A sewing machine, just like any other machine, needs some attention now and then to keep it functioning properly. Your vehicle needs an oil change and a tune-up every now and then; your sewing machine does too. The frequency with which you’ll need to perform maintenance on your machine depends on how often you’re using it, just the same as the frequency with which you need to change your vehicle’s oil depends on how much you drive it. Here are a few simple maintenance techniques that will help keep your machine functioning properly and running smoothly for the long term.

  • Keep it covered up
  • Clean your machine after each sewing session
  • Oil parts at home
  • Replace needles frequently
  • Use the appropriate bobbins for your machine and make sure they’re wound correctly
  • Take it in for an annual/biannual checkup

Keep It Covered Up

The quickest and simplest thing you can do to prevent damage to your sewing machine is to keep it covered up when it’s not in use. If you have any pets, you know that their fur seems to sneak itself into places you’d never expect, and if it gets into your machine, it can cause harm. Dust, lint, and other fibers can find their way into the inner workings of the machine as well. Keeping it covered up will allow it to stay much cleaner, avoiding costly repairs and problems in the long run. You can purchase a plastic cover from most any sewing shop or manufacturer, or you can exercise your creative abilities (or try your hand at your first project with your new machine) and make your own. Regardless of your method, try to get in the habit of covering it up as soon as you’re done using it.

Clean Your Machine After Each Sewing Session

Another good habit to begin is cleaning your machine each time you stop sewing—or at least at the end of each day you use it. Your manual will have instructions on the best way to clean it, and a sewing machine mechanic can also give you pointers. Once you execute the simple cleaning routine a few times after you’re done sewing, it will become second nature and will only take a few minutes. Purchase a can of compressed air and remove any debris before proceeding with the cleaning instructions. Or better yet, use a small nylon brush (one should be included with your machine) to remove dust and debris without adding moisture. Your machine will last longer and run more smoothly.

Oil Parts at Home

As part of your cleaning routine, you should apply a tiny drop of oil to the motorized parts that require lubrication. Be sure to use a light, fine oil specifically made for sewing machines and not just any oil. You can purchase one at a sewing shop or machine manufacturer as well. Take care to avoid applying too much oil at one time, as this can damage the parts more than helping. It’s better to apply less oil at one time but more often than to skip oiling and then apply too much. Oiling is another simple step that will prevent damage to your machine and keep it functioning properly.

Replace Needles Frequently

First of all, it’s best to ensure that you are using the proper needle for your thread and fabric. If you don’t, it may cause needles to break, stitches to be skipped, or runs in the fabric. Over time, it could even cause damage to the machine. It is also best to replace your needle after about four solid hours of sewing; if you lose track of time easily, you can set a timer or stopwatch so that you have an idea. Regardless, it’s better to replace needles more often than not; needles are inexpensive and an easy way to prevent further damage to your sewing machine that could be avoided.

Use the Appropriate Bobbins for Your Machine

Ensuring that you are using the proper bobbins for your sewing machine will prevent damage to the bobbin case and keep the machine from jamming and threads from breaking. Always be sure to wind your bobbins properly as well, and make sure there are no loose threads dangling when you insert your bobbin. Loose threads can cause skipped stitches and possible tearing of the thread or fabric, as well as loud noises that may indicate trouble within the motor. Also be sure to use a good-quality thread, as waxy or linty threads can cause problems for your machine as well.

Take Your Machine for an Annual or Biannual Checkup

Even if you follow all of these preventive maintenance steps at home, it’s best to have a professional sewing machine mechanic look at your machine once each year or every other year. As with your vehicle, there are some things you can do yourself if you have the supplies and the knowledge, and other things that are better left to the pros. A mechanic can check for things that you may not know about, ensuring that your sewing machine will last a long time and function properly for many years.

When you purchase a sewing machine, you are making an investment in something that will give you many years of service when treated and maintained properly. It may seem like a nuisance to clean and oil your machine, but in the long run, you will be happy you did when your machine still looks and runs like new after several years of use!

The Inspired Sewist offers sewing supplies, classes, machines, and repair. We can help you learn new techniques or inspire you to get started, guiding you through any project you’d like to complete. We also offer assistance for any sewing machine purchases or repairs. Contact us for all your quilting and sewing needs.

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