Love Your Sewing Machine

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How many of us take the time to keep our sewing machines in perfect running order? How many of us even know the basics of sewing machine maintenance – where to oil, how often to change needles and what type of needles to use for what fabric, or how to clean the tension unit?

I learned a little bit about where to oil my machine during the crafty sewing classes I took at the local store where I bought my machine.  I showed up for class one month with a very squeaky machine.   It’s awful to look back and think that I let my machine get to that point without even realizing it.  It happened so slowly over time that I just forget my machine wasn’t always that loud!  My instructor asked me how often I oiled my machine.  I didn’t even know I was supposed to oil my machine.  She told me where I should place a drop of oil, and when I got home with my brand new bottle of oil, I did my best to interpret her instructions.

That class also taught me a lot about how often to change needles and what size needles to use for different types of woven fabrics, but it was actually the online sewing community that taught me to use ballpoint needles for knits.

But, how to clean my tension unit?  I didn’t even know I was supposed to clean my tension unit until just this past week!  I was recently asked to review the DIY Household Sewing Machine app for iPhone, iPad, and iPad mini, and I found this piece of advice well worth the cost ($0.99).  Not to mention that I realized from the app’s included videos that I hadn’t been placing the oil in the shuttle quite right.  My interpretation of my sewing instructor’s directions was close enough, but I liked seeing it done “in person”.

Let me tell you a bit about the small business behind this app.  Well, more like the man behind the app.  Mr. DIY Household Sewing Machine, Gordon Carr, has been a sewing machine mechanic for 52 years.  He worked his way up from a junior mechanic at the Singer Sewing Machine Company, quickly branching into sales and becoming a top-selling dealer.  His success scored him several trips to Japan to study assembly lines at the Janome Sewing Machine Factory in 1978 and 1982 and to improve and modify the Toyota Sewing Machines and Overlockers in 1988 and 1989.  After this last trip he decided to start his own business servicing, repairing, and rebuilding sewing machines and overlockers, and his success has continued as he comes highly recommended by all of the major sewing machine brands including Janome, Bernina, Husquarna, Pfaff, Elna, and Toyota.  To this day he keeps up to date on new machines by going to the seminars and workshops offered by the brands themselves.  And, this man knows his stuff:  if Janome’s factory mechanics can’t fix a machine, they usually send it to him.

Recently, Gordon started running short seminars in fabric shops, high schools, universities, and community centers around Australia to help people learn how to maintain their sewing machines and overlockers.  His customers kept asking for a way to take the lessons home with them, and they talked him into making this app.  The app contains the basic information from the class (but obviously can’t go into detail about individual machines the same way you could in a seminar).  When you open it up, you are quickly taken to a main menu that includes two choices:  front-loading machines and top-loading machines.  But, instead of being a simple text menu, the app takes advantage of cute digital sewing machines to illustrate the two types of machines.  Clicking either of those will take you to a submenu with three choices, again through illustrations:  (A) bobbin and shuttle, (B) needle, and (C) the tension unit.  Inside each of those it yet another menu that includes video instructions where you actually get to see Gordon at work, animation instructions that take advantage their digital sewing machines, and text instructions where everything is written out for you (these also often include extra nuggets of useful information).  It’s straightforward and to the point, and I agree with Gordon’s customers who knew it would be incredibly handy to have this information on hand when you’re at your machine.  I’ve checked the app out on both an iPhone and an iPad, and it works exactly the same for both gadgets.

So, if you’re like me and fall into the camp of someone who loves your sewing machine but doesn’t quite know how to show it that love and you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPad mini, then the DIY Household Sewing Machine app is for you.  You’ll have the basics straight from an expert in the palm of your hand.

Now, Mr. DIY Household Sewing Machine who-is-also-an-expert-on-overlockers, can we please have an app for our overlockers as well?!

Do share – how are your sewing machine maintenance habits, what are your favorite sewing-related apps, and what kind of apps would you like to see come out in the future?

As a note, though all of the opinions expressed in this post are my own, I received a small amount of financial compensation from the app developer.

18 thoughts on “Love Your Sewing Machine

    1. I know. Sometimes it’s scary. And, after I swept the fluff out, I used to blow to get the rest of the little stuff out. It turns out I shouldn’t have been doing that! The app says it can cause condensation and ultimately corrosion inside the machine. Scary stuff!

  1. My machine is a 1952 Singer 201K. I renovated it when I got it (it was in a very sorry state), and I clean and oil it regularly. As per the manual, it is oiled just a little every time it is used. It is stripped down and cleaned after any big sewing project, especially if it involves fake fur or something like that. It isn’t hard to make modern sewing patterns work on this machine. It takes a little thought sometimes and a very few things need to be done slightly differently, but not much.

    1. Oh my! That sounds wonderful but crazy all at the same time. I lost my Grandma’s old Singer. It was a sad day when I went down to the storage unit and saw it was missing. One of these days when I have the space I might look for a similar one…

  2. My maintenance habits are non existent! I bought this app within seconds of finishing this post, because I totally agree that it’s easier to follow what someone is doing via video. And I love to support small businesses when I can.

    1. Hooray! I hope you find useful tidbits in the app that will start a regular maintenance routine for you. I know I’ve already taken out the oil and brush as well as changed the needle since first watching the videos.

  3. I never oil my machine, mostly because it gets a service once a year, they told me not to do it. If I ever run into any problems I can walk in there without a problem and they clean it, fix it or help me get the tension right again. I do clean it regularly with a micro set for vacuum machine to get all the fluff and dust out. Needle changes happen quite often.

  4. I think my machine manual says it is self-oiling?!?? Is that even possible? And I have never oiled any of my past machines, which I know is very bad. I am going to download this app even if my latest machine is magic 😉

      1. My mother bought it for me a year ago, and it is pretty fancy and has like, a million scary buttons. It was *very* generous of her, but honestly I would have preferred a manual machine instead!

  5. I am probably one of the few people in this world without a smart phone! I will have to check out what is available for my laptop though because that is always in the sewing room and I do need help oiling my machine. Fortunately for it I send it in for an annual’ish service.

    Now, how to get the kids to eat more fruit? Hmmmm LOL.

  6. At that price I’m just going to buy it. I’m sure I’ll learn something useful. Even perhaps the motivation to clean mine. I have a Janome that doesn’t need oiling but I’ve never cleaned the tension thingo… Ahhh it’s 18 yrs old. I have a 1920’s Singer which I do need to give a good clean. It still works beautifully. I don’t trust it anyone local so it’s just me working on that one. I’m sure the app will help with the Singer

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