Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Sewing Machine Maintenance ~ Do you or don't you?

I think most sewists know the basics of sewing machine maintenance - changing your needles often, keeping your tension disks free of lint and thread, checking your bobbin casing and adding oil if your machine requires it AND if your machine requires it oiling it on the regular.

But do you do that?

One thing I've learned now that I'm sewing & serging with top of the line machines, is that I need to stay on top of my maintenance.  Which means removing plates on my sewing machine that I never did on the others, making sure that I change needles and insert them correctly or don't use a blunt one, removing lint with a tweezer and make-up brushes...never using canned air on them.  Even constantly wiping them down to remove the inevitable dust.

But do you do this?

When I was younger - read less experienced - I cut corners.  I had limited funds so I would use a needle until it broke.  I removed the bobbin case only under extreme duress.  I was so afraid that I'd never get it back in and then what would I sew on?  I rarely played with the tension on my sewing machine - Gawd forbid that I couldn't get a straight stitch again!  And I used canned air on my machines like it was adding gas to my car...*sigh* I'm surprised that my machines didn't quit on me earlier than they did!

So how about you?  

Are you crazed about your sewing machine and serger maintenance?  Do you have a healthy attitude about changing your needles and oiling your machine or are you loosey goosey?  This is the Question of the Day...so talk to me. How much maintenance do you do to your sewing machine?!  Or is that a matter for the sewing machine repair guy?  I'm interested...so the comment section is open!

...as always more later!

46 comments:

  1. I change needles after every project and keep the dust/lint out of my machines as much as possible. Every other year, my machines make a trip to my dealer for professional servicing. The newer machines don't have oiling points (at least mine don't) so I take them in and pay the $200+ per machine for servicing. At least, they don't all go at the same time. It is still hard on a retiree's budget.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've only been sewing seriously for a year, but I've consistently kept a sewing machine around since I was 17. My early machines were always low-end machines, but I also completely abused them--never cleaned them, only changed the needle when absolutely necessary, never even bothered to keep them covered. The combination of cheap machines and non-existent maintenance meant that any time I attempted sewing, it was a major pain.

    At the beginning of the year, I upgraded to a much nicer mid-range machine and it's been such a dream to sew with compared to my past experiences. I've been diligent about basic maintenance since I got it. I think I'm so grateful to have a machine that works well and allows me to do what I want to do that I'm more than willing to give it the attention it needs to keep performing well!

    ReplyDelete
  3. What's so bad about canned air?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First of all most canned air products are not particularly environmentally friendly products. Also when it decompressed, the "air" or gas becomes much colder. If the space you use it in has a fairly high level of humidity, the "air" could significantly cool the metal components and encourage condensation to form on them, and thus encourage the formation of rust. Personally I wouldn't use it. But if you live in the desert, and hold the can upright, and not tooooo close, it should be ok.

      Delete
    2. My sewing service people said to never use compressed air on a sewing machine because it will move lint into hard to reach places and create more damage in the long run. They recommend using the brushes and tweezers that came with the machine to take the lint out from under the metal plate where the feed dogs and bobbin case is found and to make sure that I remove the bobbin case to get the lint in there too. They did say that I wanted to use compressed air (they didn't recommend it) it is better to use it on a serger which has more open spaces that the lint can escape.

      Delete
  4. I haven't heard you shouldn't use canned air. I used it all the time! Uh oh. But yes, I do maintain my machines well. I take them in once a year for maintenance, change my needles all the time (probably way more than I need to), and dust like crazy. I oil occasionally. If a machine is making any kind of usual sound, I immediately take it in for service. My sewing machine is a $200 Kenmore that I've had for 20 years, and I'm still very happy with it. I'm sure that wouldn't be the case if I wasn't treating it well.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm pretty good about changing the needle and cleaning my sewing machines. Not so much my overlocker. News to me that you shouldn't use canned air though! They only get professional servicing if something is wrong as it's expensive and time consuming, not to mention the difficulty of getting heavy machines to the shop - I don't drive and the only place in my city that services sewing machines is not close and not on a bus route.

