Let’s Talk Sewing Machine Maintenance!

13 Feb

In the spirit of Karen’s series of True Confessions, I think most of us tend to plead guilty when it comes to maintaining our machines and keeping them in tip top sewing shape. Fess up, guys! Are you guilty of:
– Using the same needle for months at a time?
– Sewing over pins?
– Going far too long between regular tune-ups?
– Letting the lint build up to epic proportions?
– Forgetting to oil your machine?

Let me be the first to say that I definitely hit some of those categories myself. Oops! I’m very vigilant about keeping the lint to a minimum (I clean my machine with that tiny brush every time I wind my bobbin; yes, I get freaky like that), but I regularly forget to change my needle until it breaks from the sheer pressure of existing. I also didn’t realize you were supposed to oil a computerized machine. I thought that was only something you did with the manual ones. No wonder my stitches were looking like shit! Hello!!

Part of my problem is that I just never had anyone tell me what I should and shouldn’t be doing. Yes, you should refer to your owner’s manual for upkeep on your machine – but how many of us actually read that? (if you have a Featherweight and you’ve read it like a book, you’re exempt from this question. We all read our Featherweight manuals like a book, because it’s fucking fascinating and the pictures are amazing). So today, let’s talk about those little basics that should be second nature but totally are not. It’s ok, we’re all in this together, y’all.

Changing your needle
We all know to change the needle when it’s broken – you can’t sew anything otherwise :) But did you know that you actually should be changing the needle far more frequently than that? Not just when there’s an issue. It is recommended that the needle is changed after 8 hours of sewing, which comes out to every 1-2 projects (depending on the project, of course). Waiting longer to change your needle causes it to get dull and loose the sharp point, which can result in wonky or skipped stitches (and hours of hair-pulling frustration, because ARGH!). I know it can be hard to remember to change your needle out that often – hell, I forget all the time, although I’m trying to be better about it. It helps to keep a stash of needles on hand (I buy a pack every time I go to the fabric store!), so you’re not tempted to try and plow through if the needle is super old but seems “good enough” -it’s probably not. You should also be proactive and change your needle if you ever manage to sew over a pin – it may look fine at a glance, but the tip is likely bent and this can also cause stitch problems. Which brings me to my next point…

Don’t sew over pins
I really hope I’m just preaching to the choir here, but just in case someone doesn’t know any better… DON’T SEW OVER YOUR PINS. Don’t don’t don’t! I cannot stress this enough! Sewing over pins causes all kinds of problems, from bending/breaking the needle (ever thought about where that broken tip might land? How about IN YOUR EYEBALL), to completely fucking up the timing of your machine so that you have to take it to the repair center and pay $ to have it fixed. Lame! Do yourself a big huge favor and pull those pins out before the needle gets anywhere near them. Do it for the sewing machines.

Regular Tune-ups
At the risk of sounding like a big fat sewing machine snob, it makes me cringe when I hear people brag about how their machine works so well and it hasn’t had a tune-up in decades. I understand that it may not be common knowledge that sewing machines need regular maintenance, but hey – that’s not something to brag about! Think about your car (if you don’t have a car, you can think about someone else’s car ;)) – would you let that thing go so long between tune-ups? Hell no! A sewing machine must have very precise timing to function correctly; if one little beat is off, it can wreck the whole output. Getting a tune-up can be a bit of a hassle – here it costs between $50-$90 (computerized machines are on the higher end of the price spectrum), and they hold your machine hostage for 1-2 weeks, depending on how quickly they can get to it. However, it is very important to have this done at regular intervals, as the machine needs benefits from having the timing and tension adjusted back to the factory settings, as well as getting a nice deep clean in all those little nooks & crannies that you can’t get to without actually opening the thing up and taking it apart. What constitutes as a “regular interval” is really a matter of how much you use your machine – I take mine in every year, but I also sew a LOT. You may be able to get away with getting a service every 2 or even 3 years, depending on how much you use the machine.

Taking care of lint build-up
Here’s my confession: I’m a big freak about cleaning my machine. I pull the whole bobbin apart and go to town with the lint brush before every sewing project, usually while the bobbin is winding. I also do this on my serger – I mean, have you seen how linty those things get? Nothing delights me more than getting a good sized ball of lint to marvel at (I also like cleaning the lint screen on my dryer. I’m sorry, is this TMI?). So keeping the lint build-up to a minimum has never been a problem with me. I’m not saying that you need to start digging for gold every single time you have a project – but please, make it a habit to at least keep a regular cleaning schedule. You’ll be amazed at how much better you machine functions when there’s not a big build-up of lint and broken thread lurking under the throatplate.

