Thursday, October 29, 2009

Changing a needle while pleating

Debbi, you must be reading my mind! :-) I had already taken all the photos to explain how to change a needle when I read your comment.

Okay lets get to the instructions...............You are happily pleating a way when you hear the most dreaded of sounds to a smocker..........Crunch! :-(

Of course the broken or bent needle is usually in the middle of your pleating project. Before I would remove everything from the pleater and start over.

That was until I learned how to replace a needle in the middle of my pleating from Judith Adams at a SAGA convention a few years back. Yeah Judith!

The first thing to do after you hear the crunch is to clear the pleats off the ends of the needles. Okay just to be honest, the first thing I do after I hear a needle break is to talk to my pleater. I'll let you fill in the words..........

Elevate the front of the pleater with a spool of thread or a book.

Carefully remove the front roller bar from your pleater.

Without pulling all of the pleater needles off the pleater, carefully work the broken or bent needles out of the fabric.

If the needle broke in to pieces, make sure you find all the pieces.

As a matter of habit, I always knot one end of my pleating threads when I am threading my needles.

Slowly pull the unknotted end of the thread through the previous pleats. If you do not knot your threads then carefully pull only one strand of the thread through.

Remove the broken or bent needle and dispose of properly. I use an old medicine bottle with a Janet....... I mean child proof lid.

Re thread the pleater thread with a new needle.

Look closely at the needle holes left in the fabric. They will be important in getting the new needle in place.

Take your new threaded needle and weave it through the needle holes on the last pleat. Take note at the direction of the curves on the needle.

Push the tip of the needle into the needle slot and then lay the needle down into the corresponding grove.

The needle is resting on top of the rest of the pleats.

Here is another view.

Double check that the other needles have not come out of their needle groves. Place the roller bar back onto the pleater and secure it. It will be a tight fit. That is okay, just don't force it.

Take your pleater off the spool of thread now.

Slowly turn the handle of your pleater and continue pleating.

When your pleated fabric comes off the pleater there will be a few missed pleats where you changed the needle. That is okay. The pleating row above and below can show you where the pleats are. You could also back smock the area of missed pleats if you want.

Front of fabric

Back of fabric

I hope this helps the next time you have a broken needle.


  1. This just happened to me the other night. I wish i had read this post before then. I took it all out and started over. I hadn't pleated very much of the fabric and it was a narrow piece, so it wasn't too bad, but next time, I'll remember your advice.
    I love your two page spread in SB!

  2. Thanks so much for this, Janet! And wouldn't you know... I broke two needles on Sunday night pleating a bishop dress. (sigh) Wish I'd read this first, as I ended up removing the needles and continuing...and then hand gathered the two rows. Ugh.

    One question for you -- I'm curious that you didn't attempt to weave the needle back in to the holes. Is that because you weren't able to advance the needle far enough to have it sit properly between the rollers?

  3. Amazing tutorial, I was holding my breath throughout it. This happens to me every once in a while and it is so frustrating! Thank you for taking the time to illustrate the process. I'm bookmarking this page for future reference.

    saludos from Puerto Rico.

  4. Lynette, Let me know if you have any problems.~janet

  5. I just got a pleater and wanted to pleat something up to practice on, the fabric got jammed and all of the needles popped out. Any advice? I have not had any luck getting the needles placed back in the pleater.

  6. No way! That is fantastic! I've broken lots of needles--especially while pleating bishop's dresses. I figured after the needle broke, I would have to hand-pleat where the needle broke. This is valuable information--and cool. Thanks!

  7. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! for this post. I was panicking today when I broke TWO needles right in the middle of pleating my daughter's Easter dress (I know I'm running late :/) when I found this post. YOU SAVED MY DAY and my daughter's dress!!! BLESSINGS TO YOU!!! ~Joy~

    1. Glad the tutorial came in handy! ~janet g

  8. I so very much appreciate this tutorial. I can't tell you the times I have broken a needle in the process of pleating. In fact just two days ago. I'm sure it won't take long for me to be able to try this process. Where were you with these instructions all these years. God Bless You.

  9. Great tutorial! Thank you so much!

  10. I saw this on Pinterest last week & had to use it on Monday ~ thanks so much for the very clear worked great! And will make pleating so much easier! Donna

    I blogged about it at ~