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Care for Your Sewing Machine

Here is a helpful list of some general Care, Tips and Troubleshooting for Sewing Machines.

General Care:

  • The knowledge and care with which the sewing machine is handled determines to some extent the pleasure and satisfaction in its use as well as the service that it renders.
  • Many fabrics, when sewed, drop lint and particles of filler.
  • These, with dust moisture from the air, all work together on the sewing machine to create a film that is best removed from time to time.
  • A good craftsman in meticulous in the care of his tools.
  • When the sewing machine is used all day and every day, it should be oiled every day. When used less continuously, a weekly oiling is usually adequate.
  • Oil is never place on the machine before the dust and lint are removed.
  • The sewing machine instruction book carries diagrams for procedures for oiling the machine being used.
  • It is best to devote some study to these diagrams while the machine is new to avoid overlooking any of the points indicated.
  • Oil keeps the sewing machine running freely, preventing friction and wear.
  • A sewing machine, like all other machinery, will not give proper satisfaction if the working parts are allowed to become dry or gummed with a poor grade of oil.
  • A sewing machine that has not received the proper care will run hard and considerable energy is wasted by using a machine in this condition.
  • Always remove dust, lint, thread,etc.,especially in and around the shuttle race, before oiling any part of the machine or stand.
  • Keep the machine covered when not in use, dust is hard on machinery parts.
  • When you store the machine with the pressure foot down, keep a piece of material between the pressure foot and the sharp feed dogs to protect the pressure foot.


Removal of Dust & Lint:

  • Expose the moving part of the sewing machine by removing the throat plate, the face plate, the slide plate, and the bobbin case assembly.
  • The lint and dust particles are best remover with a small brush reserved for cleaning purposes.
  • A hand vacuum cleaner is invaluable for taking away the dust and lint that eludes the brush or that is merely dislodge by it.
  • The round cover plat at the back of many machines, when turned upward, reveals working parts at the top of the upright are that requires dusting and oiling.
  • Several other machines have cover plates underneath to protect the moving mechanism. To reach these oiling points at the base of the machine, remove this cover plate as well.


General Oiling For Sewing Machines:

  • There are several general rules for oiling all sewing machines.
  • Always use high quality sewing machine oil on sewing machines.
  • The lubricating qualities are right for your machine and there is not harmful residue formed when the machine is idle.
  • Oil the sewing machine thoroughly following the diagrams in the instruction book, point by point, until every oiling point is completely familiar.
  • Do not drench the machine with oil one drop at each oiling point is usually sufficient.
  • However, where there is a wick to hold and dispense the oil several drops are used.
  • Oil holes in the enclosure of the machine are provided for bearings which cannot be reached directly.
  • Arrows indicate oiling points where metal works against metal and where oiling is so important to reduce friction.
  • Oil is placed sparingly on the threads of all adjustable thumb screws to keep them working freely.
  • Several machines have gears that are lubricated instead of oiled.
  • Such gears are clearly indicated in the instruction book.


Removing Excess Oil:

  • When the machine has been thoroughly, but sparingly oiled, run it slowly for several minutes to allow the oil to work into the moving parts.
  • Then remove the excess oil with a clean cheese cloth, or a fabric free of lint.
  • Learn to pass the folds of cloth between the tension discs to polish them and remove any dust, lint or oil that might have found its way there.
  • Learn to avoid catching the fine wire take-up spring in the cloth when polishing the tension discs.
  • Each thread guide and the face plate must be polished with clean cheese cloth to remove any accumulated dust, lint or oil.
  • The area around the presser foot and needle where both the presser bar and needle bar leave the heavy enclosure of the arm of the machine are often flowing with excess oil unless care was exercised when oiling.
  • Remove both presser foot and needle and with a clean cheese cloth wipe all the excess oil from this area.
  • Thread the machine and stitch until the thread is clear of oil.


 Removing Gummed Oil:

  • If the machine has been idle for several weeks and runs hard it is probably due to gummed oil.
  • When a machine has become gummed, all the working parts should be carefully oiled with kerosene/white gas.
  • This will loosen the old oil if not too badly gummed.
  • Run the machine rapidly for a few minutes and wipe thoroughly with a piece of cheese cloth.
  • Then oil all working parts with high-grade sewing machine oil.
  • A second oiling after a few hours of use is advisable whenever kerosene has been used. If the machine does not run freely after this treatment, it should be examined by a skilled sewing machine adjuster.


Lubricating Singer Motors:

  • The motor on the sewing machine is never oiled.
  • Singer motor lubricant is place in the tubes or cups that carry the lubricant to the revolving shaft and gears.
  • Motor lubricating tubes are to be filled with fresh lubricant twice yearly when the machine is used moderately.
  • Motors equipped with lubricant cups require attention only once a year.
  • The old lubricant is removed before filling with fresh lubricant.
  • Singer motors are especially built for the machines they power and give long trouble-free service with a minimum of attention.


Causes of Upper Thread Breaking:

  • Machine improperly threaded.
  • Tension too tight.
  • Needle bent or having a blunt point.
  • Thread too coarse for size of needle.
  • Needle too fine for size of thread and material to be sewn.
  • Burr on the needle hole in throat plate. (Caused by breaking needle in pulling material from machine.)
  • Burr on needle hole in presser foot. (Caused by sewing over pins or breaking needle)
  • Needle is not insert right in clamp.
  • Needle to long for the machine, or not all the way up in the clamp.
  • Take-up spring bent or broken.
  • Tension discs worn so that the thread works in groove.


