You don’t have to be a sewing machine mechanic to do this maintenance – although you should find and cultivate a good relationship with one. Just like you take your car for regular maintenance, so you need to take your sewing machine to a mechanic for maintenance.
Every machine comes with a manual that will show what maintenance should be done – but there is some extra things to do, and some easy tricks to make maintaining your machine.
Tools to make your Machine maintenance easy
With a few simple and inexpensive tools, you will find doing regular maintenance on your machine easy!
The first, and most important item is to have a good quality sewing machine oil. This is one item where you absolutely must spend money on. Singer puts out a very good sewing machine oil that I highly recommend. You should be able to get it at large haberdashers, craft stores or specialist sewing machine repair stores. If your particular brand of machine puts out a sewing machine oil, you should use that.
Next is simple – a couple of different sized paintbrushes. A larger one for general use, and a very fine, long bristled brush to get into those nooks and crannies. A useful item to have on hand is a can of compressed air to help blow away any dust from hard to reach spots.
A couple of soft microfiber cloths are a must. One that you use dry, and the other that you can use damp.
You should also have some scrap fabric (calico is perfect!) to use after the machine has been oiled.
Last, but not least, you should have an emery cushion – this is exactly the same sort of thing you use for hand sewing needles, and you will use it for exactly the same purpose for your sewing machine. A blunt or burred needle will cause your machine not to be as efficient, and will snag and tear the fabric. By pushing your needles through the emery cushion, it will sharpen and remove any microscopic burrs.
Like all maintenance, it may seem like hard work, but following this maintenance schedule will ensure that your machine has a long life, and that it will operate to its best efficiency and allow you to create without having to worry about if the machine is up to it.
Most importantly – make sure that the power cord is removed from your machine and any cable linkages to computers etc., are removed before you do any cleaning and maintenance for your machine.
Each time you use the machine
Each time you use the machine, wipe it over with a dry cloth before you use it. This will keep the outer case clean. Ensure that you also wipe the arm and platen. Remove the needle and raise the foot so that you can wipe under it.
Keeping the actual machine case clean will help to keep marks or stains off your fabric.
When you have finished using the machine, use a large paintbrush to bush away any fluff from around the machine foot, platen and needle, and again use the dry cloth to wipe over the machine.
Remember to keep the machine covered when not in use to prevent dust from getting into the workings.
Use a damp cloth and wipe over all the outer surfaces of the machine (including the foot pedal), and then use the dry cloth. Do not use a damp cloth on the inner surfaces.
Before starting a new project
Remove the bobbin and needle and clean the machine thoroughly. Wipe over the outside with a damp cloth and then dry with a dry cloth.
Use the paint brushes and compressed air to clean out the compartment where the bobbin goes, then to clean the feed dogs.
Replace the needle before each project. Before you put a new needle in, poke it through the emery cushion to remove any burrs. A new needle should be used for each project – making sure that the size of the needle matches the fabric you are to be using.
Run the machine with the needle but not thread and using the calico for a couple of minutes to ensure that any surplus oil is transferred to the calico rathe than your project.
If you are doing a large project, very three or four hours of sewing time, you should check the needle and either replace it or run it through the emery cushion again.
Once you have run it through the emery cushion, wipe the needle off with a tissue to remove any residue.
Make sure you open all compartments of the machine and use the compressed air and paint brushes to clean them out. Do not blow into them, as your breath contains moisture.
If your machine has a screen or touch buttons, use the paint brush to clean between the buttons, and use a lens cloth (like you use on your glasses) to clean the screen.
After you finish your project, you should do the same cleaning, but, in addition, oil the machine in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Once you have oiled the machine, then run the machine for a minute or so, without the needle or any threads/bobbins in it.
Then, replace the needle and put the calico under the platen and run the machine as if you were sewing.
The first will help move the machine oil around the parts, and the second will ensure that any surplus oil is transferred to the calico.
Again, once you have finished your project, cover the machine to prevent dust from getting inside it.
Every two months
If you do not use the machine for a couple of months, then clean and oil the machine as if you were starting a new project.
This is the equivalent of your car service! Take your machine to your sewing machine mechanic and have it serviced. This alone will extend the life of your machine.
I can promise you following this schedule will work – it’s what I do for my own sewing machine which I inherited from my mother. That machine is an Elna from about 1963. It went underwater for 10 days in 1974 and, after a recondition and service, has performed faithfully ever since with never a problem.
My mother, in the early 1970’s was a professional dressmaker, so she really did put the machine through hard use!
Enjoy your sewing – and by extending the life of your machine, you will have more money to spend on your stash!
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© 2011 Megan McConnell