Sewing Machine Guts

January 5, 2009 § 6 Comments


My sewing machine from the top

How many of you know what your sewing machine looks like on the inside?  Today I took my sewing machine apart and gave it a good cleaning and oiling.  If you have an old machine or one that is not computerized, there is very little you can do to “break” your sewing machine if you decide to take it apart and clean it yourself.


Lots of lint in the bottom!

I’ve been doing a lot of quilting lately.  And batting produces a lot of lint! Lint build-up can cause your sewing machine to misbehave and wear out faster.  A clean, well oiled, lovingly maintained sewing machine can last a long, long time.  Consider those Singer Featherweights that quilters love so much!


The feed dogs

At the very least you should know how to take the plate off of your feed dogs and take apart the bobbin case to clean out all of the lint that collects there. Go find your sewing machine manual and make it a goal to learn how to do this. I make my students in my machine quilting class take apart and clean their bobbins & feed dogs.

Use a brush purchased from the sewing machine store to brush out the lint. Or, if you have a male friend/hubby/relative that has an air-compressor, use that to blow out the lint. Or buy canned air from a computer store.  Resist all urges to blow with your mouth. Your breath contains moisture that is not good for sewing machine parts.


Reconnect all wires!

And, most of all, take notes or draw pictures to keep track of where the screws, cables, wires and what-not go. It’s rather frustrating to not be able to put all the parts back together and not sew ’til your hearts content.

My sewing machine has a main computer board in the back. And then one very small computer chip on the top that controls the bobbin winder. Be careful that you don’t damage the computer boards.  I’ve owned this machine for more than 5 years and have not once taken it into the dealer for service.  Being able to clean and oil my own sewing machine saves me a lot of time (waiting for it to be serviced) and money.

By the way… if you happen to own a Singer Featherweight, buy this book on how to maintain it and take a class from David McCallum. You won’t ever have to take it in for service again either!  And the basic maintenance principles apply to all basic sewing machines.

A side note & disclaimer… If you own a high-end computerized sewing machine, it’s best to let the professionals do the real heavy-duty maintenance.  Those computer chips can be fragile.  But you can learn how to clean out the feed dogs and bobbin case! And then take your machine in regularly, like an annual doctor’s visit, to have it oiled, thoroughly cleaned and checked out.

Cheers to a New Year of sewing!

§ 6 Responses to Sewing Machine Guts

  • Candace says:

    I’m so glad you’re blogging this, Anita! I can remember as a young woman that I never even changed the needles in my old sewing machines unless they broke! Since I now own 3 Berninas (all computerized) I not only change my needles after (or even during) each project, but clean out the lint and dust as well! Great post!

  • Jessie says:

    It’s amazing how much stuff is in a sewing machine.

    Do you recommend any good sewing machine brands for a beginner sewer, if say, she wanted to find one second hand in the next few months for very simple tasks & projects?

  • Rachel says:

    Excellent! Last time I took my machine in to have it serviced it cost me over $100 – think of all the fabric I could have bought with that money! Thanks for posting this info; I’m sure my poor machine needs a good cleaning.

  • Jackie says:

    I’m new to quilting and didn’t sew before. Thank you for letting me know how important this is!

  • Tom Smith says:

    Thanks for this article

  • Margaret says:

    Is it quite safe to have your computerised sewing machine in a travel case with wheels? I have to push mine over gravel.

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