Stitch Pro: Disposing of Broken Needles, Hari-Kuyo Style

Jan 23, 2014

In life, I wouldn't call myself a Type A personality, but my hands sure do get that way when I bead. This especially happens when I'm working quickly on a deadline or am striving for tight's like my fingers become little green Incredible Hulks, breaking needles and taking names! It's one of the main reasons I use either a sharp needle (they have super sturdy bodies that don't break as easily as the English style) or a Tulip beading needle (these things are industrial-strength and actually, hardly ever break). I still do, however, break my needles from time to time. It's an unavoidable occurrence, and I try to be very careful about disposing the broken pieces, especially after the living-room-floor-wrestling-match incident! Don't even ask.

My favorite way to dispose of broken needles is to first stick them to the magnet that I keep on my work surface:

Broken Needles on Magnet

When I'm finished beading for the day, I wrap those broken pieces in clear tape to cover the sharp points so they don't end up in someone's hand, foot, or backside (please refer to aforementioned wresting incident).

Broken Needles Wrapped in Tape

That's probably the most common way to get rid of broken needles, but check this out: There is a whole FESTIVAL in Japan devoted to getting rid of broken needles. Carol Cypher shared this link through her Tulip Needles Facebook page, and I highly recommend reading the whole publication. In general, the spirit of the festival relates to how connected we are to our needles...that we create beauty and keep the home together with them...we laugh and cry with them...they are like our soul mates. And so, like any death, when that needle breaks, we need to thank them for a life well spent, respectfully say goodbye, and hope for continued creativity and industriousness for ourselves in the year ahead. During this festival, people press their broken needles into a tofu cake (to make the needles comfortable, of course), and bid them farewell. What a beautiful nod to respecting our tools, and I especially love the anti-waste spirit of the ritual in the face of our crazy consumerist culture.

Needles Sticking out of Tofu Cake

(Photo copied from Carol Cypher's Facebook page)

How do you dispose of your broken needles? Please share your tips right here on the Inside Beadwork blog!

Happy beading!


Jean Campbell

Senior editor, Beadwork magazine

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momcat560 wrote
on Jan 25, 2014 2:10 PM

I take several medications, so I always have some empty med containers around.  (They are actually quite handy for many things!)  I keep one around specifically for broken needles.  As soon as I break one, I put both pieces in the bottle and close it.  I also needle-felt and those needles break too, and are quite sharp.  All broken needles go in the bottle and as soon as I think I have enough to make it worthwhile, the closed container goes in the trash, needles and all.  It is not the most environmentally-friendly method, but it takes quite a long time to fill a bottle.  In fact, I have been using the current one for over a year. :)

momcat560 wrote
on Jan 25, 2014 2:12 PM

Plus, I absolutely know that my cats can't get them in the bottle; I use the "child-proof" side of the lid. ;)

Anna Paradox wrote
on Jan 25, 2014 2:13 PM

I drop them in a medical sharps container. It seems the conscientious way to help our disposal workers also stay safe!

LuluBM wrote
on Jan 25, 2014 3:07 PM

I like the tofu cake idea. You could store a years worth of needles in the pharmacy bottles then send them off in a tofu cake.

But still, you will have the problem of proper disposal.

Do NOT just put the cake in the trash as the trash handlers may not thank you!

Be sure to put the cake/needles into a container that will not allow the needle to poke through.

If the needles are steel, then dispose of them in a steel can, sealed with several layers of masking tape in your recycle bin.

Lots of options, but consider where they will end up and their journey to get there!

ritzy2 wrote
on Jan 25, 2014 3:17 PM

I put them in old medicine bottles that have lids or in empty dental floss containers. When they are full--I throw them away.

Nanihaddon wrote
on Jan 25, 2014 5:24 PM

I have a disposable coffee cup with a lid on it on my beading table, when I break a needle it goes into the cup.

ctutt wrote
on Jan 26, 2014 1:51 PM

Hmm, broken needles and tofu. Now THERE'S an appealing combination…ROFL! …sorry….[snort]  Just looking at the picture and thinking, 'OK…now what?'

