Like the Doctor says – Prevention is better than the Cure…
The Sewing Machine Doctor says, “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 the Doctor’s guidelines for sewing machine care that should keep you & your machine happy & out of my clinic (repair shop).
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 & free of insects. Moisture can play havoc with the moving parts in your machine, as can the tiny feet of insects across circuit boards.
- Switch your machine off at the wall or unplug the supply cord if not in use. Power surge is a real threat in Queensland, 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 garment. A Bent or blunt needle will lead to skipped stitches, poor tension or even damaged fabric. It some cases it can even do costly damage to your machine.
- Always use the appropriate needle for the fabric. Sharps are best for wovens, Universal for synthetics & stretch ball points for stretch. There are a myriad of other needles available — I am happy to answer any specific questions on needles. Feel free to call me on 07 5445 1117.
- Remember that although the needle is one of the least expensive parts of your project, strangely enough it is highly likely to be one of the two most common wreckers of it. Don’t take the risk on an old needle.
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 overwound 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.
- The least expensive part of your project is likely to be your thread. Unfortunately, this is the area where people try to save the most money!! Poor quality thread can lead to many problems, some of which can have expensive long term impacts
- 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. Lint & fabric dust can also foul gears & work its way into bearings & shafts. These are often expensive faults to fix.
- 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. In some cases, they can also leave moisture in your machine tension & thread guides, which can create a small rust trail.
NOTE: This is particularly true on the Sunshine Coast!
Protecting Your Investment
- If you have a computerised or electronic machine, I strongly recommend using a surge cube or protector. This will help to protect against surges, storm damage & ‘brown outs’ (low voltage troughs). 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. 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!!
- Take advantage of lessons offered by your retailer. This will give you important information relevant to your machines. Many faults I encounter are avoidable.
Attend a Class on ‘Caring for your Machine’
I periodically run classes on caring for your machine. If you’d like to attend one, please leave your details with us here & we’ll contact you to let you know when one is coming up. There is a small charge for these classes.
Stephen Potts – The Sewing Machine Doctor