How to look after your sewing machine

woman using sewing machine
I know it’s the last thing you want to do when you’re in full creative mode. Who wants to stop when there’s sewing to do? But five minutes basic sewing machine care carried out regularly will be well worth it, I promise. Here’s a quick and simple guide to how to look after your sewing machine.

Why bother?

Maybe you spent a lot of cash on your machine and it works hard. Maybe it’s getting elderly. Maybe it earns you money.
Whether it’s brand new or an old classic, a cheap and cheerful basic model, or one with all the bells and whistles, it’s worth spending a little time to look after it properly. And it’s so easy. Regular sewing machine maintenance will make such a difference to the quality of your work, not to mention the frustration when your stitches are less than perfect.
Regular sewing machine care will:
  • extend the life of your machine
  • improve your machine’s performance
  • result in fewer problems
  • reduce the time you spend troubleshooting
Simple things will help keep your machine in good condition, like being familiar with your machine and keeping tension adjusted correctly, or always using a good quality thread to prevent lint formation and shredding. But sooner or later you are going to need to do some basic maintenance. I promise you that’s far less scary than it sounds, and it will make an amazing difference to your machine.
It might seem like a chore, but I promise you, develop a routine and looking after your machines will soon be second nature.
First of all, gather everything you need. I keep a little box handy for all my bits and bobs. I know that having to root about for things means the job won’t get done.

What’s in the box:

  • A Iint-free cloth. A microfibre cleaning cloth is perfect.
  • A soft brush. I use a watercolour paintbrush or cosmetic brush
  • Long tweezers
  • Sewing machine oil (you can see in the photo how long one tin lasts: mine is ancient!)
  • Screwdriver
  • Magnetic dish or pin tray for small parts
  • Compressed air (not strictly necessary, but works well and it’s fun to use!)
This is the routine I try to follow (nobody’s perfect). Use this as a rough guide. If you only use your machine occasionally, you obviously won’t need to have a big de-fuzz as often as someone who’s sewing full time.

tools for cleaning a sewing machine

Every time you finish sewing:

Turn off the power and unplug.
Wipe down the machine with your lint-free cloth, and keep it under its cover until the next time. Here’s how I made mine

Once a week

(or after every eight hours of sewing/big project):

Change the needle. Blunt needles cause problems like skipped stitches and tangling. They are cheap, so change them often.
Clean the tension discs by pulling through a sheet of paper/folded soft cotton fabric.
Take off the presser foot and needle plate, and remove dust and lint from bobbin case with your soft paintbrush. Use tweezers for hard-to-reach threads and dust.
You can use compressed air to blow dust from tricky areas, but make sure you’re blowing it out, not deeper into the workings.
Don’t be tempted to blow dust out with your breath. It’s full of moisture which condenses on cold metal and can lead to problems. Nobody wants a rusty machine!
Remove the bobbin case and hook race too. Give everything a good clean and wipe.

Once a month:

Check all screws are tight.
Oil your machine. Get to know your manual: it will tell you where and when to oil. If you don’t have a manual you can check online for your model  (http://homeappliance.manualsonline.com/manuals/device/sewing_machine.html) .
It’s worth buying a good sewing machine oil: this ensures it’s the correct grade for the machine and you won’t get nasty stains on your fabrics. To make double sure the oil gets where it’s supposed to and not all over my fabric I always dust first, wipe over the throat and needle plate after oiling and run some stitches on a scrap of waste fabric afterwards.

Tip:

When you’re cleaning/oiling your machine, take it one step at a time. Put all the screws and parts in your magnetic dish, and finish working on one part before you start the next. You won’t remember which bits go where otherwise.

Once a year/two years

(depending on how much you use it):

Get it serviced. You dealer might do it, or they may be able to recommend an engineer who’s familiar with the model.
Regular servicing will prevent most issues before they arise.

Printable checklist for sewing machine maintenance

Finally

It’s handy to note when you carry out your monthly clean and when the next service is due. I made a chart for my sewing book to check off my sewing machine care.  Pop your email in the box and I’ll send you a printable version.

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