When did you last clean your sewing machine? Yes, you, you at the back there trying to slide under the table, I see you! I know that cleaning is a dirty word for us creatives, but I’m not asking you to clean the house top to bottom here (although if that thought excites you, feel free to pop round)
If it helps you to feel better, I’ll start with a confession. The first sewing machine I ever owned I inherited from my gran when I was at uni. It was a fairly basic one from the 80s, but it was pretty sturdy (which, as it turned out, it had to be), and it didn’t come with a manual. I say that last bit because if it had, when it eventually started behaving a little peculiarly, I might have read the manual and started taking it apart to work out what was wrong. What was wrong was that I’d sewn so many fleece garments on it, the poor thing was probably choking with every stitch, but I say that in retrospect as it got banished to the loft when I got Little Brother about 9 years ago. Little Brother didn’t get much of a look in in the cleaning department initially either, and he sewed a lot of bears, some clothes and some fleece, but when I got Big Brother I thought if I was spending a good chunk of cash on it, I might as well learn how to really maintain him, which is how I came to read his manual and learn that lo, one was supposed to evict the dust bunnies on a regular basis. Who knew? (I’m also going to confess that my mother e-mailed me after the seam ripping incident last week and told me that had I listened to her I’d have learned how to use one considerably earlier in my life, so she may pipe up here!)
Anyway, I now absolve you of your sins, and will walk you through some toe-curling and hair raising photos of machines wot haven’t been cleaned…
For those of you who are curious, here are my weapons of choice. The wee one came with Big Brother, the other one I got from eBay for a couple of quid (I have several actually, this is an unused one, the used ones are considerably grubbier!). They work because the nylon bristles get a static charge which attracts the fluff, so try and make sure those bits don’t get too greasy:
I’m going to start with a wee tour of Big Brother. I try and clean him out after every project that involves batting or very fluff inducing fabrics. He’d been cleaned before my last project, but as I’d just done the wee red quilted project that I showed you a bit of last Wednesday, I thought I’d check again for you:
He doesn’t look too terribly bad here, but I still got all this out of him:
If I’m doing a really deep clean, which happens about once ever 6 months or so, I take off his free arm and then the cover of the bit to the left of the bobbin area:
I take off that plate on top as well – beware if you’re going to go deeper like this, and remember where you got everything so it goes back the right way! This is the threadcutter bit, and it can get really choked up, although it’s not really too bad here, I didn’t get much out of this bit.
It takes me all of about 5 minutes to do a basic spa session around the main area, and about 10 minutes if I take off the side cover (I also clean under the bobbin area when I do this bit), so it’s not time consuming and really, your machine will thank you for it.
Next we have the Singer 222k that I bought in the summer. Like many of the vintage machines that you see dotted around eBay, estate sales and the local charity shop, this poor machine, having started a life with some kind of excitement (there’s the remains of a 1950’s style luggage sticker on the case), it was then banished, unworking, to the back of a cupboard or something.
This is the bobbin case area – please note the copious amounts of fluffy stuff top and bottom:
This is the crud that came out of there:
Then I took off the needle plate – yikes, I’m surprised those feed dogs moved at all:
Between that bit and some excavations underneath from removing the drip pan, I got this out – the thread was wrapped around the back of the bobbin case, it would probably have stopped the machine from working, but I cleaned it before I turned it on!:
Oh, but don’t let that fluff fool you, let’s have a look at the other nasty gunk that was in there – eww! That all got cleaned off and some new, non green and stinky, lubricant was applied:
So now you know why my poor 222k was christened Fuzzy Wuzzy. Funnily enough my 221s weren’t fluffy when they arrived, but 2 did need threadectomies!
Now off you pop, find that wee brush that you never knew what to do with that came with your machine and go and evict those dust bunnies!
Lazy me here I was using a can of compressed air to rid the nooks and crannies of dust bunnies. Guess I should do a thorough eviction from the hidden hidey holes before my next bout of marathon sewing. Your machines must purr like kittens what with all the attention they get. ;o)
Hindsight is a wonderful gift, they say, but in this case, foresight would have been a great asset too because, when you were chronologically much younger than you are now, I used to use my old Jones sewing machine quite a lot, but, as you never evinced any interest in that activity, we never spent any time together looking at its workings. Since your maternal grandfather had first acquired his engineering expertise as a sewing machine mechanic, regular defluffing and lubrication were dinned into me at an early age when using your gran’s old Singer, however, as you have discovered it’s never too late to learn and I’m sure Pappa would be proud of the TLC you expend these days on your current collection.
Thanks for the reminder – I should really tackle mine (and also give my overlocker some attention…)
Good advice! It’s amazing how gross it can get! I clean out the bobbin area every time I change a bobbin. I get the screwdriver out less frequently but often enough!
I know it’s weird, but I love cleaning out my sewing machine. I love doing a total tidy up of my sewing space after each major project, too. I think it’s more mental than anything else, but my machine probably appreciates it.
My bernina reminds me regularly to clean it by becoming loud and sounding like a train chugging through my sewing room! But wow – i can’t believe all the gunk that came out of that vintage machine!!`
I clean my machine regularly, but it’s been a few months since I oiled it (although it’s probably been used for less than twenty hours in those months) so the next time I’m in my sewing room, I shall oil it as a tribute to poor Fuzzy Wuzzy and his stinky green gunk.
Drat, I thought I was hidden at the back of the class!!! To be fair my big brother was taken apart by the two if us the other Sunday and we cleaner loads of fluff and thread out!