What resolution should be on every seamstresses list this year

Monday, January 07, 2013

It's that time of year when we're all taking a more critical look at ourselves, our lives, and our habits. For many of us, that includes being healthier, doing greater good, trying new things and kicking bad habits. But, what about introducing new habits?

Teaching yourself how to properly maintain your sewing machine can ensure you prolong the life of the equipment, help keep your projects looking professional every time, and preventing those hair-pulling moments when you can't figure out why it's just not working right.

As we all know, developing new habits isn't easy especially if it's a task that's foreign to us. So, to help make the process of cleaning your sewing machine stress-free, we created this checklist for you. Simply print this image and check off the boxes as you get through each step. Keep reading for more detailed information (including photos) on how to perform each step.


  • Turn off your machine and unplug it.
  • Remove your top thread.
  • Remove the foot and the needle.
  • Place your presser foot in the "up" position.

Tension Disks:

  • Take a piece of muslin or other soft cloth and run it through the slit where you typically run your thread to attach it to the tension disks. 
  • Gently move the cloth through the slit back to front picking up any dust and particles from the disks.
  • For more thorough cleaning, use a can of compressed air (can be found in any office supply store) to gently force out the particles that are buried deep within your machine. 
  • **Do not use your breath in lieu of compressed air. Your breath has moisture in it and can eventually cause corrosion.**

Use soft muslin to clean around your tension disks.

  • Most modern machines have a top loading bobbin that is easily accessible. 
  • Remove the bobbin plate and the bobbin nestled within.
  • Use more compressed air to blow any dust, threads, or fuzz from the bobbin loading area. 
  • Wipe the area with the small brush that likely came with your machine.

Throat plate:

  • Use a small screwdriver to remove the metal plate.
  • Depending on how much sewing you've done on your machine since its last cleaning, you could be surprised to see how much lint has collected there. 

This is after 10 years of sewing with no cleaning. Ga-ross!

  • Use tweezers to gently pull out the large pieces of lint.
  • Use the small brush to wipe away any of the finer pieces. Use a sweeping motion to prevent the dust from being lodged further into the machine. 


  • Your manual will specify which areas of your machine should be oiled. 
  • With a small Q-tip, apply small amounts of oil to those areas and wipe gently.
  • It's always best to use less oil and keep adding it rather than using too much and risk gunking your machine.
  • Turn the hand wheel several times to distribute the oil through the working parts of your machine.

Final steps:

  • Replace the throat plate, foot, and install a brand new needle.
  • Before taking on a new project, sew several stitches on a scrap piece of fabric to absorb any excess oil.
If you're still leery of tackling this alone, watch this detailed video of how one woman does it.

You should clean your machine after each project! Yes, that's the goal. But, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone that keeps up that kind of cleaning schedule. To set you up for the most success with your new resolution, just promise yourself to clean it after every big project. You'll be able to tell when it's getting linty.

Other things you can do to keep your machine working properly:
  • Change needles at least after every project and at most after every four hours of sewing time
  • Use the right needles. Using jeans, upholstery, ball-point, and/or fine needles for the right kind of projects ensure your machine doesn't have to overwork to compensate for the wrong needle.
  • Wind bobbins correctly. Don't leave too much of a tail and load them in the correct direction.
  • Cover it. When you're not using your machine cover it to make sure foreign objects don't find their way inside.
If you want to learn more about the basics of using and maintaining your machine, look into taking one of our Just The Basics classes. Misty will walk you through the parts of your machine, the tools that came with it, and how to load, thread, and clean everything properly.

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