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Broken Needles? 5 Tips To Help

Do you guys remember the Woodland themed quilt I posted a sneak peak of last week? The one I was super excited about with the Fancy Fox pattern by Elizabeth Hartman.  It has turned out to be the worst quilt ever!  I just finished it, two weeks after the baby shower!

I am a chronic procrastinator, but when I started this quilt I had planned to have it done about a week in advance.  But that didn't happen.  I had pieced, basted, and quilted nearly half the quilt when it happened.  A horrible crunch and a metallic grinding noise as my machine freaked out, and there it was. A broken needle.

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I didn't think anything of it, it happens from time to time and it was an old needle.  I work on a tight budget and even though a quilting needle is supposed to be replaced every 2 hours of actual quilting, and I can tell you that this needle had easily seen more than two hours.  

But when I broke two more needles in span of thirty minutes, I knew something was wrong.  If you are having the same problem, here are a few tips and tricks you can try before handing over your machine and money to a repair shop.

1) Check Your Needle - There can be a variety of things wrong with your needle that might cause it  to break.

  • The needle was inserted incorrectly.  Read the user guide to double check the proper way to insert a needle into your machine.  If a needle is improperly inserted it can become loose during sewing and break.
  • You're using the wrong type of needle.  Needles are designed to sew specific fabrics and using incompatible needles and fabrics can cause damage to either the needle or thread or both. The packaging of you needle will state what size your needle is.  
  • Your needle is out of position. You can see if your needle is out of position by manually lowering the needle and seeing if the needle hits the face plate.  See the user guide of manufacture website for your machine for specific directions to correct this.
  • Your needle was old.  Needles should be replaced after two hours of actual sewing.  As a needle is used, it's point is dulled and it's structural integrity is weakened.    

2) Check Your Thread - 

  • Make sure the bobbin is wound correctly
  • Make sure your machine is threaded correctly
  • Make sure you are using the correct type of thread

3) Sewing Over Pins -  If you have been sewing with pins and sewed over the pins (never a good idea), there is a possibility that the needle hit a pin and bent.  Not only can bent needles result in missed stitches, but the needles can hit the face plate of your machine and break.  If you think this happened to you, do not sew over your pins.  Remove the pins as your fabric nears the presser foot.  

4) Quilt Faster -  I know that sounds counter productive, but if you are free motion quilting speeding up your needle will keep even tension in your thread.  This means that the needle will remain in a strait vertical position.  Checkout this .gif which shows how a sewing machine actually works.

Sometimes while moving your fabric around during FMQ, the fabric and thread can actually pull your needle out of alignment with your machine.  This happens when the stitch has not been fully completed and the fabric is moved when the top thread is still being manipulated by the bobbin.  

When you sew faster, the needle and bobbin move faster, therefore stitches are more likely to be completed as you move your fabric around.

If there are markings on your sewing machine's face plate, there is a good possibility that this is your problem.  

5) Check Your Presser Foot - Some machines require a specific presser foot be used for a specific kind of stitch.  Check your machine's user guide or manufacture directions to double check that you are indeed using the correct presser foot.  If you are using the incorrect foot, the needle might have hit the presser foot.  

 

In my case, I simply wasn't sewing fast enough when FMQ the Woodland quilt.  I discovered I had a tendency to slow the speed of the needle when moving the fabric towards me so that I could see the stitch placement better.  Once I kept up the speed I was finally able to finish the quilt.  

The back of the quilt is quite simple.  I appliqued a slightly furry felt to a solid fabric.  I thought a bear rug would be perfect for a little boy's quilt and let him channel his inner Sean Connery during tummy time!

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If you're interested in the .gif used and want to see more, you can check out a couple of sites like giphy.com or reddit.