Whether you're a professional sewist, or just enjoy sewing as a hobby, the last thing you want is a sewing machine breakdown. Even if it's a relatively simple fix, it still takes time and energy you'd rather be spending on your projects; at worst, you can completely ruin your sewing machine. The key to keeping your machine in tip top shape is regular maintenance and proper use. Here are a few tips and tricks to avoiding those sewing machine meltdowns.
Read the manual
This one might sound a bit basic, but really it's the key to getting the most out of your machine. The manual will give you all kinds of specifications, plus troubleshooting recommendations and maybe even some features you wouldn't have known about otherwise. Read through the entire manual before getting started, taking note of the basic use instructions (such as the threading diagram) as well as any recommended routine maintenance.
Use the right sewing machine for your project
Not every sewing machine is well suited to every task, and trying to use a machine on less than optimal material will unfailingly result in a less than stellar finish and extra wear and tear on your machine. This is most noticeable when trying to sew materials that are too thick or tough for your sewing machine. You'll likely notice skipped stitches, broken threads, and potentially even blunted, bent, or broken needles. This is just the visible indication of damage you're doing to the inner working of your machine as well. Always test the material you plan to sew first. If you think it might be too much for your machine, you may want to find an alternative.
Don't use damaged equipment
This is a bit like driving your car with a warning light on, or when it keeps making a funny noise every time you turn left. Clearly, something's not right, even if it's getting you from point A to point B, and by the time you do take it to be repaired, you've probably done even more damage than was originally present. If your sewing machine starts acting strangely, and the problem isn't resolved by trying the manual's troubleshooting options, stop using it immediately and make an appointment to have it looked over by an expert. Not only can it save you money on repairs, but it can also save you the hassle of having to re-make a project that's ruined when your machine goes unexpectedly haywire.
Use the proper accessories and attachments
There are so many handy attachments for your sewing machine—just think of all the different presser foot options available! But using attachments designed for a different machine can cause serious issues. They're likely to give poor results, and can also cause irrepairable damage to either the accessory or the machine in the process. Always check with the manufacturer of both products to make sure they're compatible.
Another factor to keep an eye on is even more basic than attachments. Are you using the proper needles for your project? And the proper thread to go with it? Using the wrong needle, or neglecting to change it out for a fresh one between projects, makes your sewing machine's job much harder, and can lead to broken needles and even worse damage. Use this handy guide to make sure you've got the proper needles on hand for your next project. Different needles also call for different threads. Using thread that's too coarse or heavy can cause it to shred or break, leading to missed stitches and lint build up inside your sewing machine.
Keep it clean
Lint and bits of broken thread and fibre build up incredibly quickly inside your sewing machine, especially if you're sewing fabric with pile like velvet, minky, or faux fur. When you change out the needle in between projects, take some time to clean your sewing machine, following the manufacturer's instructions. You'll typically want some basic cleaning equipment, like a lint-free cloth, but also some specialty items, like a small paintbrush to reach into cracks and crevices. You might also need some basic tools to remove covers and guards to clean beneath them. Only do this if your manual instructs it, however; taking apart your sewing machine, and, more importantly, putting it back together, isn't a job for the novice. Avoid using compressed air, as this can actually drive lint further into the machine where it's more difficult to remove. For some more basic sewing machine maintenance tips and tricks, check out this tutorial!
Take it for a tune-up
A regular check up is always a good idea for your sewing machine. For example, getting the timing adjusted can reduce skipped stitches and make sure your results are perfectly consistent. This is especially important for sewists who make items to sell, or clothing items that are closely fitted. A bit of error here and there can quickly add up, so it's best if you can nip those errors in the bud and have your sewing machine looked over by a professional once a year or so. They can also give it a thorough deep cleaning to make sure there are no pesky dust bunnies building up in the cracks.
If you don't have a regular repair service, ask at your local sewing shop or contact other local sewists or sewing clubs. They can likely recommend someone who is well versed in any issues you may be having, and who specialize in sewing machines like yours. Always check with the technician before turning your machine over to make sure they have any necessary certification to work on your brand of sewing machines. Unauthorized repair service can invalidate warranties and other manufacturer-provided guarantees.
It doesn't take much to keep your sewing machine running well, but neglecting a regular maintenance routine can cause you lots of trouble later on. Take the time now to make sure you're using your the right equipment, that you're following the instructions to use it properly, and that you're keeping it clean and well maintained. That's all you need to help your sewing machine keep up with you for years to come.