Oiling your machine
OMG. Until I bought my new Bernina, I never realized you were supposed to oil those things! For some reason, I was under the impression that computerized machines were exempt from regular oiling. My mechanic assures me that neglecting the oil does not necessarily hurt the machine, but it can do some wonky shit to those bobbin stitches since there is too much friction going on down there. If you’re not oiling your machine, take a quick peek at the owner’s manual (or call your local sewing repair place and ask them) and see if it’s necessary to keep things running smoothly. I now oil my machine once a month – and it doesn’t take much! A little dab will do ya.

If the idea of poking around in your machine just sounds too overwhelming and terrifying – well, there’s an app for that! :)
diy
DIY Household Sewing Machine is an app for iPhone and iPad (sorry Droid users :( Maybe soon?) that guides you through three basic steps of maintaining your sewing machine – removing the bobbin case to clean and oil the bobbin area (there are instructions for both top and front-loading bobbins – yeah!), changing the needle, and cleaning the tension units (which is not something I was aware of until, uhm, last night. Eep! Don’t worry, I’ll get a-cleaning as soon as I get home :)). While you shouldn’t necessarily consider this a total replacement for a regular session with an actual sewing machine mechanic, it is a great assistant in keeping things clean and running smoothly in between tune-ups.

screenshot2

screenshot3
What’s interesting about this app is that there are three ways the information is shared – a short animation (which totally reminds me of Money For Nothing and I TOTALLY LOVE IT OMG), a text document, and live-action video. The animation is great if you just need a little refresher on how to do something (you know, for those brainfart moments. I’m not the only one who gets them all the time…?), and I love that everything is spelled out for those of us who are just too impatient to sit through a 2 minute video.

screenshot5
Speaking of the vidoes… they are actually really great. I just mentioned that I’m too impatient to watch videos (it’s true! They are always just too damn slow-moving for my fast paced brain, I guess), but the longest one is only 2.5 minutes long, so it’s not too bad. Everything presented is very easy to see and understand, and there are some good tips about what tools are best for cleaning what parts of the machine. Bonus that dude has a delightful accent. God, I love accents.

The app is not free, but it only costs 99¢ – which is pretty much pocket change as far as I’m concerned. It’s nice to have a go-to reference of the text and videos when you need a little hand-holding but don’t want to put your machine’s life in the hands of Google… and bonus, those little animations are fun to watch :) I’m so easily amused, ha!

What about you? Do you have any confessions about maintaining your machine that you’d like to get off your chest? C’mon, fess up – we’re all friends here ;)

As a side note, I know I’m a few days late to the party but LADIES HAVE YOU SEEN MADALYNNE’S NEW UNDIE PATTERN? From the technical sketch to the gorgeous finished piece – I’m in love!! Must make me some undies, stat!

~*~Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for which I received financial compensation. All opinions on this product are my own, however!

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74 Responses to “Let’s Talk Sewing Machine Maintenance!”

  1. KristiEllKay February 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    It’s terrible, but I’ve never even given it thought until you had a post a while back about taking your machine in for maintenance. Then I was like, “well duh, she has a super-fancy machine, unlike me”. In my mind, it was like the difference between a car and a little red rider wagon.

    When I was finishing up my Charlotte skirt, trying to do the buttonhole (seriously, very last thing), my thread kept tangling. I took the bottom apart and discovered a great big lint ball, like “oh hai, just hangin out with your bobbin, yo”. So thank you SO MUCH for this! Self-taught, so I had no idea I was supposed to maintain my machine (though in retrospect, dur, right?)

  2. Rachel Marie (@raywuwei) February 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Oh wow, I didn’t know I need to oil my machine! And I just changed my needle for the first time in a YEAR. Then I changed it again to a heavier needle to work with thick wool and it helped tremendously with the stitch quality :) Thanks for giving us all a reminder, chances are we all need it now and again!