    ReplyDelete
  6. There is no sewing machine repair men in my residence, so unless I want to take my machine 100km away from home, I have to keep my machine happy and clean. I clean my machine at least once a month(sometimes more often, depending on what I have done), I change the needles whenever the needle is starting to get blunt. As I am sewing multiple things at once, I have to go from one fabric to the next one a lot so if I'm changing the needle type(i.e from universal to jeans) I instantly look at the sharpness of the needle that I removed. If I see the tiniest bit of light bouncing off the tip, the needle goes to the bin.

    I clean my serger more often. As serger gets dirtier faster, I do a quick clean at the end of every day(remove bigger lint pieces) and do a proper cleaning process at the end of every week(assuming that I have been using the serger on those days ofc)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I don't clean my machine as much as I maybe should,but the needles do get changed quite a bit,every time I use a different fabric.I never use canned air,simply 'cause I never have it in my home.Why is it not good for the machine?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It blows all the bits of thread and all the dust further into the machine. It does remove it from the parts you can see, but it just gets blown into the case and into all the parts you can't see ;) And that will cause bigger problems later in the future. Your maintenance guy will not be happy about this :)

      Delete
  8. I do keep my machine clean; however, I should probably change the needle more often than I do.

    ReplyDelete
  9. What I have learned about sewing machine maintenance in the past 35 years:
    1. Keep the machine manual in your work area and do all of the maintenance just as it recommends (cleaning, oiling, changing needles, etc.).
    2. Have the machine professionally serviced every year or so. Your technician will clean and lubricate parts you can't reach, check the timing, mechanics, electrical, and computerized parts. Around here, this costs about $40 and takes a day or two.
    3. Use the troubleshooting portion of your manual to correct any problems you may encounter. If none of the recommendations work, take your machine to the shop. Don't wait until the problem gets worse, and never, ever force the flywheel if it gets stuck. It's much less costly to pay someone to correct a simple problem than a complex one, or to buy a new machine.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I oil mine every so often, usually once a year has been enough. I keep it clean using the brush that came with it. New needle as needed, depending on the complexity of projects. When we're stateside, I get the machines serviced every year or so depending on how much I sewed that year. While we're overseas, something important would have to break before I'd take a machine to that smoke-filled shop.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I just purchased a nicer machine. I've only made two garments on it so far. I do wipe it down and keep it covered when not in use. Since I purchased it at a local shop I'm going to make sure to take it for the required maintenance.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The engineer in me loves to pull my machine apart and do maintenance :)

    I oil both sewing machine and serger regularly since I sew nearly daily.

    I was whatever about changing my needle until I read "new needles are cheaper than sewing machine maintenance". Ah. So true. I buy stockpiles when JoAnn has 60% off notions and I change regularly. Making toddler pajama pants...yes I reuse the needle. Making a boucle coat? Went through two needles on that one.

    Oh, I've also taken my needles in to look at them under the microscope. The old ones really look different!!! :)

    I love to read. I will read almost anything. I ALWAYS read manuals cover to cover. Mine expressly said no compressed air so I researched why...and have never used it.

    I only use "good" bobbins - cheapie bobbins make my machine whine.

    Now what I need to improve on? Covering my machines after sewing! I really need to make prettier covers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I made pretty covers for my machines and now I really enjoy walking into the sewing room and seeing the cute covers! It makes a difference :)

      Delete
  13. I was the same with needles, only changed when it broke and now I have a stash of needles. Taking apart, never, until I got a second hand Husqvarna Mega Quilter, got the thread stuck, took plate off to be met by a mountain of fluff (not mine). Now oil regularly and clean my overlocker after every use. I'm such a good girl in my old age!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for reminding me to clean my machine! I just finished a project full of gunky fusible fleece, so I already threw out the sticky needle. Now I need to get in where the bobbin is and root around...