Causes of Lower Thread Breaking:

  • Improper threading of bobbin case or shuttle.
  • Tension to tight.
  • Thread wound unevenly on bobbin or bobbin wound too full.
  • Spring on bobbin case or shuttle worn to sharp groove.
  • Burr on underside of throat of plate. (Sometimes caused by sewing over pins or breaking needle.)
  • To Avoid Braking Needles do not sew heavy seams with a needle too fine.
  • Use proper size of needle for thread and material to be sewn.
  • See that the presser foot or attachments are securely fastened to the bar and that the needle goes through the center of the hole.
  • Do not pull the material to one side when taking it from the machine. The needle may become bent and strike the side of the hole when starting to sew.
  • Do not pull material when sewing. The needle may become bent and strike the back of the needle hole.
  • Do not bend the needle when pulling out the material before cutting the thread.
  • Do not use a needle that is too long. It is liable to come in contact with the bobbin case and break, probably spoiling the case and requiring replacement.
  • Do not leave pins in the material after basting and sew over them with the machine.
  • Skipping Stitches
  • Needle not accurately set into the needle bar, blunt or bent.
  • Needle too small for the thread used.
  • Needle too short for the machine.


Causes of Stitches Looping:
  • Looped stitches are usually caused by an improper tension.
  • If the loop is on the upper side, it may be corrected by tightening the under tension.
  • If the loop occurs on the underside, it may usually be corrected by tightening the upper tension. See that both the upper and lower threading is correct, that the thread is of good quality and the correct size for the needle.
  • Test both tension and stitch on the same material to be sewn.
  • Looping of stitches is sometimes caused by the placing of the bobbin in the bobbin case or shuttle so that the thread pulls from the wrong side of the bobbin, or the bobbin being wound too full.

Machine Not Feeding Properly:

  • Improper feeding is often due to the pressure being too light for the material being sewn.
  • The feed dog may be worn smooth. This may be determined by running the finger over the teeth.
  • If they are not sharp, the feed dog should be replaced by a competent adjuster.
  • The stitch regulator may have been turned back so far that the feed is entirely out of action.
  • Needle may be bent.

Machine Working Heavily:

  • If the machine works hard after standing it is probably gummed and needs a general cleaning.
  • The belt may be too tight and hence putting excessive pressure on the bearings.
  • When the belt is too loose it slips on the balance wheel and causes the operator to treadle more than necessary.
  • Sometimes thread becomes wound around the hub of the balance wheel and the ends of the band wheel crank.
  • With constant running and contact with oil the threads work in next to the bearings so tightly that it makes the machine run heavily.
  • When this happens, remove the thread with a stiletto or other sharp instrument.
  • Sometimes the bobbin winder snaps down, putting pressure against the balance wheel.
  • Be sure to see that the bobbin winder in released.
  • Thread may be tangled in the shuttle race.

Puckered Seams:

  • Tension too tight
  • Stitch too long for the material being sewn, especially on fine material.


  • There are general rules that apply to the threading of all sewing machine bobbins.
  • The bobbin is filled with a thread identical to that used for the upper threading.
  • It must fill in level layers and must not “spill” over the sides of the bobbin.
  • Always empty the bobbin of other thread before filling so that the thread can be started on the bobbin by passing the thread end through the eyelet on its side.
  • This method provides even handling of the bobbin thread to the very end, and is important because the quality and regularity of the stitch is influenced by the free flow of the thread from the bobbin.
  • Careful storage of the supply of bobbins prevents them from being bent out of shape. A bobbin with bent sides will unreel with alternate heavy and light tension causing an irregular stitch.


Winding the Bobbin Evenly:

  • A bobbin must be wound evenly to work properly in the machine.
  • Great care should be taken in winding bobbins to have the thread placed on the bobbin smoothly and evenly, and the bobbin should never be wound so full that it is tight in the bobbin or shuttle.
  • If the thread winds to one side of the bobbin, the guide which carries the thread from the bobbin winder to the bobbin must be adjusted away from the side at which the thread piles up.
  • Always make it a point to have sufficient quantity of bobbins on hand so that it is unnecessary to wind one color thread on a partly wound bobbin of another color.
  • Bobbins wound in this manner are often uneven, and the ends of the threads become tangled, causing no end of trouble in the bobbin case.

Proper Needle and Thread:

  • A perfect stitch can be obtained only when the thread is selected to suit the fabric which is to be stitched and the needle is the correct size for the thread.
  • If the needle is to fine for the thread and the material to be sewn it is quite likely to beak when crossing a seam.
  • If a large needle is used on fine material the perforations made by the needles will show on the finished work.
  • A table of correct needles for the various sizes of silk and cotton is given in the instruction book for each machine.
  • This table should be carefully followed when ordering needles and when changing them for various classed of work.

Testing a Needle:

  • An important essential for good work is that the needle be perfectly straight.
  • A straight needle can be determined by placing the flat side of the needle on the slide plate of the machine or any other perfectly flat solid surface.
  • Hold the needle flat to the plat and the plate up to the light. A straight needle will show an even amount of light under it and the point will be in line with the shank, while a crocked or bent needle will show closer to the plate or further from it at the point.

Setting the Needle Properly:

  • Turn the balance wheel over towards you until the needle bar rises to the highest point.
  • Loosen the thumb screw of the needle clamp, release and remove the old needle.
  • Place the new needle in the needle clamp, make sure that the flat side of the needle in against the needle bar.
  • Push the needle up as far as it will go and tighten the clamp.
  • You will note that the side of the needle with the flat on the shank has a shorter groove at the eye while the other side has a long groove.
  • The thread must lie in the long groove when sewing. If the needle is not placed correctly in the machine it will not sew.