How to Hurt a Quilter’s Feelings

k4384193 How to Hurt a Quilters Feelings

The sewing machine repair guy hurt my feelings last week. I took my machine in for a checkup, and when I got it back, he was not shy in expressing his distaste for its state.


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Writing “very dirty” in his labor list didn’t bother me too much.



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It was when he wrote it again, with emphasis, that my psyche took a bruisin’.



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Gosh, did you really have to circle it three times? It’s not like I keep it in the barn…but…but then I think back, and I remember the time several years ago when I grabbed my spraycan of air and doused my machine’s guts with it real good.


Only to realize that the can was actually one of basting spray—the sticky, gooey kind that was marketed long ago.

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I didn’t tell Mr. Repairman about that incident. I figured what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. In hindsight, maybe I should have. It would have prepared him for the carnage. Imagine all the stuff that stickiness attracted. It makes me shudder.


repair9 How to Hurt a Quilters FeelingsHe politely put a sticker on the machine indicating when it would be time for another checkup. You can bet I won’t go a day past one year. I set up a text reminder on my calendar and my phone.

But seriously, this did make me consider some questions.

• Am I performing routine maintenance?
• How long had it been since the machine was serviced?
• If I covered the machine when not in use, could I keep it cleaner?
• Should I be using different thread, to reduce the amount of lint?

And these questions gave me an idea for Quilty Pleasures.

I suspect I’m not the only one who puts off small maintenance tasks in the sewing room. Wouldn’t it be great if someone reminded you to do them? Well, Quiltmaker is going to do just that. On the 20th of each month, we’ll remind you, and we’ll call it Tune-Up on Twenty. We’ll start with tomorrow’s blog post: 2/20/13. Tune-Up on Twenty. See you then!

About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email:
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28 Responses to How to Hurt a Quilter’s Feelings

  1. Karlane Belaire says:

    Reminders are such a good idea. I see from the comments that I do an OK job of cleaning and servicing my machine, but I resolve to do better.

  2. Jan Hunt says:

    I have cleaned and oiled my own machines since I purchased them. The dealer I purchased them from showed me how . Learn about your machines and ask questions before and after you buy them You need to know all about your machines. My service person and dealer didn’t feel he was threatening has repeat business. He said it was assurance that I would be a repeat customer and I was. He had confidence in his salesmanship and abilities as well as his customers.

  3. Virginia says:

    Your sewing machine is a tool. The best tool you have. Keep it clean! I clean mine every 8 hours of sewing. I collect old sewing machines from “junk” stores. The first thing I do with them is take them to my favorite repairman to get them cleaned. I keep them covered and clean them every 6 months whether I’ve used them or not. I have collected 17 so far and all of them sew.

  4. Pingback: Tune-Up on Twenty: Sewing Maintenance | Quilty Pleasures Blog

  5. Jan says:

    I have had my machine for over 17 yrs now. In the beginning my bobbin thread was always messed up so I kept taking it in for yearly servicing. It was after about 9 yrs that I found out I have been putting bobbin in backwards (I’m left-handed). So putting the bobbin in correctly does make a difference.

  6. JoAn GODFREY says:

    i work in a sewing shop…..we sell machines and have classes, but no fabric…i think that is a GOOD thing……or i would never take any $$ home…
    NEVER use canned air……just blows stuff in where it doesn’t belong…..every 8 HOURS of sewing…..clean under the bobbin casing with a q-tip and throw it away…..and change the needle… only a drop of silicone lubricant on the bobbin oil on newer machines.
    i admit i don’t change my needle as often as i should, but it is amazing how fast the lint builds up in the machine. i am cleaning my machine every time i change a bobbin. goes fast when you are sewing all day almost everyday!!

  7. Claudia says:

    When I used to take vacations, my machine went to the shop while I was gone. Nothing like being in “sewing withdrawal”. Living in a new place with fewer machine sales and repair places (for my brand), I took my machine in before Christmas. He found “a big wad of thread” in the tension area and had to take it all apart to get the “wad” out. So, I decided to take my other one in as well. Now everyone is purring like happy kittens.
    When you think that sewing is really “needle punching” fabric or fabric and batting, it is easy to understand why things get so linty. I try to swipe out the bobbin area with a swab with a drop of oil on it every time I change the bobbin. Periodically, I poke around deeper, but I don’t think canned air is the solution. It actually chills the parts so much they freeze, and if you then poke around or use it too soon, things can break. I know where my studio is in the basement, my machines are cold, so I let them warm up (they do that when you turn them on and the light comes on) a few minutes before using them.

  8. Deanna says:

    I have a cleaning routine–every five bobbins, like it or not, I take the time, while winding the bobbins, to do a quick clean-and-lubricate on the machine. Tools need to be loved to work their best.

  9. Gina says:

    I’m going to clean mine tonight after that ticket! Maybe we should clean our machines before sending them to be serviced like those of us who clean before the house cleaners get here lest they see how we really live!

  10. Barbara says:

    My machine is still on warranty, so yearly if not sooner in store service. I will keep the same schedule when it is off warranty. I do vac and clean it after heavy use like quilting a quilt. Seems to me, the service guy should be happy the machine is being used! Some sewers are not comfortable giving the machine a deep cleaning. I clean and service my Featherweight. Does not go to the shop.

  11. Susan Paxton says:

    I found lots of videos on YouTube that can help if you don’t know how to clean and oil your machine…I do my three regularly….

