I have a confession to make: I am a BAD BAD BAD sewing machine owner. I haven’t maintained my machine properly in over three years. Aside from some occasional dusting and a few forays into the bobbin case with my lint brush, I haven’t oiled her, cleaned her, or taken her in for professional maintenance. In general, I’m a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” kind of girl. Or at least, I was. Consider me a convert to sewing machine maintenance. Here’s how it went down:
Two weeks ago, in the middle of 7 pattern tests and projects, my machine went belly up. Refused to sew a stitch without making a horrible sound, and creating a nest a small bird could lay eggs in below my fabric. I panicked. We live in a small town, and there is only one decent sewing machine repair shop, and they’re often booked for months. Of course, I called the next morning and BEGGED, literally, for them to take a look and fixitdammit ASAP.
I brought it in, and the guy looked at me, in all my desperation, with a mix of pity and disgust. He basically told me, it served me right, and they’d get to it when they could, unless I was willing to pay a rush fee. Which of course, I was. I swallowed my pride, admitted my failures, and forked over the extra cash.
A kind friend let me borrow her machine, but it was quite different from what I was used to, and I struggled, coming to appreciate my old machine even more. In a rather pathetic mixture of prayer, negotiation with the sewing gods, and academic vigor, I vowed to learn all I could about caring properly for my machine. And, like the newly converted sewing machine owner I am, I also promised to share my new knowledge with all of you.
And guess what? It’s really not all that hard!
There are a few tools that will come in handy:
2) Compressed Air
Edit: Several readers let me know that they’ve been discouraged from using compressed air to clean their machines. I found a great article on why this is not always a good idea HERE. Always ask your manufacturer or defer to your manual if in doubt!
3) Sewing Machine Oil
Ready for some maintenance? Here are some tips:
- Keep your machine covered. There are quite a few patterns for a cute sewing machine cover, or just throw a little blanket over it if you don’t have the cover it came with anymore. The idea is to keep out extra dust, which can really wreak havoc with your machine.
- Change your needle regularly. I know we all want to save a buck, but changing your needle regularly is important. That little sucker works hard and needs to be in tip top condition.
- Clean out your bobbin case and under your presser foot. This is where the compressed air and lint brush come in handy. I was SHOCKED by how much build up I had under there. No wonder the guy looked like he wanted to report me to sewing machine CPS. Edit: See note above about compressed air- it is not always recommended.
- Oil it! This blog post from Colette gives some good tips! Each machine has different guidelines (some aren’t supposed to be oiled at all), so read your manual.
- Use good quality thread. Better quality thread (I like Gutermann or Mettler) will shed less and cause less lint build up in your machine.
- Professional Maintenance– This is where I really screwed up. It turns out, my bobbin case had little burrs caused by long term use and lack of alignment, that resulted in thread nests. I never wanted to take a “break” from sewing and give up my machine, but I could have bought myself a backup with what I paid in my rush fee. Do yourself a favor and bite the bullet and just do it!
Are you more of a visual person? This video goes over it all in detail (plus, her name is Sarah, so I have to like her)
I’ve finally got my machine back, purring happily, and I’m appreciating (and treating) her like never before. Don’t make my same mistakes!
Ok- your turn! When was the last time you oiled and maintained YOUR machine?!
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