Sewing Machine Do's and Don'ts, from our technician
“Most sewing machine problems that I encounter can be traced to poor general maintenance or neglect. But with some simple tools & 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 guidelines for sewing machine care that should keep you & your machine happy.
Keep it covered
When not in use, keep a cover over your machine. This helps to keep dust out of it, very important for electronic machines in particular.
- If storing your machine away, try to keep it somewhere dry. Moisture can play havoc with the moving parts in your machine. Damp basements are not a good place to store sewing machines. Internal parts can rust, especially if an annual tune up isn't performed.
- Switch your machine off at the wall or unplug the supply cord if not in use. Power surge is a real threat, and even small surges can have major effects that your insurance policy will not cover
Change your Needles Often
- I recommend you change needles every 4 hours or 2nd project. A Bent or blunt needle will lead to skipped stitches, poor tension or even damaged fabric. In some cases it can even do costly damage to your machine.
- Always use the appropriate needle for the fabric. There are a myriad of needles available, be sure to purchase good quality, we recommend Schmetz.
- Remember that although the needle is one of the least expensive parts of your project, a dull or damaged needle can damage your fabrics.
Wind Bobbins Correctly
- There is no such thing as a generic bobbin. Always use the bobbin your manufacturer recommends for your machine.
- I recommend a good supply of bobbins. Try to avoid winding over existing thread as this can create tails that can jam your machine. If you have a low bobbin sensor, this will not work if you have over wound thread.
- Do not use damaged or rusty bobbins. These are likely to ‘drag’ & give poor tension.
- I do not recommend using pre-wound bobbins unless they are of a type that is endorsed by the maker of your machine. Pre-wound bobbins can foul mechanisms, & will often confuse low bobbin sensors.
Regular Cleaning is Essential
- It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with how to clean your machine. If kept clean, your machine is less likely to require major work when it comes time for service.
- Refer to your instruction manual to get basic information on the care & cleaning of your machine.
- An annual tune up is essential, to keep the internal parts of your machine clean and well lubricated. Depending on the type of machine, firmware updates may need to be preformed to improve the machines function.
- Poor thread = poor stitch quality. Many tension problems are often due to the effects of poor quality thread. Poor quality thread leaves behind much lint & dust. This can build up in your tension, bobbin case & thread guides. This also leads to inconsistent thread travel & stitches. More seriously however, it can also create mechanical problems by soaking up lubrication, effectively running your machine dry.
- Many people own machines with auto or electronic tensions. These are only as accurate as the thread is consistent. If you use a cheap thread, it will be inconsistent in its thickness. Tension units are just not able to be accurate with poor thread.
- Threads that are older than 5 years (particularly natural fibres such as 100% cotton), can be weakened. I recommend that they not be used as they can break & end up leaving bits of thread in the mechanism of your machine.
- Make sure that your machine is threaded correctly. Misthreading can cause many problems, from thread "looping", to improper tension. An improperly wound bobbin will also cause poor stitch results.
- Familiarise yourself with the different feet that come with your machine. Incorrect foot selection can give a very poor stitch. Each foot has a purpose, and they are rarely interchangeable.
Protecting Your Investment
- If you have a computerised or electronic machine, I strongly recommend using a serge protector. This will help to protect against serges. Electronic circuitry can be costly to repair, & while this is not a guarantee that your computer won’t fail, it will provide protection against many situations. In fact, any sensitive electronic equipment you have, such as computers, large TV’s & the like should also be protected. (Please note that these do not perform the same role as a safety switch)
- Regular service is important. Your machine should be serviced yearly to keep lubrication fluid & the various mechanical settings accurate. Lint & fabric dust can also foul gears & work its way into bearings & shafts. These are often expensive faults to fix. Regular service will often pick up developing problems & ‘nip them in the bud’ prior to becoming expensive repairs. By the time your machine starts to clank like a tractor, it is often too late to avoid parts replacement!!
- Never, sew over pins, we have seen very serious damage done to the hook area of sewing machines costing hundreds of dollars to fix, from one little pin!!
Embroidery Machine Care Essentials
Domestic Embroidery machines have been with us now for over 20 years, but only within the last 5 years has the true potential of these machines started to be tapped. With the rise of the Internet plus the rapid advances of technology in Sewing machines. We've noticed that these machines are being used far more than was possibly imagined. This has started to place stresses on these machines that need to be acknowledged & monitored as part of a normal service regime.
An embroidery machine can in some cases be working up to 6 hours a day for a serious addict. When an embroidery machine is sewing a design that is one colour for instance, of 25,000 stitches, this is the equivalent of sewing for 625 metres in one direction without stopping. This places considerable stress on the mechanical part of the machine, and creates wear in the thread handling areas. There is also a considerable build up of thread dust, fabric fibres & little bits of stabilizer that can foul a mechanism. It is vitally important that embroidery machines are therefore regularly serviced (at least every 12 months) but if there is a large amount of work being done with the machine (over 10 hours a week) then a six monthly cycle is recommend. Another essential reason annual tune ups are highly recommended, are to install in necessary firmware updates, these updates are implemented to improve your machines function, and often add additional features to your machine.
What happens when it’s not serviced regularly? It’s not pretty…
We have already seen the results of machines that are not serviced regularly. And it’s not pretty. Lack of lubrication has led to failure of Main shafts in some machines & increased noise in many machines. Build up of lint has damaged some tension units, and general wear has necessitated multiple parts replacement in others. In most cases these problems are avoidable with regular tune up. A new hook that has been damaged by years of sewing without service can cost as much as $250 to replace, yet with a yearly tune up by Wilton Creek fabrics technician, this could have been repaired without need for replacement. Most lubrication problems will be dealt with by preventative maintenance. By the time your machine seizes up, there’s a lot more that will need to be done as a result, that just would not have happened if the machine had regular service.
You have invested a lot of money in your hobby. To keep your machine going for as long as possible requires just a little bit of ongoing investment.
What do I do if my Sewing Machine doesn’t work? Don’t panic. Close your eyes. Breathe. Sit Down.
Follow this checklist!
• Is it threaded correctly?
• Do I make sure that the foot is up when I thread it?
• Have I replaced the needle recently?
• Is the needle inserted correctly? Is it fully up in the clamp?
• Is the needle the correct one for the fabric? Is it the right size?
• Is my thread the same top & bottom?
• Is my bobbin damaged?
• Is the bobbin the right one? Is it in the right way?
• Do I have good quality sewing thread?
• How long is it since my last service?
And if you have tried all the above then it is time to,
Call Wilton Creek Fabrics, and our technician can help