Like any machine, a sewing machine works best when it is cared for. Whether you constantly work on sewing projects, or haven’t touched your machine in years, doing some simple maintenance is always a good idea to keep everything running smoothly. If you are an avid sewer, it may even be helpful to set a schedule for maintenance. Here are some ways you can keep your sewing machine in top shape.
Prevent Lint Buildup
Accumulation of lint and dust is a natural consequence of using your sewing machine. It can be very problematic, but is easily prevented by proper care. Day to day, you can prevent accumulation of lint and dust by storing your sewing machine under a dust cover or a hard case, wiping down the outside regularly, and only using new, high-quality thread when you sew. Occasionally, you’ll need to clean out the inside of your sewing machine too. Here’s how:
Make sure your machine is turned off and unplugged before you do any dusting. Safety first! The bobbin casing should be cleaned regularly. In fact, a brief dusting is recommended after every few changes of the bobbin thread.
For a more thorough clean, remove the bobbin casing and the needle plate. Brush the lint off of all surfaces. The feed dogs (circled) are of particular importance.
Note: Blowing the lint away is not recommended, because it may simply send the lint back into a part of the machine you cannot easily reach.
Oiling The Machine
Oiling your sewing machine will help the moving parts run smoothly and last longer. Many experts recommend oiling after several months of repeated use or longer periods of inactivity. You need to use sewing machine oil, can be purchased online or in craft stores. I purchased mine at Golblatt Sewing Machines in Wicker Park. It is pretty inexpensive.
It is highly recommended that you consult the manual for your specific model before oiling, because it will tell you specifically where oil is needed. You don’t want to miss anything, or put too much oil somewhere. Some manuals may even tell you that your machine is self-lubricating, and doesn’t require oiling. If you don’t have a physical copy of your machine’s manual, you can likely locate a free copy somewhere online by searching the specific model number. For example, here is the manual for my machine.
Always clean out lint and dust before oiling. Apply small quantities of oil where needed, and make sure to keep a soft rag or paper towel in case there is any excess.
Replacing The Needle
With repeated use, needles can become dull and cause damage to both your fabric and the machine. Changing needles regularly is highly recommended. In between large projects, or after every couple small projects is a good time to replace the needle. Take note of the materials you are working with, because some will require larger needles. Generally, heavier fabric will require a larger needle.
Unscrew the needle set screw (circled) and pull the old needle out of the needle bar. Insert the new needle with the flat edge facing the back of the machine and tighten the screw again.
Now, there are a variety of ways to dispose of old needles so they do not accidentally harm anyone. You can wrap them in tape or put them in old containers (pill bottles, tic tac container, mint tins, etc.). Here is a list of ideas for safe needle disposal.
On top of performing routine maintenance by yourself, it’s a good idea to take your machine to professionals every now and then. They can adjust the timing and tension of your machine, and clean parts that you wouldn’t be able to without taking apart the whole machine. They can also help with troubleshooting specific problems when something doesn’t look or sound right.
Here is a list of sewing machine repair places in the Chicagoland area.
In general, it’s always a good idea to be proactive about maintaining your machine. You can mostly keep it simple, but make sure to do it regularly!