Preventive Sewing-Machine Maintenance
by Sally Hickerson
from Threads #91, pgs. 28, 30
Most sewing machine problems that I encounter can be traced to poor general maintenance or neglect. But with some simple tools (shown in the photo right) and just a few minutes daily, weekly, or monthly- depending on how much you're sewing- you can help keep your machine running smoothly. Here are my guidelines for care that should keep you and your machine happy and out of the repair shop.
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|Â||Cleaning and caring for your sewing machine requires only a few simple tools available from your machine dealer or fabric store: a small lint brush, a can of ozone-friendly compressed air, a clean piece of muslin, sewing-machine oil, and a dust cover.|
Keep it covered
Dust, lint, grit, and animal hair can find their way into your machine and cause all sorts of problems, especially for the printed circuit board of a computerized machine. So try not to place it near an open window, and always cover it when not in use. You can purchase a ready-made plastic cover from a notions or machine dealer, make one yourself, or even use an old pillow case- but keep your machine under wraps when you're not sewing.
Change your needles often
I recommend replacing the needle after every four hours of sewing time. When you sew, the needle passes through the fabric thousands of times per minute, and each time it does two things: It makes a hole in the fabric for the thread to glide through, and it forms a loop with the thread to make the actual stitch. The bobbin hook picks up this loop by moving just .05 mm or less behind the needle- about the thickness of a piece of paper- so if the needle becomes bent or dull, you may get skipped stitches, broken or looped threads, runs and pulls in the fabric, or even damage to your machine.
When the needle is compatible with your fabric and thread, your machine sews more smoothly. An inappropriate needle will force the thread through the fabric instead of letting it glide cleanly through the needle hole and may cause broken or sheared threads. A common mistake is to use a needle that's too small for the thread. For example, a size 70/10 needle is the right choice for fine fabrics like silk, but use only a size 60 or 65 with fine, lightweight thread, like lingerie thread.
A sharp needle, like a Microtex or Jeans needle, is the better choice when sewing natural-fiber woven fabrics than the Universal needle, which has a slight ballpoint and was developed to glide between synthetic polyester fibers without breaking them. Regular ballpoint needles, however, are still the best for sewing knits, fleece fabrics, and elastic. And now there are needles specially designed for sewing with rayon or metallic threads that have Teflon-coated eyes to reduce friction and thread breakage.
Wind bobbins correctly
Be sure there are no thread tails hanging from the bobbin when it's inserted into the bobbin case. They can jam the machine and cause the upper thread to break. And note that there's no such thing as a generic bobbin. Always use a bobbin designed for your machine in order to avoid skipped stitches, loose threads, and noise, as well as permanent damage to the bobbin case.