Why Do Sewing Machine Needles Break?

Over the years that I have been sewing, I have broken some needles.  I snapped a lot more in the first couple of years of learning to sew than I do nowadays.  Even if you have a bit of experience in sewing, you will break needles.  No matter how good of a sewer you are, your needles break.
Why do sewing machine needles break?  They often break because the sewing machine isn’t threaded correctly or you are using the wrong needle for the project you are sewing.  Another way they can break is because you are pulling your fabric through the sewing machine and not letting the feed dogs move the fabric on for you.  
I can remember my great grandmother saying she has used this one needle for years now.  When I was young, I thought that was amazing.  Now I think, OH my gosh, that isn’t good at all to use the same needle on the sewing machine for years.  Change your needle often is the best practice when sewing.

Needles break because of threading issues

It is always a good idea to re-thread the entire sewing machine when you break a needle.  From the top thread to the bobbin thread.  Sometimes the thread will get hung in the tension discs or on the spool, pull too tight and snap the needle.  Also, never wind two different sets of thread on a single bobbin, even if it is the same color, from the same spool, or it consists of the same type of thread.  The second thread tail can get caught in the bobbin case and jam the sewing machine.

Needles break because it is hitting stitch plate

The needle will snap immediately if it ever comes in contact with the stitch plate.  This stitch plate is where the needle goes through to meet up the bobbin thread to create a stitch.  If your needle is bent from the thread being too tight or getting caught, it can hit the stitch plate.  Also be aware if you are pulling your fabric through the sewing machine and not letting the feed dogs move and feed the fabric through the sewing machine for you.  Pulling your fabric through the sewing machine will bend the needle and have it hit the stitch plate.  With quilting, quilters like to use single hole stitch plates to piece their quilts.  This stitch plate has a single hole in it instead of the elongated size hole.

The needle hits the bobbin case, bends, and breaks

If your sewing machine needle is hitting the bobbin case every time, it goes down into the stitch plate then check a couple of things.
First, make sure if you are using a sewing machine that is not a singer that you do NOT have singer sewing machine needles in the sewing machine.  Singer sewing machine needles are longer than other branded sewing needles.  So only ever use singer needles if you have a singer sewing machine.
The second thing you will need to check is that the butt (blunt end) of the needle is all the way into its holder and the needle screw is tightened down.  The third thing that could be wrong is your needle screen could not be tight enough, and the needle has slipped down lower in the holder.  Double check all these things to make sure you are sewing with the correct needle in the right position.

The thread is to thick for needle size

The type and thickness of the sewing thread can cause the needle to break.  If you are using a very fine needle like a size 60 with a heavier weighted thread than 40 weight you may break a needle.  When the thread is so thick, it has trouble going through the eye of the needle and going through the fabric you are sewing at the same time.  If the tension is too much on the eye of the needle, it will break the needle.

How old is that needle you are using

If you are using an old needle like my great-grandmother, this can cause the needle to break.  Once the needle gets dull, then it will not sew as well as it should.  The sewing machine will have to work harder to pierce the needle through the fabric into the bobbin case. Always use a brand new sewing machine needle for each new project you are sewing.

Sewing machine needle breaks when sewing backward

The needle breaking when you are sewing backward can happen.  The needle happens to break because the feed dogs don’t move enough and it starts to move the fabric when the needle is in the fabric forcing it to bend and most likely hit the stitch plate.  It can also create enough tension on the needle to snap it.
The other cause of why sewing machine needles break when sewing backward is the sewing machine might be out of timing for when you are sewing backward and not aligning up correctly to create a stitch.  Which, again causes the feed dogs and needle position to not be in the right place at the right time.  The sewing machine will be moving the fabric but the needle is still in the fabric.

If I break a needle will it mess up my sewing machine?

Usually, a broken needle isn’t a big deal.  You have to replace the broken needle.  There is on occasion that you will break a needle and it will throw the sewing machine out of timing.  If the sewing machine is out of timing, this means it will not create a stitch no matter what you do to the sewing machine from rethreading to cleaning it or even putting in a new needle. Then, if your sewing machine is out of timing, the needle will not meet up correctly in time with the bobbin thread to create a stitch.  If this happens, you will have to take your sewing machine into the repair shop.

Sewing with double needles

When sewing with a double needle this increases the chance of breaking a needle since you are using two needles.  I rarely will use double needles because I rather do two lines of stitching using an adjustable guide foot instead of the double needle.  I inevitability break one of the double needles when I sew with them.  These needles are not cheap around $5 each.  Try to always go slow and not rush sewing with a double needle.  Make sure the two top threads don’t get tangled when they are going through the sewing machine.

Tips for when a needle breaks in your sewing machine

Make sure you place either a piece of fabric or even a piece of paper over the stitch plate.  By putting something there over the hole, you won’t accidentally drop the broken needle when you loosen the needle screw it will not fall into the bobbin compartment.
Another thing you will want to do is make sure if your needle breaks are to find all the pieces of that broken needle.  A lot of the time the needle tip will be in the fabric, but there are times it will break and fall into the bobbin compartment.   You want to make sure and find all the broken pieces and remove them.  If a small piece of the broken needle is in the bobbin compartment and you continue to sew it will mess up your sewing machine.  Maybe not right off but after sewing a bit, it will cause the sewing machine to not stitch correctly.