Have you ever been stitching along, when suddenly you notice that your embroidery needle isn’t passing through your fabric quite as smoothly as it should be?
This happens to me now and then. Even the best quality embroidery needles can go amuck after hours and hours of usage. When a needle isn’t delivering the same performance that you’re accustomed to, it’s quite ok to switch out for a new needle and throw the old one away!
But when a brand new needle acts up on you, it helps to inspect it closely.
This happened to me the other day. I was using a relatively new needle that I had taken out of its package only a couple days before, and suddenly, I felt like every stitch I took had a little pull or snag to it as I pulled my needle through the fabric.
Upon inspection, this:
Here you can see the coating coming off the needle and the peeling coat has formed a little sharp burr.
Burrs like this snag threads and fabric, and they can make your stitching experience frustrating, because you might not necessarily realize right away what the source of the problem is!
Often, flaws like this on the outside of a needle are difficult to detect with the naked eye, especially if you don’t have great eyesight. If you’re used to using magnification while you stitch, for example, you might not notice a flaw on your needle unless you’re examining it under the magnifier. And how many of us sit around examining our needles under a magnifier? We just expect them to work – to do the job they were created to do!
This particular needle I took from a multi-pack of what I’d consider somewhat generic “craft” needles that I picked up somewhere. When I took it out of the package, I did look at it closely, because it wasn’t one of my tried-and-true, more reliable brands of needles that I have sitting around. It seemed fine when I examined it, but admittedly, I only looked carefully at the eye, because this is normally where a burr will nestle itself, waiting for the first time you use the needle to make its presence known.
A burr inside the eye of an embroidery needle will wear the thread at the eye more quickly, and it tends, in fact, to shred it up and weaken it. So when I’m using needles I’m not really sure of, I do check for burrs in the eye.
But after using this fella for a couple hours of stitching, I was dismayed that it started feeling draggy as it passed through the fabric. I didn’t see the flaw right away – I had to put it directly under the light and turn the needle slowly until the gleam was interrupted.
And then I took out my camera! To see the detail on something so microscopically tiny, the macro setting on a camera does a terrific job.
If you enlarged the burr on the needle up there to life size, think of the harm you could do with it! Now, imagine all the little fine fibers that make up your fabric and your embroidery threads. And each time that tiny little slice of metal comes in contact with them, it wreaks havoc. It’s truly a weapon of minuscule destruction.
The Moral of the Story
Use good needles! The most reliable brands I’ve used available on the market today include Bohin and John James. I’m a huge fan of Bohin needles. I’ve written about them before, and you can read about them here.
When something isn’t feeling right with your stitching – maybe there’s a slight drag as you pass through the fabric, maybe your thread is fraying sooner than you would expect it to – the needle may be the culprit. Inspect it, and, if it isn’t perfect, pitch it.
Need Needle Insights?
Not every needle is made for the same task. If you’re unsure of the types of needles available out there, or what needle you should be using for specific embroidery-related tasks, then you might enjoy the following articles:
Hand Embroidery Needles: How to Choose Them & Use Them
All About Embroidery Needles: Types, Storage & Resources
The Needle you Need! (On Chenille Needles)
Keeping It Simple: On Hand Embroidery Needles
Gold Embroidery Needles: Are They Any Better?
5 Things You Need to Know About Embroidery Needles
Spiral Eye Needles – If You Have a Hard Time Threading Your Needle!