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm better than I used to be about changing needles. I do clean the bobbin area on a regular basis, don't use canned air, but a variety of brushes (usually mascara and small paint brushes) My main machine doesn't get oil, but the vintage ones do. I think I'm going to copy the page that shows where to oil and put it with each machine - just to make it easier and a more visible reminder. And I try to remember to not pull the thread back through the tension disks when changing threads. The machines not often used are covered or in cabinets, the ones I do use - given my lack of sewing lately, I really should at least throw a towel over them.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I clean my machine and change needles but my book says that it does not need to be lubricated (by me). I know it needs to go into the shop for regular maintenance but I HATE not having it at home to sew.... so I am lax on that. I guess I'll go make an appointment right now!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm on the fence about this. I generally do my own maintenance, such as it is. I oil occasionally, change the needle as needed, and clean the lint from under the plate. That's pretty much it. I have had my machine for 30+ years. It did stop working for the 1st time ever last year and I had to take it in. The machine doctor said it collected gunk somewhere near the balance wheel. I would have never been able to fix that. It was the only time I ever had to take it in. I think I've only changed the light once. She's a good machine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're spoiled by how wonderful your machine is so the regular maintenance you do is enough! I'm amazed at the lightbulb though!!!

      Delete
  18. um, i'm so into machine maintenance, it's one of the main drawbacks from a new fancy machine! i love being able to take my machines apart. that said, my "vintage" elna serger is truly about to go up in flames...she's un-openable, and she is NOT worth the maintenance charge!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I am one who keeps my machines well maintained. Needles changed on a regular basis, lint removed, and, on occasion I use canned air. My machines go in yearly for maintenance and the fellow takes them apart and does a thorough cleaning, tension check, etc. I travel 2 hours one way for him to service my machines.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I have three machines - two all metal mechanical machines made in the late 1960s and a serger from the late 90s. The all require lots of maintenance to make sure they are tip top working order. I noticed that my sewing machines need to be lubricated more often than I remember having to oil them when I was living in the DC area. I don't lubricate them after every use, but I do keep track of the number of hours I sew/serge and make sure each machine gets oil after about eight hours of sewing. I also notice that if my machines sit for more than a couple of weeks, I need to oil them before attempting to use them again.

    A staff person at Ace Sewing and Vacuum where I review sewing machines and sergers told me that the weather has a lot to do with the fact that machines here in south Florida require more lubrication than those up north.

    Like you, I was hesitant about removing the bobbin housing for a long, long time. Putting them back in place always seemed to be far more challenging than taking them out. But, I've learned that no matter how clumsy it may be, my machines work much better when I take the time to clean them on a regular basis.

    I clean my tension discs, feed dogs, bobbin housings, and everything inside my looper doors after each use. This way, my machines are ready to go when I am... regardless of the time of day.

    As for changing needles on a regular basis It's an absolute necessity. I sometimes go through as many as six or seven needles in one sitting. I buy bunches of them every time I see a sale... all different types and sizes. As far as I'm concerned, there's no other way to do it. http://www.sewinginsight.com/sewing-needles/

    ReplyDelete
  21. I have a vintage singer that I bought off craigslist. It required a lot of initial cleaning, mechanical adjusting, replacing parts, etc. which to my surprise I LOVED doing. Now that it works properly, I am pretty faithful about the oiling, lubing and cleaning (every third project or so, depending on how fuzzy the fabric was). I have taken it in to be professionally evaluated, and there is a good place here to do it, but it's expensive- $100 for a cleaning/checkup -- so I probably won't do that again unless I'm having a problem.

