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Having a needle break on an embroidery machine is not only dangerous to you and your machine, but if your machine keeps on stitching, you can also ruin your project.
Thankfully, when my needles start breaking, there’s usually an apparent reason: user error (aka me being careless.)
However, the answer isn’t always so obvious or easy to discover. In that case, it’s time to start investigating possible causes.
Check out this list of reasons why your embroidery machine needle keeps breaking and how to fix this problem!
Why Does Your Needle Break On An Embroidery Machine?
Needles break for two main reasons.
First, either they hit something that causes them to bend or snap. Or, the pressure applied from the top or bottom thread is too great, causing the needle to break.
What to Do If a Needle Breaks
Before troubleshooting embroidery machine needle breaking, it’s essential to know what to do when a needle breaks.
First, stop stitching immediately if your machine doesn’t recognize that the needle has broken. I’ve ruined too many embroidery projects by not sitting near my machine and fixing things immediately.
While racing to my machine, I’ll cringe as I hear the dull, broken part of the needle stitching huge holes in my fabric.
After your machine has stopped, remove the broken needle from the needle clamp. Try to remove as many pieces of the broken needle as you can from your embroidery blank and machine.
Then, remove the hoop from the embroidery machine. You’ll have to get creative if things are caught up because of threads. Here are some tips for removing fabric that’s caught in a machine.
After you’ve done basic clean-up, inspect for machine damage. Check the needle plate, bobbin case, and presser foot for nicks that may affect future sewing.
Also, open the needle plate and look around to make sure no parts of the broken needle have gotten into that area.
Embroidery Machine Needle Keeps Breaking: Troubleshooting Steps
If your embroidery needle is repeatedly breaking and you can’t figure out why, here are a few troubleshooting steps.
1. Check the Embroidery Presser Foot.
Let’s start basic.
First, are you using the correct presser foot, and is it installed correctly?
You must use the embroidery presser foot.
(This can be confusing because Brother embroidery-sewing combination machines, at least, also have a monogramming foot (N) that works with decorative sewing stitches. And, there’s a spring-action quilting foot that looks similar to the embroidery foot and is used for free-motion embroidery, which is done using the sewing part of the machine.)
Is your needle hitting the embroidery foot when it moves?
Every once in a while, I’ll have not screwed my embroidery foot on tightly enough, and it will start flapping in the wind as my machine stitches. More often than not, I don’t realize this until the needle has hit it and broken.
So, tighten your embroidery foot if it’s loose, and also make sure that when your needle goes down (advance the needle by turning the handwheel toward you), it doesn’t hit any part of the foot along the way.
Last, inspect the surface of your embroidery foot and ensure there are no scratches or nicks.
2. Check the Needle Clamp.
Is your needle pushed all the way up into the needle clamp in the correct direction, and is the needle tightly held by the needle clamp screw?
If the needle is too low, it can catch and break. Same with if it’s wiggly or turned around.
3. Use A New Needle of the Right Type and Size.
First, if your needle is dulled or bent, it’s less likely to penetrate the fabric and more likely to snap. A bent needle can also hit the side of your embroidery foot.
Even if your needle looks okay, get a new needle to rule out this possibility. (You can change brands, too, if you suddenly switched to a new brand and experience issues. I like Organ and Schmetz best. The titanium plated Schmetz needles are nice but pricy.)
It’s also important to choose the right embroidery needle size and type. (Or, sewing machine needle if you are working on a project off the beaten path.)
As a general rule, larger, heavier fabrics and thicker threads need bigger needles, whereas thinner fabrics and thinner threads work better with smaller needles.
Using a thin, itty-bitty needle on a big, thick denim seam, for instance, can place too much pressure on the point of the needle, causing it to break and snap instead of piercing through the seam effortlessly.
Also, you need to match the needle point to the fabric for the best results. Using a needle with a ball point will not pierce thick, tightly-wound fabric as well as a needle with the sharpest point.
If confused, you can purchase a “cheat sheet” like the Embroiderer’s Compass (above) to help you remember what needles work with what fabrics.
4. Check the Upper Thread Spool and Thread Path.
If the upper thread gets hung on anything, and I mean anything, it can put pressure on the needle. Then, it’s just a matter of time until your embroidery thread breaks or your needle snaps from the force.
For instance, I’ll notice thread catching on the spool base or wrapping around a thread guide or under the spool cap.
Thus, check your upper thread area, and ensure even thread feeding. You can use a spool felt, thread net, and the right size spool cap to make it easier for the thread to get to the needle without issue.
Lastly, for safe measure, rethread the top of your machine according to manufacturer instructions. Embroidery machines must be threaded with the presser foot up to allow the thread to pass through the upper tension discs correctly.
5. Inspect the Needle Plate.
Are you using the correct needle plate for machine embroidery?
If you’re using your throat plate with a single hole in the center and your embroidery machine isn’t stitching with the center needle position, your needle will run into the plate.
Even if you are using the right plate, test slowly (lowering the needle with the handwheel) and see if your needle hits anywhere on the plate.
Also, is your needle plate free of scratches and nicks that can catch the thread?
Nicks near the center of the needle hole are most likely to cause problems. You can remove smaller throat plate burrs, but you may need to replace the plate for big nicks.
6. Inspect Under the Needle Plate in the Bobbin Area
While peeking around, remove the needle plate and use your handwheel to lower the needle into the bobbin area. Make sure it’s not hitting anything underneath the needle plate.
Also, clean the area while you’re at it and change to a new bobbin to rule those potential factors out.
Make sure you place the bobbin at the correct orientation and use the right bobbin and bobbin embroidery thread for your machine.
Incorrect bobbin threading or the bobbin thread catching on something on its way out of the needle plate can definitely place enough pressure on a needle to break it during embroidery.
7. Try a New Design.
Some designs are digitized poorly (oh, how many mistakes I’ve made over the last few years digitizing myself–like layering different thread colors and not removing overlaps).
Too many needle penetrations in a small area can make for a very dense design stitch out.
Continually placing stitches in the same design part can cause your embroidery needle to bend or break.
Try a new design or use a thinner weight thread on the poorly-digitized areas to decrease thread bulk. You can also switch to a thicker, sharper needle temporarily.
8. Pick the Right Stabilizer.
In my early days of embroidery, I broke several needles while cluelessly trying to embroider dense designs on thin knit fabric with only a tear-away stabilizer.
As you can imagine, this made for a few machine jams and several needle breaks until I wised up.
Picking the right stabilizer for your fabric and design characteristics is important!
Choose a cut-away or no-show mesh stabilizer for dens designs and stretchy fabric and a tear-away stabilizer for stable, non-stretchy fabric.
9. Check the Fabric Area.
It’s usually pretty obvious when you accidentally stitch something you shouldn’t. Like a pin. Or the side of the clips you’re using to hold excess embroidery out of the stitching area.
If anything obstructs the needle or keeps the hoop and fabric from moving smoothly, this might also cause needles to break on an embroidery machine.
10. Check the Upper Tension.
An abnormally tight upper tension means more pull on the thread, which means more pull at the eye of the needle. After a while, your machine needle might snap from the pressure.
Decrease top tension and see if this resolves the problem.
Timing Issues or More Insidious Problems
If you can’t figure out why your embroidery machine keeps breaking needles, it might be a timing issue or something else deep inside the machine.
In this case, I recommend finding an authorized embroidery repair shop and bringing your machine in for a professional to fix it.
Any other at-home solutions that you suggest when an embroidery machine needle keeps breaking?
Let me know in the comments because broken needles are no fun!