  3. Thea February 13, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Uh, caught red-handed much here? I actually use a friend’s machine, not very long yet (less than a year), so I haven’t done much maintenance on it… (it being a friend’s machine makes the maintenance issue awkward. A sewing shop I visited actually recommended me not using it, in case something breaks). The only thing I actually do is needle changes, because of the hair-pulling, and hey, it’s easy; and the lint ball removal. Sewing knits for the first time really made me freak out about the amount of lint, so it gets cleaned frequently. But oiling? Tension things? Taking it to maintenance? I don’t have a car. The next repair centre is a bus ride away. The sewing machine seems to weigh a ton, and I am not keen. But, I’ll ponder it. Maybe once the app is out for droids ;-) Thanks for sharing the tips!

    • LLADYBIRD February 13, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      Ha, I hear ya – it can be hard to get the machine out there if you don’t have good transportation. Thankfully, they don’t really need to go to the shop that often (assuming you’re not treating it horribly and tearing it up, or something). In the meantime, I would suggest just keeping on top of changing the needles, cleaning the lint, oiling it regularly, and adjusting the tension as needed. Even if you can’t get it to a mechanic, you can still do some basic maintenance on your own ;)

    • Rachelle February 14, 2013 at 6:33 am #

      If you want to learn to oil that machine I would recommend watching the free Craftsy video on machine basics. I mention where to find it here: http://abackwardsprogress.blogspot.ca/2013/02/sewing-machine-maintenance.html

      • Thea February 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

        Thanks you two! I think oiling will come round soon – after reading the post, I realized it actually is starting to sound a little cranky. Time for some TLC, methinks!

  4. CarolinasCallin February 13, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    OH, wow! What a great post! I’m definitely going to link this one on my blog – everyone should read this! It’s kind of what we all know (somewhere deep down inside!) but don’t take the time to investigate fully.

    Great “to do” list – especially about the needles! I never realized changing them that frequently was recommended. Will mend my ways at once…!

  5. annekecaramin February 13, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    I can really enjoy cleaning my machine as well, but I do think it’s time to bring it in for some maintenance. I recently noticed it hasn’t been running as smoothly (even though there’s nothing wrong with the stitch quality, it just seems to be slower and noisier) even though I keep it lint-free as much as possible. My manual is extremely detailed on how to change the little lightbulb but doesn’t even mention oiling. I did some research on my own and oiled what was recommended (the wick in the bobbin case) which helped for a bit, but not very long. I should probably bring it in now that I’m too busy to sew for a while…

  6. clothingengineer February 13, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    My sewing machine place told me to never oil my computerized machine, but started doing it anyway after I noticed the bobbin casing was rattling a lot. I had to add 5 or so drops of oil to the wick but it finally quieted down.

    • LLADYBIRD February 13, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

      Yeah, my first mechanic says it wasn’t necessary, but the new one said any metal bobbin case will benefit from a drop of oil from time to time. As long as you’re not dumping oil in any other place, I think it’s fine to oil the bobbin area of a computerized machine.

      I also realize I sound like I go through sewing machine mechanics at a lightening speed. I promise I don’t; the first shop just went out of business ha!

  7. Carolyn February 13, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Okay I’ve been sewing for mumble, mumble years and yes, I still sew over pins! I just can’t seem to break the habit. I do change my needle every 2 projects and I do remove lint from the bobbin case and my serger before every project but *hanging head in shame* I have pin issues, for sure! Oh and I tune-up my machines every 18 months…12 just come to fast in my book!

    Thanks for the app info. I will download it to my iPad!

    • LLADYBIRD February 13, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

      18 months! Ooh I like the way you think!

    • senjiva February 13, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

      I’ve been sewing for (mumble mumble) years too and I maintain that it is OK to sew over the pins as long as it’s not affecting how the fabric feeds. 15 years of sewing like a demon on my machine and it’s still okey dokey.

  8. Philippa February 13, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    Oops. I am actually too embarrassed to discuss this. I will change, I promise!

    • LLADYBIRD February 13, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

      It’s ok; the first time I was told to not sew over pins was while stitching furiously in a sewing class on a borrowed machine. I practically got yelled at (to be fair, it was a REALLY nice machine). OOPS. Better to learn before someone yells at you, I guess :) Haha!

