Clean Your Machine: A True Confession


When your feed dogs stop feeding, it might be time to clean your machine!

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Clean Your Machine: A True Confession

When your feed dogs stop feeding, it might be time to clean your machine!

Clean Your Machine: A True Confession


Even though I have 4 sewing machines at home, I only take one on the road when we are travelling in the RV. This is my second best machine – the one my husband uses most of the time. I was working on a gift yesterday when my feed dogs wouldn't feed the fabric no matter how I persuaded it. My first approach to any problem is to unthread and rethread both the bobbin and the upper thread. Nope! So, I opened the machine and saw a dust bunny the size of Chicago!



The machine needed cleaning. Some people recommend cleaning your sewing machine every ten hours of sewing. Well, if you sew often, you should at least look at it weekly. Definitely, monthly! Remember that the type of cloth you have been sewing on has a profound effect on the amount of dust. Think velvet or fleece.



So, if you haven't done so before, maybe you need to review your manual on cleaning. First, it will tell you to unplug the machine. There really is a reason for this. Can you imagine if your cat steps on the foot pedal and the machine starts while your fingers are in there! Some recommend that the needle be in upper position when you work on the machine.


You will need tools. There are appropriate and inappropriate tools for every job. You will need a brush, a screwdriver, and maybe some long-handled tweezers. Sometimes both the hard brush that comes with your machine and a soft cosmetic brush are needed. A pipe cleaner is cheap and often useful.


NEVER use compressed air on your regular sewing machine. You will only blow the dust into the heart of your machine and it will soon need professional service. Some folks recommend a mini-vacuum, but some worry that you may remove a screw or other useful part with the vacuum.


Get all the lint out of the feed dogs. This lint can be very compressed, so you must be careful to push it out without dropping it into the machine.



Remove the bobbin housing and carefully brush out the lint. You may also gently wipe the housing with a cloth when out of the machine. If you have trouble remembering how to put it back in, a quick phone photo should give you a memory aid.



While you are working on your machine, why not change your needle? I bet none of us conform to the recommendation of changing the needle for every 8 hours of sewing. Do you only change it when it breaks or snags the fabric?


Here are two other notes: Use your dust cover! (husband, are you listening?) And have your machine professional serviced annually.


What's your cleaning confession?


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A spool or reel that holds thread or yarn for spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, or making lace.
Feed Dogs
The mechanical teeth under the area of a sewing machine which move to pull the fabric through the machine. For free motion quilting or embroidery or needle darning these feed dogs are lowered or covered.
Accessories that are available for sewing machines and are especially made for quilting.
Debi Warner
Author and humorist, Debi Warner, retired after many years as a clinical librarian and information specialist. She has her Master’s in Library and Information Science and achieved a Distinguished level in the Medical Library Association’s Association of Health Information Professionals. She has worked on teaching physicians to use computers and electronic resources. She also worked on several grants teaching the public how to use the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus public database and is co-author of several articles on health literacy. She took up quilting after retirement in 2012 and chaired the Rio Grande Valley Quilt Show in 2019. She currently teaches several quilting classes over Zoom and writes for QuiltingHub.
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