Maximize the Life of Your Machine

Regardless of which top of line machine you have, it was an expensive purchase. Sewing machines have come a very long way since the days when $200 would get all the machine you could possibly want. Of course you want to keep your machine in good running order. Even if you upgrade frequently, having a well-maintained trade-in can only help you get the best deal.

So how do you do that? As your mother no doubt told you, it starts with cleaning. Every 20-30 hours of sewing you should remove the needle plate and bobbin case so you can clean out the lint that has accumulated. If you have trouble tracking how many hours you have sewn, simply do this at the beginning of each new project. That’s also a good time to put in a new needle. You may be tempted to just blow everything out of the bobbin area with “canned air”, but that’s not a great strategy. What’s in the can is not air, in the sense that you really don’t want to breathe it. A much better option is to use a small handheld vacuum. These are readily available, many with tools that can be used to get into tight places. Vacuuming prevents adding even more lint to your sewing room, and it pulls the lint out of the machine rather than pushing it down inside.

While you’ve got the bobbin case out check it for damage. Needle strikes can put bumps on the bottom of the case, causing clicking while sewing. If the damage is not severe you can usually smooth out the bump with an emery board. Otherwise purchase a new case. Next look over the needle plate. It should be smooth, both on the surface and on the edges of the holes that the needle goes through. If it’s pitted from needle strikes you may be able to buff them out with a fine file or a stone, but again, if it’s not looking great you need to replace it.

Before you put everything back together, take a look at the hook race. That’s the metal “basket” that you took the bobbin case out of. It should be completely smooth, both on the sides and especially on the narrow little ledge that the bobbin case sits on. If there is roughness anywhere you should see your dealer. She has a tool that can polish out the burrs, and if necessary she can replace the entire assembly. If you ignore any damage here, you are sure to have big problems down the road – soon!

Do you use spray adhesive or sticky stabilizer? Either of these can build up a residue on the hook race, bobbin case, and needle plate. The build-up attracts lint and gives those parts a fuzzy coat. This inevitably leads to stitch problems, such as loops that suddenly start appearing on top of your embroidery. Use a solvent to remove the sticky deposits. Commercial products, such as Goo-Gone, work. I’ve also used rubbing alcohol and a favorite of the Internet, Williams ‘Lectric Shave. A word of warning – don’t let any solvent get near the painted lettering on your machine, as it could cause it to disappear! Before you put the solvent away, use a bit of it on a paper towel to remove the sticky gunk on the spool pin left by thread spool labels.

Spray adhesive can also mess up your machine’s exterior. You never want to spray it into the hoop while it’s attached to the machine. Instead put the hoop in a box that you saved from your last Amazon delivery. Spray it there (outside if possible) so that any overspray goes in the box. If it’s too late, and your machine already has a coating of ugly splotches, just use one of the solvents mentioned to carefully clean it off.

Now that everything is nice and clean you may be wondering about oil. Back in grandmother’s day oiling was an important part of machine maintenance. That’s no longer the case. Machines now are built with a process that infuses the moving parts with oil. No user oiling is required, as long as you have the machine serviced at least every couple of years. You may think that no service is needed as long as you keep the machine clean. However lint will fall down inside no matter how often you clean. That lint builds up, absorbs lubrication, and can cause premature wear of parts that are expensive to replace. Your dealer’s service technician will remove covers to get at the accumulate debris, as well as lubricate parts that need it. If you sew every day you should schedule a cleaning at least annually. If you use your machine in a business capacity it could be as often as every 6 months.

Machine maintenance is not nearly as fun as sewing is, but doing it on a regular basis will ensure that your machine lasts a long time. And, let’s be honest, it’s still better than housework!