Jas Purba, managing director of ETC Supplies, explains how to pick the right needle and prevent breakages


When selecting an embroidery needle, you need to know three things: the system, the size and the point. All reputable needle manufacturers will provide this information on the packet, and the table below will help you work out which needle to select. You don’t, however, need to change your needle every time you do embroidery on a different fabric – this guide will simply help you select the most suitable needle for the bulk of your embroidery work.

A question we frequently get asked is how often should the needle be changed. I suggest a regular routine of changing all your needles depending on how much embroidery you do and how many different fabrics you run on your machine. This can be anywhere from fortnightly to monthly, and you’ll need to work out what is best for your set-up.

Embroidery on items such as bags, caps and heavy workwear fabrics can be the most damaging to your embroidery needles and these fabrics would require more frequent needle changes. The eye of the needle is prone to wear due to the extreme forces placed on it during sewing. As the eye and scarf become worn, you will find that you have more thread breaks and fraying than before. This is not the fault of the embroidery thread: it is a sign that your needle needs changing. It will also give you a good indication how often you need to change your needles as they should be changed well before any such problems occur.

The needle is probably the most important factor in the quality of your embroidery, how well your machine runs and the number of thread breaks you get. At the end of the day, a high quality needle will cost you around 18 pence, which is a relatively small sum compared to the downtime, thread breaks and damaged garments that you could have as a result of not changing your needles!

AS a rule of thumb, if you are experiencing problems with your embroidery then the first thing to check is your needle. For example, fabric holing: this is caused by worn out or wrong choice of needle points on difficult fabrics. The correct type of needle to use on these fabrics is point SD1: this is a ball point with a small pyramid tip that perforates the fabric to allow the needle to push through and not face resistance.

Using the wrong type of needle or changing over from one thread brand to another are common causes of embroidery thread breakage. The thread you use will make its own groove in the needle and when you change to another brand of thread it will not sit in properly and you will experience thread breaks. Each brand of thread will be spun and twisted differently, so when you change your thread supplier the first thing you must do is also change the needles.

I don’t expect anyone to change the needle plate every time they change a needle or fabric, but do make sure you use a needle plate that matches the needle size. This can be an average size, but not too large as your fabric can get pushed into this hole and caught by the rotating hook.

To help your needle push through the fabric and maintain the optimal condition, I would recommend the use of our Fablube fabric lubricant. This is lightly sprayed onto the fabric just before you turn the machine on and provides lubrication to your needle just like a motor oil does to your engine.