Sewing Machine Maintenance - How to Properly Take Care of Your Sewing Machine

Your sewing machine might be the biggest investment you’ve made in your lifetime, a beloved family heirloom, or the one you got to “just see if you like this sewing thing.” However, that beauty sitting in front of you will serve you best with reliable care. 

You can perform some of the sewing machine maintenance and care yourself to extend the life of your investment and ensure many more happy sewing hours. To really make sure you take care of your sewing machine, we would encourage you open yourself to a good service technician who can really protect your investment with care to the parts inside that truly deserve management for a lifetime of sewing delight.

Keep Your Sewing Machine Easily-Accessible

Sewing machines are one of the most beautiful pieces of utilitarian art you can have, as they can recall fond memories and beckon us to create. Keeping your sewing machine out and accessible is important, as it’s a good reminder that you deserve to sit down daily to get some stitches in. 

By the way – if you’re worried about people wondering why you have a sewing machine out in your home, let them know a sewing machine is much prettier than a television and no one asks why you have one of those taking up valuable wall-space where art would better be served.  

When keeping your sewing machine accessible, find a well-lit place that you might even be willing to decorate to appropriately represent your design flair and spark your creativity. 

If your sewing machine is in sunlight long-term, consider making a sewing machine cover (goodness knows you have it around) to protect it from the harsh UV rays of the sun. 

When cleaning the exterior of your machine, refrain from using chemicals or oils; a very-lightly damp cotton towel can do the job of removing dust. And, if your machine is accumulating dust, take that as a sign that you need to be SEWING MORE!

Yes, We Appreciate You Don’t Want to Change Needles… BUT…

Everyone believes that the best time to change the needle is when it breaks (of course). After all, we are all a little superstitious and believe that once we change a not-broken needle, the NEW needle WILL break. However, needle changing is the least-costly part of your whole sewing process.

First, if your machine starts to skip stitches, change the needle – If you hear a funny clicking when sewing, change the needle – If your stitches look funny, first change the needle. Sewing machine needles can bend, break, have a burr on them, and will eventually grow dull. This is the least expensive personal service you can provide for your sewing machine maintenance.

Changing the needle can (very likely) save you time and frustration, and is usually the first course of action by professional service technicians on sewing machine repairs.

Select the right needle for the task at hand; types of sewing needles are for differing fabrics, tasks, and threads. The variance in needles includes the size of the hole in the needle, type of point and size of the needle, and even the finish on the needle to align with the fabric for which it is designed.

How often do you change the needle? The rule of thumb says 8 hours, but how do I figure that? Each time you start a new project is a good consideration. It gets the sewing day off to the best start – If the project is a monster, change the needle whenever you start hearing a thudding. In time, you will start to recognize the sound of a dull needle. 

NEVER Use Compressed Air to Remove Lint

Compressed Air can drive lint further into the body of your sewing machine. More lint in your machine is potentially harmful to mechanical and electronics function. Think of static charge and how bad it can be in the air and how much dust and static like to play together; static and dust driven into your sewing machine by canned air is not a happy combo.

Compressed Air can also drive moisture into your beautiful sewing machine. You wouldn’t spray water in your machine; you don’t want to blow it into your machine with compressed air. 

The best way to clear dust and lint from your machine is to remove the bobbin and bobbin case and use a Q-tip and/or long bristled paintbrush to remove any dust and debris. This system clears the dust out of the machine; a fine tweezer can be used to pull out threads and bigger parts as well. 

YES, It Is Time for a Professional Servicing

While the rule of thumb is annual sewing machine servicing, you might consider more frequent servicing. 

Who, me? If you embroider frequently, your machine should get more attention because it’s sewing fairly non-stop while embroidering. If you sew 2-3 times per week, you should consider more frequent services. 

What if… I hardly use my machine? Especially if it has been sitting for a while, it should be serviced. There are lubricants and adjustments that should be accurately tuned to help you get that snoozing machine moving happily again. Make sewing a positive experience and ensure your machine is ready when you’re ready.

Professional services will truly maintain the life of your sewing pleasure. Most sewing machine dealers will do this reliably and completely. If a service is cheap and inexpensive, you might not be getting the full service your best friend deserves. Good technicians will service the whole machine, ensuring the feed dogs are adjusted and aligned, tensions are correct, and other adjustment settings. Professionals will also ensure the timing on your sewing machine is accurate for your sewing time.

The Best and Right Way to Oil a Sewing Machine

Only get sewing machine oil from a reputable sewing machine dealer. Like needles, oil, and proper application will improve the experience – Let’s make sure you get the correct lubrication. But, what if my Uncle Jed says he “can fix it up with some oil he’s got in the shed?” 

Thanks, but no thanks. 

Trust – you can do this!

There is a difference between oiling and greasing a machine. Let the pros handle the detailed servicing as greasing a machine is in their skill-set. Typically oiling a machine by the sewist is only handling lubrication in the bobbin-hook area. 

Sewing machine manuals usually cover oiling in detail, however, if that information is missing, ask to buy the correct oil for your machine (buy two because you need one in your travel case and one at home) when your machine is in for professional servicing, and ask that they show you exactly where you need to oil that machine. 

Once you oil the machine, run some scrap fabric stitching through it. If you are getting oil on your fabric, you might be oiling it in the incorrect place. Try sewing again and if the oil continues on your fabric, pull out that Q-tip and mop up all the oil you can. When you over-oil a machine, the oil just pools in the bottom of the arm on the machine. While this won’t hurt the machine and the professionals will clean it out later, the excess oil doesn’t help the sewing experience either. 

Do NOT drop oil in the holes in the arm of your sewing machine. Yes, we know this is the way someone told you to do it, but (trust us) do NOT. Those holes (for the most part) are for accessories and are NOT oiling spots. The oil will just drop down into the arm of the machine and never get to where it is intended to be placed.

A properly oiled machine sounds and performs better, every time. 

How Do I Find an Experienced Professional to Repair My Sewing Machine

Reputable and certified sewing machine dealers often have experienced team members who know a wide array of sewing machine makes and models. While they can’t always fix everything (because your machine may be beyond repair), many work very hard to help you make the most of your sewing experience. 

Independent dealers for sewing machine companies are often small businesses with trained professionals who truly care for your sewing experience. Finding a reliable service center is as valuable as the machine that you bought, work with them to communicate your needs, and learn how to keep your machine in top-notch condition.

Shop Sewing Machines and Supplies

If you want to take proper care of your sewing machine so that you get a lot of use out of it, you need the right supplies. Inspired To Sew carries a wide variety of top-quality sewing machines and supplies. If you live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, visit our shop on Old Marion Road or browse our website to find all the supplies you need to keep your sewing machine in great shape. Contact us today for more information on our inventory.


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