Basic Sewing Machine Maintenance

Your sewing machine is the tool you will use, and that you need in order to create something beautiful… just as an artist needs his brushes to paint and bring his vision to life, your sewing machine will help you to bring your work to life.

Show your machine love and respect, as any good seamstress will tell you, during the tough moments in big projects, they often talk to their machines. “Sweet talk” to them that is. Encouraging them and coaxing them to go on… just a few more stitches and this project is done. Telling your machine “we can do this together” and if need be, promising your machine a good cleaning, or a service after the project is done… and of course keeping that promise.

This may sound a bit silly at first, but there is very good reason for this. As you work with your machine more and more on all your new and exciting sewing projects, just like when you drive your car for many years, your sewing machine will eventually feel like it becomes an extension of yourself, and showing it the appreciation of the value it will give you over the years will go a very long way.

Regularly cleaning your sewing machine (preferably after each sewing project) and having your machine serviced regularly – whether it’s a small one you perform yourself, or if you take it to a professional, will ensure the longevity of your machine.

My little Finesse is well over 20 years old, and she’s still going strong (admittedly though she’s due for a professional service), though I am certain that the care I give her is one of the reasons she has lasted so long… and I have really put her to work creating numerous sewing projects, including a good few bridal gowns.

Basic Maintenance

Use your cleaning brushes

All new sewing machines come with at least one new brush to help with the cleaning and maintenance of your sewing machine. I recommend popping down to your haberdashery and getting one or two more with different thicknesses and lengths to help you to really “get into” your machine. Keep an extra one aside just for applying oil (please see point #4) – and if you can have a really soft bristled paint brush or make up brush, this is just to give your machine a “once over” once you have removed most of the lint and dust with your other brushes. The softer brush helps to pick up the finer pieces of dirt your other brushes may have missed.

Suck don’t blow

Growing up, I often saw my mother cleaning her sewing machine. Very dutifully she would take her brushes, sweep out the excess lint and thread from her machine, and blow away any of the excess.

Naturally I followed her example and cleaned my machine in the same way, until I found out the hard way that it was a big NO NO!

Chances are that when you are blowing away that excess lint and dust, you are actually blowing it deeper into your machine. Over time this will cause a build up of dust and lint around the motor as well as other necessary moving parts of your sewing machine that your brushes and regular cleaning simply don’t reach.

The result is that your machine will eventually begin to struggle to work properly, and you can quite literally blow your sewing machine’s motor or cause some serious damage.

The best thing to do is to grab your vacuum cleaner – remove any loose parts from your machine such as thread and the bobbin holder, and vacuum all the excess dirt out of your machine. This will leave your machine in a much healthier and cleaner state.

A loose screw

Your sewing machine will come with a small screwdriver (sometimes two of different sizes). These are not just handy in changing the various feet on your machine, but also in the maintenance of your machine.

The first place you should get started is in removing the needle plate. While you sew a lot of dust, lint and broken threads get trapped under there. So grab your hand screw driver and carefully remove it. Use your cleaning brushes to get as much of the dirt out as possible, and finish off with a good vacuum.

Make sure you remove the bobbin holder, as well as the section that holds in the bobbin and clean out this area with your brushes.

You will notice when you are cleaning that there is a lot of oil in this section of the machines, it’s essential to protecting the parts that are there, and making sure that they continue to run smoothly. If the oil or parts looks particularly dirty, use a rage to try and clean up as much of it as possible. When you are done, if you need to drop one or two drops of oil over these parts before putting the needle plate back into position.

Try not to apply the oil directly to your machine, rather keep a cleaning brush aside especially for the oil, drop the oil onto its bristles, and then use this to spread the oily love around your machine’s components. But before you oil, read the next step!

Don’t over oil

The general rule here is, if you’re not sure if you need to oil, will then don’t. Most sewing machines come with a small bottle of machine oil, if not it is available at local haberdasheries and fabric shops. Although it is essential for the running of your machine, it is not necessary to oil your machine every time you perform a minor maintenance. To be very honest I have NEVER oiled my machine ever. Not even once. It actually isn’t essential to oil your machine regularly, in fact most modern and digital machines should never be oiled at home, but only by a professional during a “big” service.

This is one of those cases where too much of a good thing, can actually turn out to be a bad thing.

Sew a rag

This is primarily to make sure that if you have oiled your machine, that the rag absorbs any unwanted excess oil before you start your new project. Secondly it will catch any small amounts of dirt and lint your thread will pick up that your brushing and vacuuming managed to miss.

So a good few rows until you are certain that your machine is clean and won’t transfer any unnecessary dirt to your latest sewing project is all that is necessary.

Inside and out

Don’t forget to clean the outside of your machine too, and don’t be afraid to use a little soap and water to get her looking like new (or a good anti-static polish and cloth).

Starting a new sewing project with a clean sewing machine, is like starting a long trip after have your car has been to the carwash – you feel better about your journey ahead.

Happy Sewing!

Published by Sew You! Magazine

South Africa's first digital, sewing only magazine!

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