How to Change a Needle on a Sewing Machine Like a Pro

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There are many occasions when you’ll need to change your sewing machine needle. 

I change my needle daily when switching fabric types and at least weekly when I’m working on new projects.

If you’re a beginner, knowing how to put a needle in a sewing machine is one of the first skills to master after learning how to set up your sewing machine. 

Thus, I’ll walk you through the steps in this beginner sewing tutorial!

And, since I own several sewing machines, I have pictures of how to change the needle on a Singer sewing machine and how to change the needle on a Brother sewing machine. 

Even if you don’t have one of these two brands of machines, the process is very, very similar for most modern sewing machines!

how to change a sewing machine needle

When to Change A Sewing Machine Needle

There are several indications for when to replace the needle on a sewing machine. 

Obviously, if your needle is broken, bent, or dull, it’s time to put in a new needle. 

Also, if you’re significantly changing the weight of thread or type of fabric (for instance, from a knit to a woven fabric), you may need to change your sewing machine needle.

Some sewers recommend changing needles after every project, but I change mine less frequently.  An old needle, though, can wreak havoc on your stitching!

If you’re having problems troubleshooting sewing machine issues, it might be time to switch to a new needle. 

Here are a few issues you may have that are worth a new sewing machine needle when troubleshooting.

  • Threads breaking while sewing
  • Large punctures in the fabric
  • Popping sound when puncturing the fabric (caused by a dull or damaged tip)
  • Skipped sewing stitches

I also recently wrote a post on the different types and sizes of sewing machine needles that gives a bit more information about choosing needles.

How to Change A Sewing Machine Needle

1. Remove the Old Sewing Machine Needle.

First, turn off your sewing machine (for your safety).  I have my sewing machines on in the pictures so I can have better lighting and get better images.

To remove the sewing machine needle, you first need to loosen the needle clamp screw.  The needle clamp is what holds the needle itself in place.  There should be a small screw to the right of this needle clamp.

Depending on your sewing machine, loosening the screw happens in a few ways. 

twist the screw towards you counterclockwise on singer heavy duty sewing machine

On my Singer heavy-duty sewing machine, the needle clamp screw is easily twisted by hand.  Unscrew towards you, or counterclockwise, to loosen the screw.  Hold the needle with your other hand in case it falls out.

changing needle on brother sewing machine (2)

On my Brother sewing machine, the needle clamp screw is not as easily unscrewed by hand if it is tightened. 

Here, I use my flat-head screwdriver to turn the screw counterclockwise towards me to loosen the needle.

There’s no need to loosen the needle clamp screw considerably.  Do just enough to loosen the needle.

removing the presser foot to change the sewing machine needle

Now, grab the needle with your thumb and pointer finger and remove it, pulling it at an angle after it starts coming out of the clamp. 

Sometimes, it may be easier to remove the presser foot before removing the needle to give more space for your fingers to pivot the needle out.

Below is a quick diagram showing a needle’s round and flat sides.

parts of a sewing needle

Note whether the flat side of the needle shank (top part of the needle) is facing the front or back as you take the needle out. All the sewing machines I have ever used have the flat part of the needle facing toward the back of the machine. 

2. Put the Needle in the Sewing Machine.

Now, there are three ways to put in a new sewing machine needle that I’ll walk you through.

A. Insert The Needle Using Your Fingers

remove the needle using your fingers

The first way to replace the needle is to use your fingers to angle the needle up and into the screw clamp. 

Make sure you’ve pushed it up as far as it will go and the flat part of the needle is facing the back

Then, tighten the screw back clockwise.  Make sure it is as tight as you can get it.  A wobbly needle will cause all sorts of problems!

B. Insert Using a Clearance Plate

clearance plate with needle hole in it

The second way is to use what is called a clearance plate to insert the needle.  This is a nifty contraption that came with my Singer 4452 sewing machine.

how to insert the needle in the clearance plate

First, orient the needle in the clearance plate.  You can clearly tell which side is for the flat side and which is for the round side when looking at the plate.  It should fit nice and snugly in the plate.

how to use the clearance plate to insert the sewing needle

With the needle (and thus clearance plate) facing the correct direction, move the plate into the sewing space and insert the top of the needle into the needle clamp.  The picture above shows how to do that.

Once you have the needle in the clamp, push it all the way up.  You won’t see much of the top of the needle sticking out when it’s properly inserted.

tighten the screw back on the brother sewing machine

With the needle pushed all the way into the clamp, tighten the needle clamp screw clockwise.

C. Insert With a Dritz Needle Inserter and Threader

Dritz 253 Machine Needle Inserter & Threader for Sewing

Instead of using the clearance plate, you could opt for a needle inserter and threader from Dritz (or an inserter only from Singer) to help you insert the needle.  

These work similarly to the clearance plate in that you insert the needle into the inserter and then use that to push the needle into the needle clamp.

using the dritz needle threader to thread a sewing machine needle

Bonus points if you the Dritz device, because you can also use it to thread the sewing machine needle for you, too!

3. Setting Up to Sew After a Needle Change

If you removed the presser foot, replace it.

Then, rethread your sewing machine needle. Make sure to place the thread from front to back through the eye of the needle. 

Next, pull the thread underneath the presser foot and towards the back. 

rethread the needle using your fingers or the needle threader

If your sewing machine has an automatic needle threader, ensure your needle is aligned in the correct position for the needle threader to pass through the eye of the needle.  If not, just thread your sewing machine needle by hand.

Final Notes

And that’s it! 

You just learned how to change a needle on a Singer or Brother sewing machine.  Once you’ve done it a few times, it will become muscle memory!

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