Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Time for Maintenance

You know the horror you have when you actually cannot remember the last time you cleaned the lint out from under your fridge? You pull off the vent cover and cannot even see the coils under the layers of dusty build up. Gross. Then you clean it all out and, maybe it's your imagination but the fridge just seems to sound better and run colder.

The same goes for our trusty sewing machines. I have been told that it is really hard to break your singer, or in my case, brother, but if you don't do some maintenance from time to time, your sidekick will start to suffer because of the neglect of its simple needs. I'll walk you through how I cleaned and oiled my machine tonight. I'd recommend you dig out your machine's manual for cleaning and oiling instructions and get in prepped for the upcoming mystery!

If you need more help, here's what I would suggest. You have to take the shield off of the base to expose the bobbin area. This is the spot where most of the offending lint is left behind. My machine has the bobbin accessible from the top. There were two screws holding the metal plate in place. I removed the two screws and released the two plates to open it up as much as it would let me. If you machine has the bobbin underneath the top throat plate, remove as much of the encasement as you can.

With the first plate off, you can already start to see the build up of lint!

This is a plastic plate that covers the bobbin. Once that is off, I can clean inside.

I have an old, stiff makeup brush that I would never use on my face. It's way too harsh for skin but is perfect for grabbing and removing the lint around the bobbin area. Canned air is not recommended for this. It will lodge lint deeper into the machine and blow liquid inside that will rust the metal. Not a long term solution! Just brush the lint out or use a small, electronics-friendly vacuum for this job.

It's surprising how much of this stuff comes off of the fabric and thread as you sew!

The bobbin housing has a wheel that sits in a channel and that needs to come apart to clean under it as well. Here's what I found when I took the wheel off.

I'm not sure how long I dug around in there to get out the lint but this is the offending pile. When there is too much of this stuff building up in your machine, you will know it. Your stitches may become uneven or skipped. You could hear a pocking type sound as it runs when it's really bad. It is recommended to clean out your bobbin case after you've run through 4 bobbins. I went through way more than that - maybe more like 20 bobbins before I cleaned it. That was too long.

The next thing you can do for your machine is to give it an oiling. There are only a few places to do this and it isn't very difficult. PLEASE make sure you get oil made for sewing machines. Other oils are too thick and can become gummy. That will not help you or your machine!

In the bobbin case, the wheel sits on a track around its case. Put a drop of oil on the lip of that track. You don't need more than a drop or two of oil. It will spread nicely when the wheel goes back in place.

The next place where I put a drop is on this lifter that is next to the bobbin casing. It sits in a plastic channel and I put one drop on the rod that sets in the channel.

Some machines have a panel on the left side of the machine that can be removed so you can see the insides of the top of the machine. Mine has the panel but I have not yet been able to take it off without fear of breaking something that will hold it together properly.  My manual doesn't give any insights to how it comes off. I just turn my machine over and do my best.

This part I am pointing at is the rod that moves the needle up and down. I pop a dot or two of oil there and then turn the hand wheel back and forth a little bit to spread the oil up inside the casing. 

After everything is cleaned and oiled, I flip the machine back over and set it on the table so I can put the covers back on the bobbin housing. Now you are ready to rethread the top and install the bobbin thread. Do one full turn of the wheel to make sure the machine can properly pull the thread up into the working position. 

When I was growing up and learning how to sew from my Mom, she always had me put a little piece of material under the foot and lower it to keep the threads in place. I still do that. I kinda like the way it looks. 

Now I'm ready to run through another bunch of bobbins! Maybe I'll clean it after 10 next time. I hope this little tute has helped you and that you will clean up and oil your sewing machine more regularly. Happy stitchin'!

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