How Long Do Sewing Needles Last? (Explained for Beginners)


When sitting down to work on a new sewing project, the last thing you want to worry about is a broken needle. Your machine’s needle will need to be replaced at some point, but just how long do they last?

Sewing needles typically last for about 8-10 hours of sewing, or 1,000 stitches. If you are an avid seamstress, your needle may need to be replaced weekly. However, if you are only a hobby sewer, your needle could last for several months.

This article will explain how often your sewing needle should be replaced, what causes dullness and breaking in needles, and how to recycle or discard your sewing needles after use.

How Often Should I Replace a Sewing Needle?

You should replace a sewing needle after 8-10 hours of work. It is important to note that this refers to consistent sewing time, not the total time you’ve spent sitting at the machine. Eight to ten hours of sewing time usually amounts to about 1,000 stitches.

The life expectancy of your needle will be determined by the amount of time you spend sewing, as well as the type of fabrics you are working with. If you tend to work with thick, cumbersome fabrics or materials with uneven or rough textures, your needle will wear out much faster than if you primarily use simple quilting cotton.

When replacing your sewing needle, be sure to refer to the user’s manual for your machine and replace it with the proper size and model. Replacing your needle with the wrong size or style can cause damage to your machine.

Do Sewing Needles Get Dull?

Sewing machine needles can get dull if they are not replaced in a timely manner. Following the guidelines for replacing your needle after 8-10 hours of stitching will ensure a sharp stitch every time.

You will know that your sewing machine needle has gotten dull when you notice the following:

  • Your machine starts making a “thud” noise with each stitch.
  • Your threads are breaking.
  • The needle feels dull to the touch. With the machine OFF, gently touch the tip of the needle. If it does not feel sharp, it’s time to change it.

In a pinch, dull sewing machine needles can be sharpened: rub the needle on an oiled emery board and then polish it with metal polishing paste. However, if you have another needle on hand or can put your project on hold while you run to the fabric store, it’s best to just replace the needle if it becomes too dull to sew efficiently.

Why Do My Sewing Needles Keep Breaking?

It can be incredibly frustrating when your needle breaks halfway through a project. There are a number of reasons that this could be happening.

Your sewing needles likely keep breaking due to issues with your machine setup. Analyze your bobbin’s positioning, the tension settings, and the needle plate on your machine. Don’t forget to assess the condition of your needles and ensure they are sharp when you begin sewing.

Here are the most common reasons why your sewing needle keeps breaking:

  • Your bobbin is not locked in properly. The needle needs to be able to go down into the needle plate and through the hole in the bobbin. If it is not placed correctly, the needle might hit the bobbin, causing it to snap or break.
  • The tension setting is too tight or too loose. The tension setting depends on the fabric you are using and your intended sewing style. Be sure to change your tension to the correct setting before starting a new phase of your project.
  • Your sewing needle is dull or damaged. Failing to replace a sewing needle before it gets too dull or damaged can cause it to break. After 8-10 hours of stitching (or at the first sign of dullness), your needle should be replaced with a new one.
  • The needle is not the right type for the fabric you are using. Different types of stitching require specific types of needles. Make sure the needle you are using is intended for the kind of sewing project you are working on.
  • Your needle plate is damaged or jammed. If the needle plate is damaged or thread has built up and jammed the space underneath the plate, your needle can break as it goes down into the stitch.

Can Sewing Needles Be Recycled?

Sewing needles can be safely recycled when they can no longer fulfill their sewing purpose. You can also reuse these needles to perform a new purpose. Old sewing needles can be used for hanging pictures, pinning patterns, or even creating art.

To safely recycle needles, store them in a metal tin or an empty medicine bottle with a child-safe top. Once the bottles are full, you can recycle them at a hazardous waste or full metal facility. If you prefer, some pharmacies will recycle old sewing needles for you; just be sure to place them in an empty test-strip or epi-pen case.

How To Get Rid of Sewing Needles?

When disposing of sewing needles, tossing them loosely into the garbage or recycling bin is never a good idea. Disposing of sewing needles improperly can lead to ripping through the garbage bag or injury when an unsuspecting person discovers them.

Instead, try these safe disposal tips when getting rid of sewing needles:

  • Place them in an old pill bottle or jar with a child-safe locking lid.
  • Use small hotel toiletry bottles with a lid to store them.
  • Once the container is full, secure the lid and throw the entire container away.

By placing the needles inside a securely closed container, you are ensuring that they cannot rip through the garbage bag or fall out onto the ground and become a hazard to anyone nearby.

Conclusion

Sewing needles are one of the most accessible parts of a sewing machine to replace, yet they are often neglected. For the optimal sewing experience, be sure to replace your sewing needles after every 8-10 hours of stitching, or after about 1,000 stitches.

Keep in mind that if you use bulky or textured fabrics, the sewing time per needle may be reduced. Look out for signs that your needle is becoming dull, and be sure to replace it in a timely manner in order to avoid potential damage to your needle, machine, or sewing project.

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