I’d like to chat about what is probably the most important piece of equipment in my studio- my sewing machine! Without that piece of equipment I cannot construct stuff. For that reason alone I have to take care of it and give it a lot of TLC in every way possible. Here are some things I do to maintain my sewing machines between the times I send them out for professional maintenance.
Presently I’m fortunate to have more than one sewing machine so if one breaks or leaves for preventative maintenance I’m still able to sew. Until a short time ago that was not my situation as I’m sure many of us only have one sewing machine. One more reason to take care of your machine.
1. Your Owners Manual is a valuable source of information and includes cleaning tips. If you don’t have it try to find it online and download it if possible. I’m serious- find your manual. Everything I’m about to talk about is basic info only. My Manual has specific instructions on maintenance- removing the bobbin case and reinserting it correctly, etc. You need your Manual to be sure you are working on your own machine the correct way.
2. After every completed project do some cleaning. You will be amazed at how much lint gets caught under the needle plate cover. If you sew with flannel, minky, wool or other fibrous fabrics it’s even worse. My Owner’s Manual has instructions on how to remove the bobbin case and clean the race. DO NOT clean this area of your machine with the canned air for office equipment!! Blowing the lint and dust farther into the machine is a huge dis-service to your machine. There might be exposed motor parts under there that need to stay clean. I use slightly moistened Qtips to wipe areas and my vacuum with small brush attachments when needed. Reinserting the bobbin case might require lining marks up- per my Owners Manual (I’m sorry to keep harping on this but I want to make a point to take caution when cleaning this area. Having the Manual will help, please know what you are doing).
3. Keep the exterior surface clean, wipe with damp cloth as needed. Keep your machine covered when not in use. You want to keep the dust off of it.
4. Keep your presser feet clean. If you use chalk for marking the chalk dust may collect on them. Qtips work well. Check your feed dogs too, remove lint with the brush that might have been included in the tool kit that came with your machine. A small soft bristle toothbrush works too.
The following list of things are part of the sewing process.
1. Start every project with a new needle and change your needle after eight hours of sewing time. Your needle gets dull quicker then you think. Luckily needles are relatively inexpensive; I pick up basics notions when they are on sale at JoAnn Fabrics. I try to use needles labeled for quilting- they have a more slender shaft and a sharper point, making a smaller hole in the fabric. I usually use size 11 (75) for two layers of cotton. If I’m doing a rag quilt or sewing a binding I use size 14 (90).
When you start to sew does the edge of your fabric get bunched up with the first stitch? Try a new needle.
2. Did you know that your spool of thread should not turn on the spool pin? Use your felt spool pad and spool pins to secure the spool.
3. Treat your tension discs with respect.
* When you change thread clip the thread at the top and pull it out of the machine through the needle. This insures you are not damaging the tension discs.
*If you store your machine with the presser foot down make sure you move the presser foot up before you thread the machine. When your presser foot is down the tension discs are engaged. If you try to thread your machine with the tension discs engaged it will not thread correctly.
4. Use quality thread. Some brands of thread are more linty. Thread also gets old- don’t think the box of thread at the garage sale is necessarily a bargain. I prefer a 40 or 50wt thread in a neutral color for all piecing. Specifically I like Aurifil.
5. Do not sew over pins. I think they are tough on the feed dogs and presser feet. If you use a gated 1/4” presser foot I’m convinced they mess up the accuracy of the gate. Take the time to stop and pull pins as you reach them- that takes time but the seam is nicer. I know, when you have a seam pinned that eases in fullness you must sew over the pins- just go slow. Sewing very slow will allow the needle to move to the side of a pin if needed.
If you hit a pin and think you nicked the needle change it.
So there you have it- my knowledge and TLC practices for my beloved sewing machines. If you know of any other tips or tricks thing else please send me an email, I want to hear your ideas too!