  9. kaorumarie February 13, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    oh snap, I’m supposed to oil my Bernina?? I was wondering what to do with that stuff, but I didn’t think it was actually necessary…

    I definitely need to take her in for a tune-up because after I did some FMQ on a quilt the stitching has been all wonky. Now I have to sew really slowly when I reach the end of my fabric because there’s a 50/50 chance the thread will get tangled down below and freeze up. It’s a total pain in the arse, but somehow I feel it’s less of a pain than finding someone to fix/tune her.

    Also, do you watch HIMYM? Your warning to never sew over pins brought to mind Robin yelling at her coworker, Patrice: “DAMMINT PATRICE, DON’T SEW OVER YOUR PINS!!”

    Thanks for this post, I think you have successfully guilted me into doing some maintenance on my little Bernina.

  10. CGCouture February 13, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    I’m pretty good about all of the above things, except the sewing over pins one. I slow down over them and usually don’t have any problems, but I really should do a better job of pulling them out…..or quit using them altogether (which I’m actually kind of working toward).

  11. Marie February 13, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    I’m the worst machine-looker-after,,,at best I clean the lint out now and again. I really need to get into oiling it, but I’m scared as I don’t know how. You’ve inspired me to investigate though, so thanks for all the handy info!

  12. Helen February 13, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    I’ve had my machine a year and can’t remember ever doing any of those things – not even changing the needle. It did occur to me recently that I should do that soon, but not quite got round to it. Don’t eve n think I knew about the lint thing!

    Thanks for this! Off to check out that app…

  13. Tasha @ By gum, by golly! February 13, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Completely guilty of never oiling (ummmm I need to look in my manual because I really didn’t even know you were supposed to, thanks!), and going foreeever between changing needles (and I’m totally going to change my needle now). I actually got a tune-up on my (manual) machine a couple of years ago, so at least I can say I’ve done that! ;)

    Another tip but in the line of don’t sew over pins OMG DON’T SERGE OVER THEM EITHER, ESPECIALLY WITH THE BLADE UP. Watch me while I hyperventilate remembering the time I accidentally did this. I can still picture sitting there staring at the two broken pieces of needle and shivering. Having watched the permanent vision damage my dad got due to a small piece of metal flying into his eye (he’s a carpenter– and it went up and under his glasses so no those don’t protect you either)…I cannot agree with you more about no sewing over pins!!

    • Tasha @ By gum, by golly! February 13, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      Broken pieces of the pin, not needle… see I can’t even type correctly it had me so scared :P

    • LLADYBIRD February 13, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

      YES ON THE SERGER. Omgggg, I let a “friend” (spoiler: we’re not friends anymore, she’s actually a piece of shit lololol) use my serger one day while I was at work. I told her not to serge over pins but she did anyway, because when I tried to use it again the timing was all whack and the blade was chewing up my fabric instead of cutting it. I had to take it in and pay to get it fixed, which was like $130 (since I had to buy new blades too). They showed me where the needle had nicked the blade repeatedly, it was all chewed up. I confronted her about it later and she totally denied it and refused to help me pay for the repairs. BITCH BITCH BITCH.

      • senjiva February 13, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

        agree agree. ZERO pins may go near the serger.

        • Carolyn February 14, 2013 at 7:10 am #

          I never sew over pins on my serger! OMG it would be like small flying missiles aimed at your face! Lauren, she wasn’t your friend to disrespect your serger that way.

  14. Julie February 13, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    I use my grandma’s all-metal 1950s Singer Slant-O-Matic and it works like a charm. But I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t done anything to maintain it (other than changing the needle) since I inherited it a few years ago. Even though it came with a little brush and a tiny tube of oil and a manual. The excuse is that I don’t sew often, only every few months… And at 25+ lbs of cast iron it’s a chore to carry to the shop… Thanks for the reminder to be kinder to the machine. Maybe I should treat it to a tune-up.

  15. Rebecca Wagner February 13, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Hrmm I wish I knew how to oil my machine :( It’s a 7105, an from my grandmother, so she didn’t have a manual.. I’ll just have to keep taking it for servicing :)

  16. Lisette February 13, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    I totally need to oil my machine and this is making me feel super guilty. I haven’t oiled it since I got it almost 3-4? years ago.

    • LLADYBIRD February 13, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

      I don’t think it hurts your machine to not oil it… but a little oil will definitely improve the stitch quality :)

      • dragonzflame February 13, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

        It’s not good for it not to be oiled.

        Have you ever seen old oil? It goes all sticky, like Vaseline. That makes friction, so all those moving parts will start wearing down and everything will get thrown out of whack.

        Same reason you put oil in the car.

        • LLADYBIRD February 14, 2013 at 8:37 am #

          I think that depends on the machine. For an older mechanical machine, yes it definitely needs to be oiled regularly to avoid problems. However, the newer computerized machines don’t seem to suffer as bad without an occasional oil (and then only in the bobbin casing), so I’m guessing they must have some kind of self-lubrication. Otherwise I’d have a lot of old exploded machines on my hands, ha.

  17. SeamstressErin February 13, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    I’m really happy to hear that you’re into lint. Because I get a perverse pleasure out of sewing machine lint, dryer lint, and my boyfriend’s bellybutton lint (but maybe that’s TMI) :)

  18. StephC February 13, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    Great post!

    This: “..it makes me cringe when I hear people brag about how their machine works so well and it hasn’t had a tune-up in decades.” YES. When I hear things like that (or bragging about not using gathering stitches, or notches, or marking dots…) I wonder if the person understands how they sound to me… I’m not going to be impressed by that, it generally impresses beginners/ints… (aka, inexperienced sewists) And I feel sorry for their sewing machines!

  19. Sufiya February 13, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    If you think having to oil one lousy bobbin case every month or five is bad, try looking at this old Elna Supermatic I have (circa 1954, I think) Migawd, there are about 25 places on it you have to drop oil, and not only that- one was expected to do it EVERY TIME YOU SEWED. We have it easy-peasy nowadays! But lint will always be a problem, no doubt!

    And yes: READ YOUR MANUAL. It’s so worth it: I discovered a few machine functions I didn’t know I had; it felt like Christmas! And, NO SEWING OVER PINS! Learning how to sew WITHOUT pins is definitely worth the trouble and quite possible: they don’t use pins in the garment industry! I only use pins now if I have slippy fabric that won’t stay put any other way.

    • redeyedtreefr0g February 14, 2013 at 12:40 am #

      “they don’t use pins in the garment industry!”

      Maybe that’s why all the ready-to-wear clothing I have is total CRAP? There are mismatched seams all over the place, gaps, and other sewing goofs. I got a dress nearly for free due to a side seam gap.

  20. Carlee February 13, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    So that is why my machine was flippin skipping stitches!!! Holy hell. Thanks Lauren. You just saved a sister from a lot more swearing. :)

  21. kaitui_kiwi February 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    I think I am a bit nerdy and possibly a weirdo when it comes to maintaining my machines. I LOVE them and really appreciate the creative outlet they give me so I clean and oil often…plus they already cost me a lot of money to buy and I save money on servicing by looking after them so well, which I can then spend on fabric and patterns instead ;) My main machine is 10 years old and hasn’t had a service yet!

  22. gingermakes February 13, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    Gosh, I freakin’ never remember to oil my machine. Thanks for the reminder! I’m really strict about changing the needle, which totally helps with stitch quality, but I have to be better about routine maintenance.

  23. coco February 13, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    Ah, I’m with you…the satisfaction of a big piece of lint on the end of my brush. Live for it. I also oil my serger regularly, but my Stylist no – not yet. Too new, the wick in the bobbin is quite saturated after 4 months. Singer’s directions say do not oil….well, we’ll see! I think they are just promoting a visit to a dealer for routine maintenance. Hmmm. That and my car…My previous generation machines all required regular oiling, included taking off the bottom plate and getting at the main shafts and gears inside. Not hard and makes a big difference. I am an inveterate needle changer! Every project. I toss the old ones in a small bin, saved for a rainy, unlikely!, day when I’ve no needle….Great post!

    • LLADYBIRD February 14, 2013 at 8:38 am #

      Well, if it says don’t oil then you may not need to! I’d double check with someone who works on the machines, you don’t want to hurt it :)

  24. redeyedtreefr0g February 14, 2013 at 12:36 am #

    Eek, I’m going to sewing Hell. All of the above.

    – Using the same needle for months at a time?
    I’ve broken a couple, usually by hitting a pin in a giant wad of denim.

    – Sewing over pins?
    Uh, yeah. How else do you keep the fabric where it is supposed to be in those super-tight spots?

    – Going far too long between regular tune-ups?
    A tune-up? Seriously, though, I JUST got a new machine a couple years ago, and it was unused for one of those years. I just stopped into a sewing store to ask about the price on one of these for my beloved Brother.

    – Letting the lint build up to epic proportions?
    If I can see it, we’re good and it won’t stay in there. So far, I can’t see jack inside the Brother. It must be collecting in there somewhere….? So I count myself guilty on this one. I’ve also let a little lint accumulate simply because until my new machine, the lint ball had to get big enough for me to swipe free with my fingers- I had no nifty brush.

    – Forgetting to oil your machine?
    Oil? Haha, I bought sewing machine oil to use on my husband’s hair buzzers. I DO think he once oiled the very old machine for me to get it useable. I have zero idea of where oil would go in the Brother though. That thing is so neat and tidy- I don’t see a hole to put it in.

    • LLADYBIRD February 14, 2013 at 8:39 am #

      If you need the pins to keep the fabric in place, try hand-basting the super tight area instead :) Then you can sew over it with no worries.

      • apronstringsvintage February 15, 2013 at 11:54 am #

        My Granny taught me the virtues of hand-basting when I was in high school. I thought she was being too fussy…until I turned out the best looking dress I’d made to date. It’s a pain, but almost always worth the extra trouble.

  25. niekemieke February 14, 2013 at 1:22 am #

    This is one of the most useful posts ever!! I never knew about machine maintenance and oiling and stuff, but a couple of months ago in the middle of a seam, my machine (a mechanical Toyota) just stopped working. Nothing jammed, it just stopped working. I couldn’t even get my needle up to get my fabric out. I totally panicked and started flipping through my manual and I decided to oil it (I always thought the oil was kind of an “accessory”) And a few little drops and it was like magic!! Everything was fixed.

    I have a new machine now (since the Toyota was utter crap) and I love my Bernina and I vowed to take care of her like she was my baby. I stopped sewing over pins when I bought her. (It’s definitely a her)

    I’ve only had her a few days and I bought her from a maintenance man, so she will be fine for a couple more months as long as I do as you say ;)

  26. Sarah February 14, 2013 at 3:14 am #

    I must admit, I only take my machine in to be serviced when it starts to act funny. It’s not even the waiting (which sucks), or the cost (which is usually >$100, och!), but the fact that I don’t drive, or live with anyone who drives, so I have to drag the damn thing on two busses to take it in. Lazy much? (although to be fair, I don’t get regular checkups with a doctor either, so I might just be a “it’s not broken, don’t fix it” kind of girl).

    For my first year or two with this machine, I definitly did the whole only-change-the-needle-when-it-breaks thing, but then one broke and the tip fell inside the machine and gouged a divit in my bobin case. Two weeks and >$100 later, my awesome machine guy had ground the divit out, and my lesson was firmly learned! Now I listen for the tell-tale dull-needle-trying-to-punch-through-fabric sound, and replace it right away (or sometimes just for the hell of it between projects, while it’s unthreaded anyway).

  27. Kay February 14, 2013 at 3:40 am #

    I know w/ the Janome that I just got, you are not suppose to oil the machine. It can gum up the electronics.

    • LLADYBIRD February 14, 2013 at 8:40 am #

      Yeah, the only part of a computerized machine that needs oiling is the bobbin casing (assuming it’s a metal on metal). Check your manual, tho, because not all machines need to be oiled.

      • Kay February 14, 2013 at 11:35 am #

        Yep. I was just adding my .05. Once upon a time it was .02, but hey, inflation :) LOL

  28. Rachelle February 14, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    Great post, you’ve inspired me to discover my machine manual has a section on oiling! And here I thought I HAD read the whole thing!! My bad.

  29. Maddie Flanigan February 14, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    I may know my pattern making shit but I don’t know a lot about maintaining my machine in tip top shape. Yep, I am guilty of all of the “don’ts” except sewing over pins. That’s a no no. I walked away from this post learning something. Thank you.

  30. Tessa Gonzales (@TessaMelissa) February 14, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    I work at a sewing machine repair place here in Austin, and you should seem some of the machines that come through there! Pros: I get to play with super fancy machines all day, as well as Featherweights and other awesome oldies. Cons: Seeing machines come in in such bad shape, but it was all so avoidable! Please respect the tune-up! Don’t wait until something bad happens because, chances are, it will happen at the worst time where you are either in a rush to finish a project or low on cash. You probably won’t notice your machine getting noisy or clunky all of a sudden, but it’s like weight gain. One day you go to put on your Spring shorts and the zipper won’t go up! When did that happen?

  31. zilredloh February 14, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    Okay so seriously… best post ever!!!

    I generally take in my sewing machine when it starts to sound loud. My pfaff was always really good at letting me know when it needed a tune-up like that. :)

    I don’t oil or delint like I know I should, but I do it when I get that sense of impending doom (before something bad happens) and wouldn’t you know it, I’ve never had a major catastrophe.

    But I have a mega confession… I’ve had my serger for a year now and I’ve never de-linted it. *GASP* I just don’t know how. :| You’ve prompted me to go and seek out a video in hopes there’s someone that has documented such a task for me.

    Cheers & thanks for the maintenance reminder.

  32. Tiffany February 14, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Oh, I love the lint toooooo. Probably the only reason I’ve never started a dryer fire was the fact that the lint is like a game: how much will this load make… Living in Europe now, I don’t have a dryer, and the lint is the only thing I miss (well, and my towels aren’t as soft).

    I didn’t know people actually sewed over pins. Gah. I sometimes use a pin as a tool to hold a picky little point together (from the side, not under the needle) if I’m too lazy to baste, but I like pulling them out as I go. It’s like a little game of how many pins I can pile up, creating a sense of accomplishment. I do the same thing with trimming threads. And as I write this, I realize how much of my life is like a little game to make piles of things… o_0

  33. Seattlerain February 14, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    I love changing the lint out of the dryer! Hahaha. I thought that I was the only one!

    I am lucky enough to live near my maintenance store so I’ve had my two machines serviced multiple times over my short sewing experiences. Yeah, was forced to get service when I punctured the bobbin case. . . But I had the service plan (the expense made sense). I will drop the home work-horse off prior to a vacation so I don’t miss it. Same with the lighter carry-to-class machine. I make sure I won’t be without a sewing project. If I were ever without both, I’d go to town with cutting and prepping.

    And another confession, I bought the second one when I knocked the first one of out commission while sewing a bag with a bamboo handle. Props to the service plan, seriously.

    Never have oiled the machines because I know that I’ll over-do it, hence my yearly maintenance!

  34. Thimble & Cork February 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    I definitely need some hand-holding when it comes to sewing machine maintenance. I can’t wait to check out the app! Thanks for the suggestion and tips!!

  35. Susie Homemaker, MD February 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    Thanks for this post. You have made machine maintenance seem a little less scary now :)

  36. apronstringsvintage February 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    My Bernina Artista 640 actually has an on-screen reminder to oil it–it pops up periodically with a little diagram on the screen. Because it’s an embroidery machine, de-linting and needle changing have to happen between every project and I was taught to do that when I took classes on using my machine at the store where I bought it.

    By the way, I like your blog! It’s been a long time since I did any real sewing, and your projects and posts have me thinking about sitting down in front of the machine again. Reading the book you recommended–“Overdressed”–made me think about how I shop (i.e. too many Target clothes) and that getting back to sewing is something I should consider doing. Thanks! LaurenT

  37. Jessica February 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    Thanks for sharing so much about sewing machine maintenance! I’m wondering if anyone has a specific type of oil they like best? I’ve always left that up to the shop, but would like to have some on hand for my vintage machine.

  38. Peter February 16, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    Apropos of nothing at all, when are you coming to NYC? Hope you still are!

    • LLADYBIRD February 16, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

      I’ll be there from 3/7-3/12. I’d love to meet up with you if you’re free during that week :) MSN meet up, perhaps?

      • Peter February 17, 2013 at 9:08 am #

        That would be fun!

  39. Fastening tape February 18, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    Ok, I will try to maintain my machine…no try…I WILL maintain my machine after reading this post.

  40. Dalila February 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    I try and remember to occasionally vacuum near the bobbin case when I’m cleaning my craft room. I find it’s easier than the brushing and can pull out some hidden stuff without totally dissembling everything.
    I also had some craaaazy squeaking from my machine a while back and oiling didn’t seem to work until I oiled under the bobbin case. That is where the manual is really good to keep around (it did suggest that location even though the squeaking seemed to be coming from the upper part of the machine). Oh, and always use sewing machine oil for your machine – other stuff can attract dust and create more problems.

  41. rhea January 31, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

    I think I oiled my machine too much. What can I do to get it to work? My machine won’t catch with bobbin when I thread it sometimes it does and when I sew it won’t keep stitch. can u help

    • LLADYBIRD February 2, 2014 at 10:28 am #

      Have you tried changing your needle and rethreading the entire machine? You may also want to run the machine through some fabric scraps with no thread loaded and see if that helps distribute the oil. Otherwise, it sounds like you may need to take it to a repair shop and have them look at it.

  42. Kayla March 23, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    When I started sewing I didn’t know you were supposed to oil the machine until my aunt told me, after my machine started running really loud. I still didn’t know about needing to change the needle. A couple months after getting my brand new Janome it started running really loud and not feeding fabric as well. I was way freaked out so I took it to a sewing machine shop, a 2 hour drive from my house. The repairman changed the needle and it started running smooth as glass again. Needless to say, I felt like an idiot…and I think the repairman wanted to yell at me! Great post, wish I had known all this sooner.

    • LLADYBIRD March 23, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

      Ohh, don’t feel like an idiot! I didn’t realize I was supposed to oil my machine until… after 5 years of owning it. Ha! And as far as changing the needle, well, that took me a long time to figure out as well :) Sewing machine maintenance is one of those things that isn’t taught so much as it’s just figured out along the way (which is dumb! I’m definitely all about educating people :)).

  43. aye m. May 13, 2014 at 3:37 am #

    i have a brother lb6800prw, the menu suggest not to oil it, but then i’m a crazy researcher, i must’ve read about a 1000 different site about this topic, so said company do that so you would have to bring it in for servicing more often, because now the tune up turn into oiling the most basic part of your machine, then some page said you just oil up all the moving part you can see or reach, just stay away from the wire and tumble motor, and the plastic part, or something ( i really don’t remember exactly where those 3 places to avoid but it’s wire for sure), then some said you the oil you can buy or use are usually from plant and it would create residue. and has to use some high-end oil. but really only cost about $6.99 a bottle. and some said you just use the little genin bobbin washer. you put this little white washer under the bobbin area and all the bird nest and threading problem would be gone,(there is 2 different kind 2 different color of packaging, for top drop and front loading bobbin), then there is pages saying you can’t use the computer blowing can of compressed air to blow the machine because that way you are actually blowing the lint into the machine deeper where you won’t be able to take them out unless you take out all the outside wall to do the cleanning which include unscrewing lots of different size of screw and messing up the sensor for computer machine, so just use the brush instead, get a longer brush, and becareful of poking the wire connectting area, don’t be lossing up the wire, and use a house hold vacuum instead but you have to do research on where to use it on and usually they just tell you to stay away from the wire incase the suckstion is too strong and end up moving the wire or something. so to be honest. i tried them all.. so what i ended up doing now is using the synthetic lubricant, just a drop under the bobbin and a drop at the long metal bar that holds or connect to the needle where it moves the most. sometime under the feed-dog as well. and using the magic washer under the bobbin, plus i clean the the machine with super long brush then vacuum behind the feed-dog area after taking out the metal plate, and just don’t sew over pin, don’t break pin by using wrong foot on wrong stitch, and using titanium needle i buy from ebay instead. got all kind of needle, always use the right needle for the right kind of fabric, and i’m just hopping this way my machine will last longer til i have to really bring it in for turn-up. i’m a machine freaks, i need my machine to be working 100%, sometime when i’m not sewing i sit there and listen to the needle sound and if i hear anything wrong i would go online and watch a 100 video and read a 1000 page until the thing is fix. and even opened up my old singer machine and did the oiling myself just to understand more for my brother machine, which is my main machine, idk, that’s me. just hope this would help. let me know what else i’m missing. thanks guys. have a nice sewing day.

  44. aye m. May 13, 2014 at 3:50 am #

    oh. and i don’t mind people coming over using my machines, but i won’t let it out just like my computers, i don’t mind let friends borrow my machine foot or take my threads and fabric, i have all the foot there is, 40+ foot, but the machine is a no no for sure, doesn’t matter if i’m not using it, i don’t want to damage or taking a chance to damage my friendship. so it’s better this way.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  3. Taking care of my sewing machines | Hoopes Park Studios - July 21, 2014

    […] Lauren and Kate recommend regular oiling and dusting in addition to professional tune-ups. […]

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