    I like that Nakisha examined used/new needles under a microscope -- now we have empirical evidence that they need to be changed often:)

    ReplyDelete
  22. I need to figure out how to clean out my sewing machine! I've been too lax about that! I'm pretty conscientious about cleaning out the serger with tweezers, but I need to open up the sewing machine. I just realized the other day that I'd never changed the needles in my serger, and the stitches looked so much better after I did!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YES! I have had my serger for about a year and after it misbehaving I thought...DUH...MUCH nicer stitches now!

      Delete
  23. I am horrible about cleaning my machine! I have a very basic Singer that I have used for the past 10 years, and for the longest time I avoided cleaning it out of the fear of breaking it. But now I consciously avoid cleaning it because when it dies I'll finally upgrade! But dang it doesn't seem to be going anywhere! I do change the needles when I start on a new project, so maybe once a month. And I'll clear out any noticeable lint buildup, but I do not take it apart!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I was going to comment last night and say that my machines are super well behaved, and I don't have to do much for them, and right on cue my bottom of the line mechanical Janome started sounding a little funny and I spent the next hour opening it up and giving it a good clean. I gave it a little oil too, and now it sounds much better. I love having mechanical machines because I want to be able to maintain them myself. I don't intend to ever take it for a 'service'.

    I also have a featherweight, which needs more attention oil-wise but is also very very well behaved generally. If anything is funny, I know enough at this stage to be able to fix it most of the time. I have re-calibrated the tension myself, and I think on that machine, it's about as complicated as it gets!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I am changing needles a lot more these days. Not for muslins but for sewing the real thing. I also have a big supply of new needles in a range of sizes not just "Universals" or sewing everything with a heavy duty needle. I do take out my bobbin case and give it a good clean and oil. Have never used air, just lint brushes.Have been thinking about getting them serviced too. Must be getting a bit responsible in my old age.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I clean and oil and cover my machine religiously because eventually the service shop conversation ends with "We just can't get the parts to fix it" "We don't use used parts (aka: we don't service older machines)". Or, not to be bitter about it: "We'd rather sell you a new machine". I need to teach myself how to do this.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I clean the machines when I'm avoiding doing something else and definitely if I hear a change in the sound. If any of the machines stop purring and get even a hint of a growl, everything stops, gets taken apart, cleaned and lubed which usually solves the problem. Ditto for needles. Don't used canned air but do vacuum

    ReplyDelete
  28. oddly, I think I take better care of my 40+ year old inherited beast of a machine (cleaning and oiling regularly) than I do the new, electronic one, mainly because the electronic one still intimidates me

    I do clean the bobbin case about once a month...probably ought to do it more, but I have a hard time getting the screw out (awkward spot, weird flat tool to remove it with) and I use a Swiffer once a week when I top dust the room...but otherwise I've not done much

    of course, I haven't had this one quite a year yet


    I'm still not a needle changer...just do it when it seems like it needs it

    ReplyDelete
  29. I take my sewing machines and sergers in once a year for a maintenance check. I have just begun to change my sewing machine needles regularly. However, I don't change the needle after every garment completion as recommended.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I clean my machine regularly. My Janome doesn't require oil. I also change needles regularly and make sure I wipe it down and keep it covered when it's not in use. I brought it in for service last year and thought I was going to lose my mind being without a sewing machine for a week. I figure for all the hours I sew on it she deserved a "spa" week.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I bought an attachment for my vacuum cleaner that sucks all the dust out. I also use a pipe cleaner. It bends and gets in all the tight places. The lint sticks to it easily. As far as needles go- I have heard clerks at Joanns say they didn't know to change their needles. They were still using the same one that came in their machine when they bought it. If it doesn't break, they don't change them. What a way to ruin good fabric!