  12. Katherine McGarry says:

    My machine had a lot of thread wrapped around something inside. It cost me more because of the time involved removing it.
    At our Quilt meeting for Feburary we had a sewing machine repair person come and talk to us about basic machine cleaning and oiling. He said DO NOT USE AIR to blow out your machine. It is better to use those little attachments and vacume it out. The air will blow lint and bits deeper into the machine.
    My mother was having trouble with her machine and the repairman said she had worn out the shuttle. My mother sewed a great deal until her eyes started bothering her.

  13. Edath says:

    If you do not prewash your fabric when you bring it home new, you will have tons of manufacturing lint and dirt going into your sewing machine. It will also dull your scissors faster than freshly washed fabric. New fabric is not clean fabric!

  14. Cheryl says:

    I clean my machine regularly, take it apart, use canned air, brush, cloth and use only a touch of oil in the bobbin race, since my machine says I don’t need to oil it. My repairman tells me my machine is in good repair, but I should change my needles more often. I probably should, but when I take the machine in, he always gives me a new one :) bonus!

  15. PPat says:

    I keep my foot pedal in a zip lock sandwich bag in hopes of keeping it cleaner inside and out, even though I see without shoes.

  16. Lorilynn King says:

    Not a good idea to use canned air. It just sprays lint and other junk farther back into the machine where you can’t get it out (unless you remove the covers which may void your warranty). And, that lint (and other stuff like needle fragments etc.) may land in a spot waaaaaay back in the machine where it COULD cause damage.

  17. vickie blose says:

    I clean mine with every project and sometimes in the middle of a project esp if my stitches get wonky. I switched to aurielfil thread and my machine loveds it. recommended by my sewing machine man. I oil with every project.

  18. Ali M says:

    Ha! I could use reminders to clean my machine…and this is why I store my basting spray in a drawer where I can’t accidentally grab it and hurt anything ;)

  19. z any mouse says:

    I clean my bobbin case out several times during each project, large or small. However, if I’m going to take my machine in for its annual service, I purposely leave the bobbin carriage dirty, as my way of making sure that it was serviced. So far, so good. I wanted to have my machine serviced before undergoing rotator cuff surgery (the perfect time, since I wouldn’t feel like I’d lost a leg while it was sitting in the shop), and got in trouble for bringing it in a month early, lol. It was just a friendly jab from the technician, and I explained that my baby had worked very hard for the past 11 months, and deserved a visit to the spa. Also, other than general maintenence, the other reason I take my machines to be serviced every year, is that if it is not serviced on time, the warranty could be made null and void. If you own a high end machine, this is critical. Happy quilting!

  20. Colette DeGroot says:

    These are all funny stories. I guess since I clean and depend on my truck so often, I feel like I need to do the same with my sewing machine. I recently read somewhere a good suggestion; wind five bobbins. When the bobbins are all used, change your needle, clean your bobbin area and if your machine requires oil, oil it. But I like the reminder we’ll get from our Quiltmaker friends too just to be sure.

  21. LOL I’ll bet the basting spray was the culprit. They told me my machine can no longer be fixed and I could ” use it for a boat anchor”~ that really hurt. :-( I like the idea of cleaning reminders~ thanks! have a happy day!

  22. Starr Babbey says:

    I clean my machine with air regularly and take apart the bobbin area and the bottom underneath before and after I quilt a quilt. It amazes me how much lint collects down there after one quilt! The first time I did it was the first time in about 15 years and I was shocked by the dirt, lint and broken needles I found! My machine runs much better now that I clean regularly and I can always tell by the bottom stitches when it needs done!

  23. Jean says:

    I am constantly amazed at the number of women who don’t know how to clean and oil their machine, don’t know if they have the book, and some don’t even know what kind it is. I tell them it is like a car or lawnmower, they need to be cared for. I clean around the bobbin area every time I change the bobbin and it pays off. Now I need to learn how to do it with my drop in bobbin machines, which are a little trickier. My 1955 Singer 15-91 is still going like gang busters, although there was a period of about 20 yrs. when I was working, I didn’t use it.

  24. TOO funny! I have a story similar…17years ago I took my machine to the local store. The repair person said I did not need to keep bringing it in every year for clean up…it was a computer machine and dirt did not get anywhere that needed special cleaning. I was told to only bring it in if there was a problem….well, 14 years passed and I started having a little problem where I had to push on the foot pedal a few times to get ‘er going! Ok, then I admit I kept forgetting to take her in…and 3 more years passed. I finally took her in, now in a new state, and the repairman about fell off his chair when I told him it had been 17 years since my beauty’s last check up! When I picked it up he showed me the gallon zipper bag full of stuff that was in the foot pedal! No joke! Who knew foot pedals attract fibers and “stuff”! I was told I am lucky it didn’t burst into flames! Now, I do take this wonderful machine in yearly! Haha!

  25. Regina says:

    Good timing – I am dropping off my machine tomorrow for a cleaning on the 21st. I quilt with a lot of flannel – it is my preferred “batting” so I am sure it is nice and linty in there.

  26. Dana says:

    My repair guy always says my machine is filthy, but he says it with a smile and it means I’m using it daily. I’d love to know ways to keep it cleaner, I don’t even spray sticky stuff into it :)

  27. Christa says:

    My repair man was flabbergasted when I bought him one of my machines. I have had it for 20 years and it has seen some speedy hard days…..pedal to the metal…..and he asked WHAT DO YOU SEW???? Just fabric but a ton of it!! He had never seen brushes so worn!

  28. Sharon says:

    I clean my bobbin casing after every so many bobbins, totally clean after FMQ as well as once a month – with oiling (yes, I know where it goes and how much). And machines are covered when not in use – it does make a huge difference. And all three have scheduled yearly dates at the ‘spa’.

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