Violet Fairy wrote
on Jan 27, 2014 5:42 PM

I hadn't broken a needle for ages, but within an hour of reading this - I'd broken one.

Today, I've broken a second one.....

What I do with mine is I keep an empty drinks can and I drop my broken pins and needles in there. Then it goes in with the metal recycling after I've squished it in the middle a bit. (not full, don't want any falling out)

Now to find an empty drinks can....

DzynerChris wrote
on Jan 28, 2014 1:13 PM

I keep a small empty plastic coffee container (coffee can) at home and at my studio.  They are labeled SHARPS.  Needles, mat knife blades, broken jewelry saw blades, etc. all go in there.  About once a year I combine the containers & dispose of as you would medical sharps.  In my community, there are a couple of places that will take sharps containers.

morley227 wrote
on Jan 28, 2014 2:49 PM

All great ideas,I use a nut can with a lid by my stitching are. I put all broken needles inside and the can will probably out live me. Now that I have to stick myself everyday for diabetes I throw those needles and  strips in the same can as well so no biohazard for my trash guys! I like my cans double use! If I'm out and about I save the broken needles or lancets in my project container to put in the can for later.

StormsAttic wrote
on Jan 29, 2014 8:41 PM

I like to run the needle through a small holed bead, then glue it in place. I will use it as a page marker- either by slipping it into a paper with directions or color ideas, or as a page maker near the binder, in a crafting book.

I hate to bid them adieu, so many projects I've worked with them!

dolphin5001 wrote
on Jan 29, 2014 10:14 PM

Empty vitamin bottles work great too. I put broken sewing needles and bent pins in there also. One bottle lasts forever!

on Feb 1, 2014 5:18 PM

Well, tofu eh? I wouldn't have thought of that!  I started beading in 1997, and noticed at that time I was going to have to come up with a way of dealing with broken needles right away.  First of all, I have a personal rule to never have more than one needle out at a time, as I had my own "wrestling match" situation happen.  (That is, unless doing double needle weaving, of course).  Secondly, I labeled two plastic square hinged boxes:  Broken Needles & Stray Beads (I put my beads away after a project or create a bead soup) that live by my beading desk in my studio.  That was 17 years ago, and neither box is full yet.  When the needle box is full I plan to wrap it with strong elastic and toss it safely in the trash.

on Feb 1, 2014 5:22 PM

Tulip needles are by far the best I have EVER used, and I've tried them all!

Joni12348 wrote
on Feb 3, 2014 2:53 PM

NEVER put your needles in the recycling!  They can come out of the container and cause a hazard to the people handling the recycling.  The materials go into a grinder and the needles would then be loose.  They should be put into a sharps container or a hard plastic container and disposed of that way.  You could probably take them to your doctor and ask him or her to put them with their sharps.

gailllc wrote
on Feb 4, 2014 9:47 PM

I keep one of those cardstock magazine blow-ins clipped to the inside edge of my wastebasket. I tape broken needle pieces to it and also work bent pins and dull sewing machine needles through the card. When the wastebasket gets emptied, I throw some extra tape over any parts that look like they need it and out it goes! (I do keep a magnet with my hand-sewing kit, and temporarily keep them there)

on Feb 15, 2014 12:58 PM

I have an old green glass jar, from the 1940's, which I designated for broken pins and needles.  It's color helps me to find it when I need to place a broken needle in it.  As a retired RN, I am very aware of sharps and the problems they can cause, so I use a "sharps container".  At least it is a pretty jar.  I guess when it is full I will have some kind of ceremony for the broken needles, but in at least 10 years it is only full enough to cover the bottom of the jar.   Oh, the jar is about 6 inches tall by 2 inches diameter.