5,000 Mile Tune Up

A spool of thread is 300 yards, a cone is 3,000 yards and a mile is 1,760 yards.  How many miles have you sewn?

All machines should be on a regular maintenance schedule. If you sew a lot, oil once a week. Even if you don't sew very frequently clean and oil at least once a month. Keep a calendar near the machine and make reminder notes for better care. Carefully read the instruction book that came with the serger or sewing machine for oiling information. If the book has become lost it can be ordered through a dealer or from the machine company. Proper care and maintenance can prevent costly repairs and down time. The two major causes of serger and sewing machine failure are lint build up and lack of oil.

Only use quality sewing machine oil. If you have had the same bottle of oil for several years it is breaking down. It is still good for door hinges and other house hold jobs, but not the machine. New fresh oil is an inexpensive purchase to protect from costly repairs. Oil the machine exactly as the instructions are written. To much oil can be as bad as to little. Excess oil will help the lint stick to the inside of the machine. Use a cotton swab or fabric scrap to wipe up any excess oil. After oiling be sure to sew on scrap fabric for a couple of feet. The fabric will wipe any excess oil from the feed dogs and the thread will pick up any oil around the bobbin race. Oiling and cleaning should be done at the same time. 

The best way to clean the insides of a machine is to vacuum. Use the crevasse tool and suck all of the lint out of the sewing machine. There is a special attachment that fits on the vacuum hose that has mini tools. It gets into the small places even better. Don't blow into a machine to get the lint out, your breath is wet and puts moisture in to the machine. Blowing only forces lint deeper into the body of the machine. Don't use 'canned air' to clean the machine. It blows the lint back into the body of the machine even better than your breath. The 'canned air' is also freezing cold. It has caused gears and other parts to crack. Remove the stitch plate and use a brush to get all of the fuzz out of the feed dogs and other areas. If the brush is getting old or has been lost, purchase a new one at your machine dealer or fabric store. Once the inside is clean take care of the outside.

Never spray any cleaner on the outside of the machine. There are to many openings where the spray can leak in. Just put a little household cleaner on a soft rag and wipe down the outside of the machine. While cleaning check the thread path and make sure there are no burrs or snags that could wear on the thread. All of the places that the thread goes through before it gets to the needle are part of the tension for the top thread. They must be clean and smooth.

When you are going on vacation take the machine to the shop for a cleaning and tune up. When you get back, all rested and ready to sew, the machine will feel the same way. Like cars, sewing machines need to have their timing checked and other adjustments made. How often this service is needed depends on the milage , every year for a daily sewer or every 3-4 years if used less frequently. If the machine is not running properly take it in for repair as soon as possible. There are times when it is just isn't possible to fix an old machine. We become attached to our machines because of the many creative hours we have spent with them. I have seen women get very upset when the repair technician tells them that their machine can't be fixed. Just like a car, they can come to the end of their life span. 

If your serger or sewing machine is more than twenty years old, consider getting a new machine. They can do a lot of tricks that the old ones never dreamed of. Many sewers think that they will never use the 'fancy stuff' until they have it and discover how easy it is to add the special effects. Purchasing a machine from a dealer is better than buying from a retail store. Go to the different dealers and test drive the machines, just like you would a car, to find the one that you like the best. Most dealers have classes and on going support and they are easier to work with if there are problems later. Some will take an old machine, depending on the make model and condition, as trade in. 

If your old machine is still running when you get a new one, consider donating it to someone who could use it. Is there a young person in your life who could use a basic machine to learn to sew? How about someone in your club who would like to make square dance clothes? Sewing is a love and a life skill that we can share. By teaching others we also learn, enriching ourselves and our community. 

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