You can’t sew without a sharp needle. As such, you inevitably will need to change the needle on your sewing machine at one point or another. Whether you want to replace an old needle or install a needle on your new machine, the needle must be positioned correctly and securely.

Below are the steps for changing a needle in your sewing machine, including removing and installing. This article also provides safety guidelines and answers some of the most common sewing machine needle FAQs.

Steps for Removing a Needle from a Sewing Machine

  1. Hold the stem of the needle between your thumb and index finger. You may opt to use a needle insertion tool to insert the tip on the needle in the small hole on the insertion tip.
  2. Locate the screw on the side of the needle clamp and begin to unscrew it. If it is too tight, you may need to use a screwdriver. Otherwise, turn it in your direction.
  3. Loosen the screw until the needle release from the clamp.

How to Install a Needle on a Sewing Machine

  1. Hold the stem of the needle between your thumb and index finger or with a needle insertion tool with the flat part facing the back.
  2. Push the thick part as high up the needle clamp screw as it can go.
  3. Turn the screw on the side of the needle clamp screw by turning it away from you. If need be, use a screwdriver to tighten the screw in place.
  4. If using an insertion tool, remove it from the needle.
  5. Thread the needle and start sewing.
sewing machine presser foot close up

Safety Tips for Changing a Sewing Machine Needle

Below are some precautions and safety measures you should take when changing the needle on your sewing machine.

  • The first and most important precaution is to power off the sewing machine before beginning the process of changing the needle. Keeping the machine powered on puts you at the risk of getting your fingers pierced in case you accidentally press on the foot pedal.
  • Consider using a needle insertion tool instead of holding the needle between your fingers. The insertion tool offers a firmer grip on the needle and prevents it from dropping or getting lost.
  • You may also insert the needle using a clearance plate. Identify the plate’s side where you should place the flat side and the round side of the needle. Clamp the top part of the needle on the clearance plate, push the needle in position on the needle clamp, and then tighten the screw.
  • Place a small piece of cloth or cardboard beneath the needle. It prevents it from dropping into the machine in case it falls off.
  • Dispose of the needle correctly. Put the needle in a sharp’s garbage container. If you do not have one, you can put the removed needle in a prescription pill container or a film canister.


An improperly installed needle can cause permanent damage to your machine or result in improper formation of the sewing pattern. It can also lead to the needle breaking. By following the above steps, your sewing needle will be properly installed. Ensure to adhere to safety precautions when changing your needle.

Proceed to look at the answers to the top sewing needle FAQs discussed below to help you determine when to change your needle and which type of replacement needles to buy.

Sewing Machine Needle FAQs

women using electric sewing machine

Still have questions about how to change a sewing machine needle? Read on below for some more helpful information.

How often should I change the needle on my sewing machine?

Most sewing machine manufacturers do not provide recommendations on how often you should change your sewing machine needle. However, if you notice that your needle is getting blunt or rusted, then it is about time you replaced it.

If the needle becomes crooked or has obvious signs of breakage, replace it with a new one. You may also notice that the needle makes uneven stitches, produces a popping sound when puncturing fabric, makes large holes on the fabric, or the thread breaks while sewing.

With that said, seasoned sewers recommend that you change your needle after every three full bobbins. For quilting, it is best to change the needle after every 8 hours of sewing. It is also important that you change the needle to meet the specifications required for each project.

Sewing on heavy-duty fabrics such as leather and fleece dulls the needle faster than with lighter fabrics, in which case you may need to change your needle several times in the course of the project. Further, sewing machines consume up to double the amount of power to stick with a dull needle.

Do sewing machine needles have a universal fit?

No. There are different types and sizes of sewing machine needles for different sewing machine models, fabrics, and patterns. Check your product manual for guidelines on needle size choices.

What are the different types of sewing machine needles?

Sewing machine needles can be broadly categorized according to their needle points and the type of fabric they are designed used on.

Types of sewing needlepoint

sewing machine stainless steel needle close up

There are three main categories of sewing needle points:

  • Ballpoint: It is particularly designed for use on knit fabrics. This type of point is rounded at the tip and functions by pushing the fabric on either side instead of piercing it.
  • Setpoint: Setpoint needles are primarily used on woven fabric to piece through the fabric. The tip is sharper than that of a set point.
  • Wedge point: It serves as a cutting point and is best used for heavy-duty fabrics such as leather.

Types of needles according to the fabric they are used on

The types of sewing needles according to the type of fabric they are used on include:

  • Leather needles
  • Metallic needles
  • Embroidery needles
  • Quilting needles
  • Denim needles

Other types of sewing needles include self-thread needles, wing needles, sharp needles, top-stitch needles, twin and triple stitch needles, jersey needles, and universal needles.