Happy Sewing Machine Day! How to Properly Care for Your Sewing Machine

Image via the State Library of Queensland

Let’s all take a moment to reflect on the proud legacy of the sewing machine.

Like clothes, jewelry, and clunky kitchen appliances, sewing machines are one of those things that most of us get handed down from a relative. Those ancient, heavy, analog machines might not be as sexy and advanced as the newer models, but they hold a special place in our hearts. Every time they snag the fabric or cause the bobbin to become an infuriatingly tangled mess, we sigh in exasperation — and remember the countless stitches they’ve laid under the loving hands of our relatives.

If you’ve got an old workhorse of a machine — or even one of those fancy new models — today’s your day. June 13th is Sewing Machine day, and to ensure that your machine makes it down the generational lines, it’s important to practice proper sewing machine care. Here’s how to show your old friend the respect it deserves:

Cover it: If you use your sewing machine a lot, covering it after every project can seem like a chore. But it’s so worth it to keep dust and other particles from the air from building up in the many small crevices. And hey, if you need a new project, you can always sew your own machine case.

Clean it: To properly clean your sewing machine, the first thing you need to do is unplug it and move it into a well-light area. Then, remove all of the small parts (like the presser foot, the needle, and the sewing plate) and set them aside. Using a small, lint-free brush (which you can buy for a very inexpensive price), brush away all of the lint, old thread, and other gunk which may be cause in the small areas. You may also need to take some tweezers to the smaller inner parts to really get the mess out.

Oil it: Oiling your machine is one of the best ways to keep it running for the long-haul. Your sewing machine manual probably tells you which parts (like the bobbin casing and presser foot spring) which may need oiling, but if you don’t have one (because your machine is a grillion years old), the instructional video above is super-useful.

Stay sharp: Using proper needles — and changing them often — will go a long way when it comes to keeping your machine from doing extra labor. This very handy guide can help you determine which needles are best for which materials. And, as a general rule of thumb, it’s good to change our your needles after every one to two major projects.

Keep it tight: The screws on your machine may loosen over time; just give them a good turn every now and again to ensure the machine is being held together properly.

Don’t blow on it: When cleaning your machine, it’s important to use compressed air, not your own breathe. The air from your mouth also contains moisture, which can lead to rusting and other unpleasant results. Get a can of computer cleaner to blow all of the dust, lint, and other fuzz from the small areas like the bobbin case and interior of the machine.

Your sewing machine may never end up in a museum, but with proper care and cleaning, it might end up in the hands a relative who hasn’t even been born yet.

Hanna Brooks Olsen FOLLOW >

Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.