Tune-Up on Twenty: Sewing Maintenance

Do you have some easy quilt-related maintenance tasks that you put off? I sure do. Now Quiltmaker will remind you periodically to do these things. We’ll do it today and on the 20th of each month. We’ll call it:

Tune-Up on Twenty

Tune-Up on Twenty will remind you of three things to start with:

• Sewing machine: weekly or more by you; annually by a technician
• Sewing machine needle change-out
• Rotary cutter blade change-out

1. Sewing Machine: Clean, Oil, Adjust

Regular cleaning by you includes using a small soft brush or cotton swab to gently and carefully remove lint buildup from under the throat plate and around the bobbin case. Check your manual for more detail. Use a bit of canned air to blow out the hidden bits unless it is not recommended by your manufacturer—it’s a good idea to check with them.

k4384193 Tune Up on Twenty: Sewing Maintenance

Following the instructions in your manual, oil the machine. A needle-nose tip (shown below) on the oil works much better than a regular tip because it applies a smaller drop exactly where you want it. It’s well worth the few dollars it costs.


repair10 Tune Up on Twenty: Sewing Maintenance

Oil bottle with needle-nose tip for your sewing machine

If you sew on a regular basis, take your machine to a dealer/technician for a routine clean/oil/adjust annually. Some computerized machines will alert you when it’s time for maintenance. I have found that routine maintenance is much better than emergency maintenance, which always happens at the worst possible time.

MH900287136 Tune Up on Twenty: Sewing Maintenance

When I lived in a city, there was quite a wait for the repairman to do a COA (clean/oil/adjust). I had only one machine and could not be without it for two weeks, so I would take my machine in when I was going to be out of town for a week or more. If I didn’t have any trips planned, I would make an appointment for the COA. That way I could drop it off, the technician could work on it right away, and I could have it back within a day or two.

When your machine is serviced, mark your calendar for one year down the road so you remember to do it again. A friend commented to me, “I’m always so surprised when the dealer says I haven’t had it in for four years. I could swear it was just a year ago!” Time flies when you’re having fun.

2. Sewing Machine Needle Change-Out

This could be considered part of regular maintenance but we’ll remind you separately because it’s so important. Recommendations for how often you should change the needle vary from four hours to 12 hours, or between every project. If you’re sewing for eight or more hours a day, consider changing the needle daily. It’s better to err on the side of changing too often. For most people, changing after each project or after two projects is adequate.

MH900281301 Tune Up on Twenty: Sewing Maintenance

Have you heard the one about the quilter whose machine was skipping stitches? She called the repairman and explained what was happening. He asked, “When was the last time you changed the needle?” She answered, “Mister, I put a new needle in here 30 years ago and as long as it’s still working, I see no reason to change it.”

Buy needles on sale or ask your local quilt shop about buying them in bulk. You might save considerably.

3. Rotary Cutter Blade Change-Out

Every time I change my rotary cutter blade and the new one is slicing as if through butter, I wonder, “Why did I wait so long to change it?!” Do yourself a favor and save your arms, shoulders and back. Change that blade! If you can’t remember the last time you changed it, it’s probably time for a new one.

 Tune Up on Twenty: Sewing Maintenance

Blades can be expensive, so I buy the largest package of them I can find, on sale. This takes the price-per-blade down considerably—so I can change the blades often and without guilt. You’ll be glad you gave yourself the luxury of a sharp rotary blade.

*     *     *     *     *

Now you’re set. You’re…

Tuned-Up on Twenty!

If you missed it yesterday, read the post about my sewing machine repairman and how I got the idea for Tuned-Up on Twenty.

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: editor@quiltmaker.com.
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5 Responses to Tune-Up on Twenty: Sewing Maintenance

  1. Paccana says:

    Wow this is so helpful, thank you for sharing this :)

  2. betty drake says:

    I use those small pointed brushes made to “floss” your teeth. They work great to get in those small spaces to pick up the lint.

  3. Jean says:

    Please, please don’t use canned air on your sewing machine. On a blog I follow the lady that works on sewing machines showed the inside of the machine that had had canned air blown into it, and there was a thick coat of lint covering everything. It was horrible to see. Canned air will have some moisture in it, and it pushes lint very far back into the machine. A BIG NO NO!!!!
    It would be better to use a vacuum, but I don’t know where to buy the small attachments that would fit on regular vacuum, and then into the sewing machine. I could use some help on that, but I plan to ask at my LQS.

  4. Barb J says:

    I use a child’s watercolor paint brush to clear the lint from the area under and around the bobbin. They are long enough and narrow enough to reach into the nooks and crannies, and the lint sticks to the bristles so that it doesn’t get knocked loose and fall down into the bottom.

  5. It’s amazing the amount of lint that can be picked up with the mascara wands that I use to clean my machines. While the wands can be re-used, I still grab a new one every few months to use in the bobbin area.

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