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Quick Tip Series: 5 Sewing Machine Maintenance Tips

Episode 166: How to clean, service, and care for your sewing machine.

Posted in: Seamwork Radio Podcast • November 8, 2023 • Episode 166

Your sewing machine is one of the most important sewing tools you own, and it's likely one of the biggest investments you've made in your sewing.

But a lot of times when you buy one, you're just handed it, and you're expected to know what to do with it.

Just like a car, it does need regular care and maintenance. In today’s episode, Sarai and Haley share five tips to care for your sewing machine.

Below are the show notes for this podcast episode and a brief summary of what's covered, followed by a full transcript.

5 Tips for Taking Care of Your Sewing Machine

Tip 1: Don’t avoid your sewing machine manual

Your manual might seem intimidating, but if you read it, you get a better understanding of how your machine works.

You’ll pick up some sewing machine maintenance tips specific to your machine. And as a bonus, you’ll learn some cool things your machine does that you didn’t know about!

Tip 2: Set a reminder for both self-maintenance and servicing

In general, aim to take your machine in for professional maintenance once a year.
You can clean and oil it yourself in most cases. The frequency depends on how much you sew.

  • If you sew daily, aim to clean your machine once a week. Check your manual to see if weekly oiling is a good idea.

  • If you sew infrequently, you can get away with cleaning your machine once a month.

  • If you sew with a particularly fuzzy fabric, like fleece, sherpa, or something that sheds and unravels, clean your machine after you finish your project. Lint accumulates really quickly!

Tip 3: Change your needles regularly

Every now and then in the Community, someone posts about sewing machine needles, and many people reveal that they never change their needles. A lot of people don’t realize needles are disposable and not meant to be changed only if they break.

In general, change your needle after about 8 hours of use. Not sure how long that is? Swap them after a big project or two smaller projects.

Also, make sure you are using the right needles for your project—it impacts how hard your machine is working.

Not sure what kind of needle to use for your fabric? Read this article! It even has a needle chart you can bookmark.

Tip 4: Find your favorite cleaning tools and keep them nearby

Put together a little machine cleaning kit and keep it near your machine. Some clever cleaning tools include:

  • Makeup brushes. Get different sizes for reaching into all the cracks.

  • Microfiber cloths can clean the outside of your machine and grab lint from the inside.

  • A pair of tweezers is helpful if you ever get thread jams.

Here are a few words of caution. Don’t blow into your machine to get rid of lint. The moisture in your breath isn’t good for metal machine parts. Canned air is pretty controversial because it might blow debris further into your machine.

Tip 5: Get to know your sewing machine’s cues so you can triage

The best way to get to know your machine is to pay attention to how it sounds and feels while you are sewing. If you notice something is off, here’s what to do.

First, stop sewing. Don’t push through or you might damage your machine.

Then, change your needle and rethread your machine.

If the issue persists, give it a good cleaning and some oil.

If it still persists, bring it to a professional.

Here are some questions you can ask to help you triage.

  • Is it making a weird noise? Get to know its regular purr.

  • Is it struggling to pierce fabric? This could be your needle, but if you change and rethread and it persists, take it to a professional.

  • Are your feed dogs being funky? This might be a problem you can’t service at home.

  • Is your stitch quality weird, or are you getting consistently skipped stitches? It’s best to take it to a pro.

With these 5 tips, your sewing machine will be happy, and you’ll be happy. Do you have any other sewing machine maintenance tips? Or has your machine ever run into a severe issue that required a professional? Comment and let us know!

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