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Sewing Machine Maintenance
Your sewing machine or overlocker is like your car - if you don’t service it regularly it will
eventually seize and stop or, at the least, start to lose thread tension which will impact stitch integrity and appearance. If you do service your machine regularly, you can reasonably expect that you will be extending its life and increasing the likelihood of trouble-free sewing.
The main principles for Do It Yourself servicing are to keep your machine free of
lint and adequately lubricated. The mechanism below the needle plate typically bears the
brunt of lint being thrown off from fabric and thread. This lint can build up and be bound
by lubricant which together serves to clog up the mechanical operation of the bobbin and
Begin by cleaning the lint from your machine. Remove the needle plate - you may need a small screwdriver for this. Brush out all visible lint with a small brush. You may be tempted to simply blow the lint out - don’t! Blowing may cause condensation on the machine’s interior, creating an environment for rust. Using canned air is a better option, although care must be taken to spray the canned air at an angle to the parts you're cleaning and keep the nozzle several inches away from the area. Note that you should *never* shake canned air before use, as it uses liquid as part of its propellant and if you shake the can you may end up spraying that liquid instead! Alternatively, you could simply vacuum any lint out.
Once the machine is free of lint, it may need lubricating. Some of the newer sewing
machines don't require lubricating, so refer to your owner's manual to see if it's necessary.
Most other machines should be oiled regularly or at least every 3 months or so. If your
machine has little or no use over a long period, oil can crystallize and “gunk” up your
machine, so oil regularly regardless and run the machine for a few moments to distribute the oil. Again, refer to your owner's manual for oiling locations - one drop of machine oil is enough in any spot. Only use oil specifically made for sewing machines, and don't use WD40 or other lubricants as they can harm your machine. If you own a Singer Featherweight or other old machine, take it to a service professional every couple of years to have the motor bushings greased.
The above maintenance suggestions are equally relevant to sewing machine and
overlockers, and if you are diligent you should keep your machines humming along trouble-free. However, it is recommended that you have your machines further serviced by a
professional once a year or so (regardless of how little you may have used it). A basic
service would generally include cleaning, oiling, balancing the tension, checking alignment
of the needle and hook mechanisms, knives (in the case of overlockers), and a basic check over the internals. A stitched sample should always be left for you to check that stitch tension and cutting (if an overlocker) is OK. It is reasonable to insist on this so that you can confirm you are happy with the quality - my shop's mechanic always did this.