Sustainable Sewing Tip #2: Regular Sewing Machine Maintenance is Important

When was the last time you changed your sewing machine needle? How about cleaning out underneath the needle plate? Does your machine require regular oiling and lubrication? Your machine manual usually has a section in the back about periodic maintenance that you need to perform on your sewing machine to keep it running in tip-top shape for as long as possible. Taking care of your sewing machine saves you time, money and frustration.

For most modern machines, routine maintenance is as simple as 1-2-3:

(1) Remove the needleplate and clean out all the dust bunnies. (as needed or every 5 bobbins)

(2) Change the needle. (after 8 hours of sewing/each large quilt top/machine quilting with linty thread)

(3) Wipe down your machine using a soft cloth. (as needed)

Bonus Tip #1: If you have a Janome top loading machine – be sure to remove the bobbin case and clean underneath it. Every three months, add one drop of sewing machine oil to the felt wick in the center of hook assembly.

Bonus Tip #2: Cover your machine when not in use to keep dust from getting in then machine.

That’s basically it.

Vintage machines do require a bit more routine maintenance than modern machines, but it’s basically the same steps as for modern machines, except you have to oil the machine on a regular basis. Be sure to follow the instructions in your machine/service manual to find all the proper oiling points. Use a quality sewing machine oil. If you have to lubricate the motor, be sure to use the proper grease. Do not lubricate the motor with sewing machine oil!

Regardless of whether your machine is vintage or modern, follow this advice:
(1) Don’t use canned air.
(2) Don’t use 3-in-1 oil or WD-40 to lubricate the machine. Use SEWING MACHINE oil.
(3) Don’t use Vaseline (petroleum jelly) to grease the gears or in the motor. USE MOTOR LUBRICANT specifically designed for this (available from The Featherweight Shop or Quilter’s Connection – see links in sidebar).


This involves taking your machine to the dealer or repair person for an in-depth cleaning and adjustment. Minor repairs are often included with a service. The recommendation is for an ANNUAL service visit, but honestly, every 2-3 years is probably fine unless you have a computerized embroidery machine that you use 24/7/365 or have a TOL machine that you paid tens of thousands of dollars for. If you paid less than $125.00 for your sewing machine and it breaks, it’ll be cheaper to attempt DIY repair or go buy another one than to take in it for service.

You can learn to DIY machine service – especially on vintage machines. (Sewing Doc Academy, Quilter’s Connection, The Featherweight Shop, Andy Tube). I took a class on how to service my Featherweight. I now service all of my Featherweights myself and can make basic repairs to my modern machines, provided I can get parts and a copy of a service manual. At the end of August, my sister-in-law and I are traveling to Kentucky to learn how to tear down vintage machines and rebuild them. Not for everyone, I know, but I find repairing machines a challenge and there is a definite need for it in my area as machine service & repair seems to be a dying art.