    ReplyDelete
  32. I am a regular, obsessive needle changer! I am pretty regular about lint cleaning and oiling. Lately, I have been part of teaching very young people to sew, and while they certainly know how to operate their machines and are fearless experimenters, they really need to learn the importance of maintenance:)

    ReplyDelete
  33. I change my needle with every single project and more often if needed. I rarely save 'used' needles - I just toss them. Buy them cheap and they aren't worth ruining the machine. I take them apart and de-lint after every project, removing the bobbin and cleaning out all the lint. I never used canned air, not even if I can see where the lint might go. I try to take them in for 'routine check ups' once every 2 years.

    g

    ReplyDelete
  34. I'm pretty hardcore about my machine maintenance - I clean and oil it and change the needle after every project (sometimes 2-3 projects if they're small). I also take it in every year to have it tuned up and have everything checked out. I do this for both my regular machine and my serger. Considering how much money I spent on those things, I can't stand the idea of not taking good care of it!

    ReplyDelete
  35. 2 of my 4 main machines are vintage Singers, and I LOVE doing maintenance on them! When they first come into my home they get completely dismantled, cleaned, parts replaced as necessary, and reassembled. And of course, regularly oiled after that - love it! :)

    One of the newer machines required no home maintenance, and I've never had it serviced, and honestly, probably never will - I would rather upgrade when the time comes (it's a low end machine) The serger I oil regularly.

    I'm getting better about replacing needles more frequently - my frugal self still has a bit of the old "use until it's totally dead" syndrome.

    ReplyDelete
  36. those with embroidery capabilities probably need to go in more often depending on how much stitching is done. Funny that you ask this as none of mine have been in a long while and I took a bunch of them today with my dh's help as it is a road trip, a 6 needle, two combos and and two single needles. I probably won't take them again for a couple of years as none get heavy use since there is a herd of machines here. Next to go when I get past this will be my bernina 930 that has only been a couple of times in all these years and a bernina artista 730 that sits a lot also and hasn't been in for several years. I do the maintenance on the vintage machines here that I have acquired on a whim, though I do get them reconditioned,serviced, and new wire before the are ever used. It is amazing what balanced tensions, replacing broken, worn parts can do for these things. After that do the cleaning,oiling and lubing myself as I enjoy giving all the machines a bit of cleanup and spa treatment when they have been working hard. A vacuum, a soft brush, a q tip with a drop of oil can work wonders when paired with a new needle on any machine new or old. At least that's my philosophy. Any machine new or old should sound smooth when running. Because I have a lot of new and old machines and none of them are used heavily, I just service every couple of years or as needed on the computerized ones. The vintage after the restore to new spa treatment are mechanical and I oil them regularly and lube once a year. .It is expensive to professionally service machines so I doubt I would take in a cheapo as the service for one here is more than they cost. Those that cost thousands do go in periodically according to how much use besides my normal cleaning routines with them as I want them to last and perform well.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I'm not the greatest about cleaning my machines, but I always, always change the needle for a new project. I buy lots of needles at a time so I have a stash to work from. Sometimes I might sew two projects if they are the same fabric type, but I generally change the needle for every project.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also meant to add that I think changing the needle makes my sewing better. The few times I've sewn with a dull needle, my stitches are crappy or I have a hard time handling the fabric through the machine. New needles make me happy!

      Delete
  38. once I got over the 'fear' of undoing the plate and really cleaning out the underside, I do it after large sewing projects, or when I am sewing fuzzy/linty fabrics. Otherwise once a month or after a few small projects. Especially when I'm sewing white fabric I will clean everything carefully. I have 2 machines that require oiling of some kind or another so those will get special attention.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I pretty much take care of the "low profile" maintenance myself. Just like you mentioned, if it doesn't work what do I use... that was before I got a different read/newer machine. I now use the old machine as my back-up. Nothing like sewing something that has a deadline and have your machine go out and need to go into the shop! That always seems to happen right when I really need it! LoL.... I suppose worst case if my back up died or broke down on me I would just have to call one of my daughters to borrow a machine. I clean with q-tips a lot. Isn't it amazing how much dust/lint/thread you can get outta your machine after a project? My machines don't need oil very often. Thanks for all you do.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! It is so appreciated.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails