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8 Master Tips: Maintain a Sewing Machine for 12 Years!

If taken care of properly, a well-made sewing machine, whether it’s a traditional or modern serger, will last many years. While it may need some adjustments or parts replaced, a sewing machine that is maintained and cleaned regularly rarely “wears out.”

Basic maintenance for sewing machines includes cleaning, oiling, and lubricating. The machine’s care and use booklet will cover all of these procedures. This booklet is your best source of information about the care that your machine requires. You may not need to use oil or lubricant on some machines. Make sure you read the instructions in your manual.

To obtain an instruction manual for your sewing machine, you can contact your local sewing machine center. You also can request one from the manufacturer or download and print one online. Make sure you have the machine model, serial number, approximate age, and machine name.

Supply and Equipment

Supply and Equipment

The following supplies and equipment are required for this job:

  • For soaking parts in cleaning liquid, use a pie or cake pan
  • Small screwdriver
  • Large screwdriver
  • Adjustable small wrench
  • Hammer (optional)
  • For cleaning fluid, small oil can be (clean)
  • Cleaning brush (narrow, nylon)
  • Paring knife (or pocket knife)
  • Small crochet hook or long needle
  • Tweezers
  • Cleansing cloths
  • Test stitching on fabric
  • Check your machine for oil in the sewing machine.
  •  Instruction booklet (recommended)
  • Tube of sewing machine oil (consult your manual to find the recommended type)
  • A small can or bottle of cleaning solvent. It will not ignite below 120 degrees F. You can usually find it at gas stations and cleaning establishments. It is extremely flammable and should not be used. Carbon tetrachloride is extremely poisonous and should not be used.
  • Newspapers
  • Plastic wrap (household)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Magnifying glass (optional).
  • Flashlight (optional).

After you have assembled all the equipment and supplies, disconnect the power supply and move it to a well-lit area. You can protect the floor and the top of your table with newspaper. It is a good idea to have a table or floor lamp that can be used to illuminate the area from above your shoulders. For difficult-to-see areas, a flashlight can also be helpful.

Here Are Some Personal Guides to Maintain Your Sewing Machine:

Step 1: Remove Dust and Fluff

Step 1

First, remove any dust or fluff from your home. It loves to gather between the feed dogs. To make cleaning easier, take out the needle, the feet, and the needle plate. The needle plate is the plate under the foot that has cut-outs through which the feed dogs can protrude. It is usually secured with one or two screws. You can use a pin or needle to pick up any dust and fluff that has become matted. 

Otherwise, you can use a brush and/or crevice tools such as a vacuum cleaner crevice tool. Although you can blow or use compressed air, there’s a chance that the fluff will get further into the mechanism. You should be careful with broken needles that might have fallen here, as they could jam the mechanism.

You should also inspect and remove any fluff, dust, or broken thread between the discs on the upper tension adjuster and any other points along the threading path where it may have been collected. High-quality thread sheds less fluff compared to cheaper brands, so it is recommended.

Replace the foot. Before refitting the needle, check it. You can run it between your fingers, from the shank to the tip. You can remove any roughness with fine emery, but it is best to replace it if that has been used for more than 6-8 hours. A bent needle is a problem that can only be fixed.

Step 2: Examining the Bobbin

Step 2

The vintage machine’s bobbin can often be accessed by sliding off a plate near the needle plate. Modern front-loading machines have a similar mechanism that can be accessed from the front. Modern top loading machines allow the bobbin to be dropped horizontally in a mechanism located in front of the needle plate.

Some old machines, such as prewar ones, have a different bobbin that fits into a bullet-shaped shuttle. This is used to make each stitch.

The mechanism can be seen on an old machine. It is hinged on wooden bases and can be lowered horizontally. 

Take out the bobbin’s case and the bobbin’s. Blot out all the dust.

The bobbin bag fits in a bobbin holder that rotates with the machine’s movements. You can remove it by simply removing a pair of clips from a retention ring.

The hook, which is the sharp point on the bobbin case holder, is designed to catch the thread at the top so that it can be engaged with the thread at the bottom and create a stitch. If it feels rough (probably from needle strikes), then you can smoothen any burrs using fine emery. It is important to assemble it correctly.

If you are purchasing a second-hand machine, ensure that the bobbins included with the machine (and any additional ones) are the correct type. There’re many types to choose from, some of which may look very similar. If they don’t work, the problem will be serious.

Step 3: Lubrication

Step 3

This is possible with a vintage machine. You can access the bottom mechanism by turning it over, as described in the previous steps. The top mechanism is generally accessible by removing the cover and a few screws.

A modern plastic machine will usually require you to remove several screws. Next, you might need to loosen a series of clips that hold the two halves of your plastic case together. To locate the clips, you can use a thin spatula, blunt scalpel, or knife to probe the crack between them. Be careful not to push the clip too far into the plastic.

To release the clip, lift the spatula from one end of the case while pressing the other. To prevent the clip from re-engaging, insert a credit card, a plastic prying tool, or a guitar plectrum into the space. The case will not come apart if it refuses to go apart. This could be hidden under a label or a rubber foot.

Once you have gained access to the top or bottom mechanisms, turn the hand wheel gently to check which parts are moving. Oiling is necessary for any moving part except nylon gears, cams, joints, or bearings. These are usually greased for life.

Only use sewing machine oil. None of these oils are suitable for sewing machines.

Each bearing or connection should only receive a small amount of oil. Any excess oil should be wiped away immediately after it starts to drip.

If the machine has been inactive for a while, it may become very stiff or completely stuck. It should be oiled thoroughly, wiping off any excess oil, and left to soak for the oil to penetrate. Continue to do this until the oil penetrates.

Step 4: Check the Tension

Step 4

You must check the tension of your bobbin. If it is not checked, you may get poor results or even snagging thread. Attach a thread bobbin to the bobbin box and thread it through the tension spring. Attach the thread to suspend it. If the tension is sufficient to support the case and bobbin weight, it is considered correct.

You can unwind a bit more thread by gently shaking it. Adjust the tension spring screw. If you are having difficulty, ensure there is no fluff or broken thread underneath the tension spring.

Step 5: Check the Bobbin Winder

Step 5

Take a look at the bobbin winder. It often connects to the hand wheel via a wheel with a rubber tire. Replace the tire if it is damaged, worn, cracked, or has lost its ability to withstand high temperatures. It is usually easy to find spares.

You can wind a bobbin. You should have enough thread tension to create a tidy, tight pile. Problems may arise from badly wound bobbins.

Step 6: Examining the Electrics

Step 6

Double-check your machine before you touch any electrics.

It is important to use the foot pedal smoothly to sew well. You may need to lubricate it. It will be found on older machines. This is a variable resistance wired in parallel with the motor. The electronic speed control will be similar to a dimming switch on newer machines.

To disassemble the foot pedal, you will need to inspect it. You should not use sewing machine oil but any light lubricating or grease for sliding parts. Keep all oil and grease clear of electrical contacts.

You should also check the tension of your motor belt. It should be possible to adjust the tension by loosening any nuts or screws on the bracket. You can adjust the motor’s settings by loosening the nuts or screws on its bracket.

It may be necessary to replace the brushes or clean the commutator. You should use grease specifically designed for electric motors, as recommended by your manufacturer, if the motor bearings appear to need lubrication.

An older machine can be fitted with a replacement bulb, but it may need to be wired in and cannot be changed on newer machines. You can replace a filament bulb with an LED replacement that runs cooler. If the bulb is required to shine mostly downwards, but the LEDs of an LED bulb seem to be facing sideways, it might not work. To ensure that you get the same base, take the old one along.

Step 7: Verify the Timing

Step 7

It could be that your timing needs to be adjusted if you’re experiencing broken threads. This is more than what an Instructable can cover at this level. It is best to leave this to a professional with the appropriate manual. However, it is not difficult to determine if this is the problem.

The hook should be visible at the spot where it catches the top thread. We have turned the machine upside down so we can see underneath. We also removed the bobbin carrier and the plate. It had to be held to prevent it from falling out of the handwheel.

Turn the handwheel until it passes the needle. Keep the free end of your thread taught by not pulling on it. After the handwheel has been turned slightly further, the thread is securely captured.

After that needle has reached its lowest point, the tip of the hook should pass through the needle. The needle should have risen by 3/16 inches (1/10 inch or 2.5mm) in most cases. The thread will begin to slacken and become a loop when it reaches this point.

You should turn the handwheel further so that the thread is drawn around the bobbin (if it is in place), and you can make a stitch.

If you have made it this far, you may be suffering from the bug. You can search the internet for the make and model of the machine and the keywords “timing adjustment.” 

This’ll allow you to at least see the steps involved in changing the timing. It is important to make sure that the needle’s lowest point brings your eye below the hook. Also, the hook passes the needle once it has been raised the required amount. If you have the manual, it will detail these settings and how to adjust them.

Step 8: Finally,…

I hope that you enjoyed getting to know your machine and have overcome your fear of looking into a complex and ingenious system. A good machine will purr like a cat who has had cream.

Tips for Operating

  1. Before you start sewing, make sure your machine is properly threaded and oiled.
  2. Choose a size needle that is appropriate for the fabric and thread. Make sure your needle is straight and pointed. When sewing synthetic fabrics, it is important to change the needles often. Knit fabrics are protected by ballpoint needles.
  3. If you’re creating an unusual effect, use the same thread on the bobbin and the spool.
  4. Before you start stitching, pull the bobbin thread through your needle hole.
  5. Place both threads under your presser foot as you stitch.
  6. If necessary, turn the handwheel towards you to begin the stitching.
  7. Stop the machine by putting the needle and the thread take-up lever in the highest position.
  8. After the tensions on the bobbin thread and upper thread have been balanced, you can adjust the tension of the upper thread for slight variations as necessary.
  9. Turn a corner by stopping the machine with the needle still in the fabric. The needle can be used as a pivot point to turn the fabric. Lower the presser foot, then resume sewing.
  10. Cover your machine or place it in the machine case or cabinet to protect it from dust and grime.

The Master Tip: Getting to the Problem

If you’re having any trouble with your sewing machine’s working parts, it is a good idea to clean them first.

That is possible to avoid many problems by simply brushing the machine every time it is used. To remove lint from the bobbin, under the needle plate, and around the dog, use the included soft nylon brush or a narrow paintbrush. To remove thread and lint that is not easily brushed away, a needle or tweezer can be used. Also, You can use canned pressurized air to blow out dust and lint.

Over time, lint or dust can build up in a sewing machine and cause problems. The machine will run more smoothly if this gummy grime has been removed. Adjustment may not be necessary. This unwanted buildup is more time-consuming than regular maintenance.

The following procedures do not apply to all-electric, machines-specifically those with bearings packed in grease and chain-stitch machines. These procedures apply to older electric lock-stitch and treadle machines. To determine the best cleaning method, consult your manual.

Wrap It Up

Wrap It Up

To extend the life of your sewing machine, make sure you follow the simple tips and tricks we have provided. Sewing machines are an investment. Take good care of them, and you will have enough sewing machines to last you a lifetime. Have fun sewing!!

Professional Machine Repair & Annual Servicing

While regular cleaning and maintenance will keep your machine in top condition, you still need to schedule annual maintenance. That doesn’t matter how often you maintain your machine; a professional should inspect it at least once per year

Regular maintenance will prevent any small issue from growing into bigger problems. However, some problems require professional attention. A skilled technician can adjust the tension and timing of your sewing machine and repair any parts that are difficult to reach. That’ll extend the life of your machine by having an expert look at it.

Sometimes, unexpected events can happen, and your machine may need to be repaired. You’ll need to call a professional for your machine, so make sure you find one who is familiar with your model.

It can be difficult to find a local technician for most sewing machines. There are more chances of finding someone qualified for the most popular brands. However, it is possible to find someone with experience working on other machines.

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