01 March 2012

Adventures in Machine Maintenance

Machine Maintenance, perhaps not the most alluring topic, but it can be adventurous.  Who doesn't love using tools?  Even innocuous tools like screw drivers are fun to use, then there's taking things apart and putting them back together, woo hoo!  
Adventure aside, taking care of your machine ensures that your machine is up to the task when needed, that you get the best results possible and extends the life of your hardworking sewing companion.
Below you'll find the disassembly of a machine of each bobbin style; front loading (oscillating) and drop in bobbin (rotary).  Each machine is different, so you'll need to consult your manual and local repair professional for the specifics of your machine.  
I consulted Harlin of Frank's Vacuum & Sewing in Montrose CA.

Here's what Harlin had to say about at home machine maintenance.
R:  How often should the machine owner perform basic cleaning?
H:  Every 72 working hours, or as needed after particularly fuzzy/linty fabrics.
R:  Is there anything that should never be done by the machine owner?
H:  Never use cooking oil as a lubricant; don't loosen or tighten screws indiscriminately.
Harlin's best tips for general maintenance:  
1. Use a brush with stiff bristles, a tooth brush can do the job.
2. If you use canned air allow time for the machine to dry before putting away.
3. Oil after 72 working hours, where metal rubs metal (consult your manual).

The tools you'll need:  a cleaning brush, screw driver, oil (if necessary for your machine) and a soft dry cloth.
Oiling is specific to each machine, so consult your manual or local professional.  I'll skip the oiling for this reason and focus on the cleaning.

We'll start with the Front Loader or Oscillating Bobbin machine, this is my Bernina 910, which I bought when I was 17 yrs old, she has been a loyal sewing companion for almost 30 years.

Remove the Throat Plate.  Most machines require the use of a screw driver.

Look at all that lint and gunk!

Remove the Race Cover.  The race cover in your machine may not be hinged to your machine, it may come out completely.
Remove the Bobbin Case.
Remove the Hook.

Brush out all the Lint and Gunk.  Use canned air if you like, but the brush is most affective. NEVER blow into the machine as your breath will leave behind moisture.  Remember to clean above the needle, too.

Drop In or Rotary Bobbin machine; a Janome Sewist 500.

Remove the Bobbin.  Not too bad in here.
Remove the Bobbin Case.

Whoa!  Look what was hiding under the bobbin case!

Super Clean!

Naturally, you'll need to put it all back together when finished; your trusty machine will love you for it!
I use a soft dry cloth to clean the outside of the machine, which gets as dirty as the insides.
Leave me some comments and let me know how your Machine Maintenance Adventure turns out.

Up next:  Creating your own Technique Notebook...


  1. My mom always stressed keeping the sewing machine clean, and I've followed that advice.

    What I didn't know, however, was how often to oil the machine. Thanks for the info.

    This is good, practical stuff, Rebecca.

  2. This is a great tutorial - I appreciate all the work you put into this and it is great information. :)