How To Clean Your Sewing Machine – Part One

If you read over some sewing machine reviews, then you are apt to think that these little devices are prone to breaking down. It seems like there is always someone complaining that the sewing machine they are using isn’t living up to the potential they think it should. However, I would say this is more of a problem with the user than it is with the machine manufacturers. Many people simply don’t know how to take care of their sewing machine.

I know this can sound a bit harsh, but it’s true. Many people think of sewing machines as more like work horses than the fine tuned instruments they are. And with any finely tuned instrument, you have to take care of it. Which involves not only using it properly but also doing some light maintenance on it. While I am not going to be telling you how to use your machine today, what I am going to tell you how to do is how to clean it to keep it in pristine condition. Here are some tips for performing maintenance on your sewing machine to keep it in good running condition.

Use A Maintenance Schedule

The first thing you need to do is figure out how much you use your machine on a weekly basis. You don’t need to come up with exact figures but you do need an estimate to how many hours you use in weekly. Once you have come up with an estimate, you can then figure out how often you will need to clean your machine. Most experts and manufacturers recommend that you clean your machine after ever ten hours of use, but cleaning it more often will work as well. You can also use the 2 bobbin rule. This rule states that you should clean your machine after ever 2 bobbin changes. This is a good guide to use as well.

Assemble Your Cleaning Kit

Here are some things you are going to need:

Instruction Manual: This is the most important. Make sure that you have a copy of your instruction manual handy. It gives you specific guidelines for cleaning your particular model. If you don’t have the manual, then either find it on the Internet, get one from a local dealer or contact the machine’s manufacturer. Just be sure you have one on hand.

Lint Brush: A lot of machines come with their own lint brushes, but if yours doesn’t then you need to purchase one. If you need too, you can also use a makeup brush in a pinch.

Needles: You are going to want to change your needles after every cleaning. This will improve sewing performance.

A soft cloth: You can use just about any type of cloth, but I usually prefer to use a high quality muslin cloth.

Now that you understand the reason for cleaning your machine and have assemble all of your tools together, it is now time to get down to the actual cleaning. Please refer to my article, How To Clean Your Sewing Machine-Part Two for the best sewing machine cleaning practices.

The Art Of Needles And Tension

I’ve had my sewing machine for almost two decades now. It was a present given to me by my Aunt Betty for my 19th birthday. When I first received it, I didn’t sew avidly and really didn’t think much of my aunt’s present. However, after I saw a lady on television sewing a tote topper, I decided to give it a try and immediately became hooked. From that point forward, I sewed everything I could get my hands on and used the machine almost all of the time.

I still have that machine and pretty much use it on a daily basis. I became really good at using it and have even contributed to several sewing machine reviews about this particular machine. I thought I had become pretty much an expert and could sew just about anything. However, I wasn’t always as well-versed in sewing machines as I am now. There was a bit of a learning curve, but the machine was pretty much trouble-free.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t had any problems with it at all. