If you’re going to use your sewing machine on a regular basis (and I hope you are!), you need to take care of it. In addition to regular professional tune-ups every 12-18 months, you should be cleaning out and caring for your serger and sewing machine at home every 8-10 hours of sewing, more often if you’ve been sewing fuzzy fabrics, towels, wool, etc. If you neglect to clean it, you’ll find yourself frustrated and not having any fun sewing – and who wants that?! While every machine has its unique features and you should always consult your manual, the same general principles apply, whichever brand you use.
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Before you open up and begin cleaning your machine, unplug it! No need to risk any accidental injuries. Turn on a nearby lamp to help you see more clearly.
What You Need
Most sewing machines will come with the appropriate screwdrivers and brushes, but if yours was a hand-me-down or you are missing something, here are the basic supplies you will want to have on hand:
- Stiff brush
- Lint brush
- A soft cloth
- Your sewing machine manual
- Maintenance Kit (this includes screwdrivers and brushes, so you can purchase them all together)
- Sewing Machine Oil (not everyone feels comfortable oiling their own machine and many newer machines may not require it – make sure you consult your manual) – yellow oil and WD-40 are not recommended for oiling sewing machines.
Don’t use compressed air in your machine or blow in it! You don’t want to push anything inside, which is why tweezers and brushes are much more helpful. Some people suggest using a small vacuum tool, but I prefer to stick with what I’ve listed above.
Get to Know Your Machine
First of all, know your machine. In order to open it up and clean it, you have to know the parts! Cool People Sew has a great description of all the parts of a machine to help you know all the names of each part and where everything is located.
How to Care for Your Sewing Machine
See the basic steps for cleaning out your sewing machine at The Sewing Loft – she shows you how to clean out a machine with a top-loading bobbin.
Over at Sew Can She, you’ll find another step-by-step guide for a sewing machine with a front-loading bobbin.
You can watch a free video tutorial on how to clean and oil your machine on We All Sew (the Bernina blog).
This post at Serger Pepper will help you to clean out your serger.
Here’s a clear list of Do’s and Don’ts of sewing machine care on the Craftsy blog
Always remember to consult your manual for special instructions regarding your specific brand or model.
Change Your Needle
Changing your needle is a super important part of caring for your sewing machine. Always use a needle that’s appropriate for your fabric. With each major sewing project, switch out your needle for a fresh one. At minimum, change your needle once a month if you sew infrequently. If you’re sewing every day, you should change it at least once a week. This keeps you sewing with a sharp needle and can help prevent skipped stitches, broken thread, and tension issues.
Cover it Up
To help keep dust off your machines when you’re not using them, most sewing machines come with a cover, or you can make your own. Here are two tutorials that I like:
Sewing machine cover with piping and pockets from Get Your Crap Together
Quilted sewing machine cover at Sew Delicious
If you take care of your machines, you’ll avoid a lot of trouble and frustration while you’re sewing. And stress-free sewing makes for a stress-free mama in this house! :)
Happy sewing, friends!