Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sewing Machine Maintenance

"My name is Michelle, and I have a sewing machine addiction." I haunt the thrift stores, and 'almost' every sewing machine I find, ends up coming home with me. I just can't leave them there, although, I am much better than I used to be. I have to 'adopt' them. I have 'doctored' MANY machines, and I can tell you, unless your machine has a broken nylon gear, don't bury it alive! Those old machines are meant to live forever! You don't need to take it to the shop! You can fix it yourself.

Reading a fellow blogger's post prompted me to write this reply to her, and I decided to post it for all to see, so old sewing machines, and your lifelong friends don't get traded in, or get buried alive before their time! Old sewing machines were made with precision, and were meant to live forever. Replacement parts are still available, either through your dealer, or through internet businesses, or ebay, for almost anything you need. Note: Please disregard the duct tape part of the message, unless your machine is held together with such tape!

I have made a simple, and I hope thorough list of things you can do yourself, and these things are what you pay your technician to do. *This is what they call, Timing* (Timing, actually, is when your needle will not pick up a thread, and all that has happened, is that your needle bar has been hit too hard, and pushed up into the machine, and your needle cannot reach the bobbin thread. This too can be fixed by you, and if you need instructions, contract me, and I will tell you how.) Unless electronics are involved, simple machines can be maintained by YOU. Think of the fabric, tools, books, and notions you can buy with the money you save, by fixing and maintaining your machine yourself!

First of all, REMOVE the duct tape and use some super glue to fix the spool pin. These machines do have feelings, and you don't want it feeling like a 'nerd with duct tape on his glasses', for pete's sake!

Second, remove the top of the machine, (there should be two big screws on the top securing it) and add oil to the moving parts. Where you see old grease, take a Qtip and remove the old gunky grease and if you don't have regular sewing machine 'grease', use a bit of vaseline. Move the handwheel, or run the foot control to make sure you get the new lubricant to go to the correct places. If it sounds loud, keep looking for moving joints and add a drop of oil until it quiets down.

Next, remove the throat plate and remove all the lint, check for hidden pieces of broken off short threads, and remove them. Sometimes if you move the handwheel, and look carefully, you will see a piece of thread hiding.

Next, change the needle. Bad needles will make stitches skip. If you have some canned air, GENTLY blow between the tension discs on the front of your machine, or use some thread or floss to clean them out. Swing the end door open, where the needle and pressure bar go up and down, and add a drop of oil where the shaft goes through the hole, and a drop of oil on all the movement pieces. Now, put the top back on, shut the end door, and add a drop of oil to every little oil hole on the machine you can find.

Next, take the bottom off of the machine and do the same thing as you did on the top of the machine. De-lint, and add a drop of oil on every moving part and joint, but NOT on any nylon gears. Metal gears, yes, add a drop of oil, or if you see there has been grease, remove the old hard black grease and put some fresh new vaseline or sewing machine grease. Run the foot control and look, to find every moving piece. If you hear something clicking or sounding loud, keep looking, and keep adding a drop of oil here and there until it sounds better. Put the bottom back on, and set it back upright. Now just run it for a little bit, unthreaded and let the oil soak in.

Tell me....does it sound better? Rethread it, and test sew, but on some old scrap fabric,for a bit, in case traces of oil creep out. Does it sew better?

For the final step, wipe it down good with nice soapy water, (sometimes, I use foaming window cleaner and a soft cloth) and polish it with some furniture polish, or kitchen polish you use on countertops and appliances. Once it is nice and clean, shiny and happy, and runs and sounds good, give it a hug, tell it how much you LOVE it, and what good FRIENDS you are, and put a nice cheery sticker or two on it, and enjoy it for many years to come!



Jen said...

WOW, I'm about to fall off my chair because you posted! It's been too long!

You've got so much good info! I think I'll have to bring out my old singer and take a look under the hood. And when I screw it up, I'll be bringing it with me so you can show me where I went wrong. =)

I'm sooo excited about saturday!!

Elly D said...

Hello Michelle, pleased to 'meet' you. Thank you for the tutorial on cleaning up vintage machines. I too am a bit of an addict. I love your blog heading picture. You have some really cute machines. I love the pink ones too though I haven't come across any here. One day maybe ;)
My small collection is of Singers with one Jones and one old German model. It all started when I was looking to find myself a treadle machine. :)) I'm still in the learning process when it comes to getting them working but I am getting there slowly with all the wonderful help of people like yourself willing to share their knowledge. I realized I can do this when I worked out how to fix and sew with the old German model which has the old type of boat shuttle bobbins. I finally found my treadle, had to travel with an overnight stay to collect it. A while later another landed in my lap from a local charity shop. Okay, I seem to be writing a novel. :)) Look forward to reading more of your adventures. Elly


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