderful new Kenmore stops, beeps and puts up a warning message on the display if I try to sew over too much thickness. I’m sure I would have broken a few needles if it weren’t for that. I use Schmetz needles and change them regularly.

  32. Annie says:

    I sewed over a pin and the needle broke. The tip landed in my eye and stuck in my contact! I kept my eye open until my roommate removed my contact.

  33. M says:

    Excellent advice on broken needles. I teach Family & Consumer Science in middle school and the students do not take a broken needle serious enough. The picture is worth a 1,000 words. We have practiced changing needles and have reviewed what are some signs to change out a needle. Thank you so much for this easy read!

  34. Baruwa Chileem says:

    Thanks for sharing on how to avoid broken needles. I am a beginner at sewing. In fact I started last week. Please what brand of sewing machine would you recommend I buy? A sewing machine that is very good to work with. Thanks.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      This is very hard to answer, because is like buying a car, so it will depend on your budget and how much are you planning to use it. Before you settle for one, go to the stores and test them, ask the salesperson to show you the machine and ask them to make a buttonhole, in my opinion a buttonhole is what makes your outfit look homemade or bought in the store. Do not get one with so many bells and whistles, that is going to make you scared or frustrated to used it. I would go for one that is better quality, less computerized and a bit more expensive. Unless you are loving embroidery. Janome, Bernina and Juki are all very good machines. With time you will learn that a walking foot and a serger will be advantageous. Hope this helps!

  35. Kathy Booth says:

    My niece said a friend of hers said it was ok to sew over a pin. I was shocked! Told her why one would not want to do that. also, Organ needles are high quality too. Superior Threads uses and recommends them. I have found them to be wonderful. I have family members who don’t change needles unless it breaks. One family member actually said it’s been years since she changed her needle and her statement was, “and I don’t have any problems.” I looked at the stitches and they were all over the place, loose, skipping, etc. A good needle is a small price to pay for a well-running machine, beautiful stitches, and most of all…safety.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Yes, you are right Organ needles are also very good. I hope your family member gets to change the needle. Thank you for your comment!

  36. Kaaren Lynch says:

    I try to never sew over pins, because I want to keep my machine happy. It lets me know when it needs cleaning; the thread will knot up and jam the works. So I do clean it a lot to keep both the machine and me happy!

  37. Sheila Perl says:

    I have been lucky that the broken needle has never gone into my eyes! I only use Schmetz needles, they are the best 🙂 One practice I have is I clean and oil my bobbin raceway and machine and change the needle after every 5 bobbins, I mainly use quilting cottons so I find this perfect timing, I read this tip on someone’s blog, sorry I don’t remember whose, and I have been doing this for a few years. If I am using flannellette, oh the fluff! then I clean the machine after every bobbin, just a quick swish with a brush, I find the buildup of fluff is generally what jams my machine and breaks my needles. 😀

  38. Virginia says:

    How about a short piece on what needles to use on what fabric? My memory isn’t what it used to be and something I can print out and keep would be wonderful.

  39. Edna says:

    Everytime my needle jams into the fabric, I’ve learned how to open the bobbin section and take the assembly apart. It’s a bother, but it saves both the needle from breaking and the fabric from tearing.

  40. happygirl says:

    My mum had a needle break and stick into her eye……lots of ops and nearly lost the sight in that eye……..I never sew over pins because of this despite my friends telling me it’s ok on modern machines..

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