I cannot stress enough the importance of machine maintenance. As I was piecing last night on my Janome - Sonia, as I've named her, I could hear her struggling.
I could actually hear the needle struggling to break through the fabric and make the stitch. She had been struggling for quite a while so when I ran out of top thread I decided - it's time to give her some TLC and change the needle.
For anyone who needs a real basic Step by Step tutorial I will be happy to show them how to clean their machine. Just bring it into the store and we can work on it together. Once you get the hang of it, it is truly not intimidating and will definitely prolong the life of your machine.
1. With most machines you receive a small screwdriver or similar device. Use it to unscrew the top plate on your bobbin case/feed dogs. Once you take the plate off - you will no doubt see the dust/felt that has accumulated underneath. Remove this top layer of dust/felt with a brush, some machines come with one, or a Q-Tip - I keep a box with my sewing tools.
The dust/felt is caused by thread and fabric - it is lint which forms as the needle is running through your fabric and thread. Just like dust in your home, except under the "cabinet" as opposed to where you can see it. This is the worst kind because for alot of us - what we don't see, we ignore.
2. Once you've removed the top layer of dust/felt, you need to remove the bobbin case so that you can clean the areas that are hidden by the bobbin case.
3. Although the brush works well - at this point I suggest a Q-Tip and don't be stingy - use as many as you need to get into all the nooks and crannies and really clear out that dust/felt. The cleaner your machine, the happier your machine will be.
4. As you can see by the picture below - there is alot of dust/felt that builds up - don't forget to clear your feed dogs too. That is one place it really builds up. If you look closely you can still see another piece of dust I missed....back in, until I'm satisfied I've got it all and the Q-Tip is your best friend here because it's flexibility allows you to dig down without compromising any moving parts on your machine. Be gentle but firm.
5. Finally, I am ready to re-assemble the bobbin case and screw the top plate back on and Sonia is truly happy....Once I started sewing again, I could hear the difference.
Please note - the bobbin case should drop into place easily - do not force it! If something doesn't sound right when you start to sew - then stop! Go to your manual or call a friend but, honestly, once a machine is cleaned it should purr like a kitten. If it doesn't - there is something wrong and if you can't figure out what the problem is then you should - a) Call a friend b) Take it to a professional c) Stop use until the problem is solved.
The above photos deal with a top loading bobbin! There are many machines that have this type of bobbin. The same information applies to a bottom loading bobbin and before I start quilting my next project I will do a quick clean on my Bernina so you can see how that type of machine is done.
How often should you clean your machine?
How much do you use it, or how long has it been since you used it should be your first questions. I use Sonia for 90% of my piecing projects and since I own a quilt store I'm piecing pretty often. My rule of thumb for my Janome is after every Queen Size quilt top - so that means, after every two crib size tops or every two lap size tops - I usually change needles then too.
Or, when the machine lets me know that it needs to be cleaned, like last night. I really had to think back when the last time was the machine was cleaned and I also noticed that the project I was working on seemed to be producing alot of "lint". That is a sure sign that a cleaning is in order.
I also have my machines, all of them, professionally serviced at least once every 6th months. I base this on usage. Before I owned Cock-A-Doodle Quilts I used to have it done yearly, which was more than enough. Even with my vigilant cleaning there are places I can't get to that need to be cleaned and maintained - this is best left to the professionals.
Hope that this is of some help to you all. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to call us. We may be able to answer you over the phone or you can make any appointment to bring the machine by and we can take a look.
Don't forget that we also offer Machine Service - Zack will come in and repair, clean and maintain your machine for a very reasonable charge, and it doesn't take long. Usually only a day or two. Why not schedule it when you are planning to go away so you won't miss your machine and when you get back your machine will be good as new.