How to Clean & Care for Your Home Sewing Machine

Proper care and cleaning of your machine is vital for the life and performance of the machine-- keep reading to learn the basics you need to keep your best sewing pal purring like a kitten!

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How to Clean & Care for Your Home Sewing Machine with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

Video Tutorial

Tools you need

  • small screwdriver
  • brush
  • tweezers (optional, for plucking out any thread nests)
  • machine oil and applicator (if your machine requires regular oiling)

The Basics

  • Remove the needle plate and clean underneath each time you change your needle (at least once a week if you sew regularly, more frequently if you are a heavy sewist or if you work with materials like flannel or minky)
  • Check your machine manual to see if and where you should oil your machine. If you machine requires oiling, do this when you clean under the needle plate
  • Routine home maintenance does not replace regular servicing. Machines should be serviced by a professional annually. If you are in the Atlanta area or need help finding a recommendation for your area, I recommend talking to Andi at The Sewing Doc
  • Keeping your machine clean is a key step in achieving good thread tension when quilting. To learn more about tension, click here. 
How to Care for Your Home Sewing Machine with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

How to Clean Under the Needle Plate

  1. Using the small screwdriver (one likely came with your machine), gently unscrew and lift the needle plate
  2. Remove the bobbin and bobbin race 
  3. Using a brush (or pipe cleaner), carefully remove all lint thread and debris from the feed dogs, bobbin area, and down in the bed of the machine. Be careful to brush OUT, physically removing the lint, etc. NEVER used canned air when cleaning your machine as it pushes debris into your machine. Lint that builds up deep in the machine as a result can over heat and spark, damaging the electronics of the machine and clogging gears. 
  4. Oil your machine as directed by your manual (please note that not all machines need regular oiling, so be sure to check your manual!)
  5. Once the bed of your machine is clean (and oiled, if needed), gently replace the bobbin race, needle plate, and screws

The Sewing Doc's Top 3 Tips:

Andi, aka The Sewing Doc, is a master technician in the metro-Atlanta area. She has amazing skill with all kinds of sewing machines, especially vintage and antique machines, and the ones your dealer might say aren't worth fixing.

  1. Only turn your hand wheel toward you, never away from you. Turning the wheel away from you is the number one cause of thread nesting in the bobbin. When your needles tops and you need to raise it to the topmost position, turn your hand wheel toward you to complete the rotation
  2. When you thread your machine and insert the bobbin, pull up your bobbin thread before you start sewing so you have full control over both thread tails. To pull up the bobbin thread, hold the needle thread gently and turn your hand wheel toward you so the needle enters the needle plate. Keep turning your hand wheel toward you util the needle is again in the upmost position. You should see a loop or the tail of the bobbin thread come up through the needle plate.  Pull the thread up from the bobbin with enough tail to hold when you start your seam
  3. Check your power and foot pedal cords for damage regularly, especially if you have pets or kids. If an animal or child bites or damages a cord, it could expose the wires and become a fire and electric shock hazard. If you have pets that tend to chew on wires, purchase affordable aquarium tubing at the pet store. Buy the length you need, then cut the tubing open down one side and slip the tubing around your cords to protect them (and your pet/child) from damage
How to Clean & Care for Your Home Sewing Machine with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

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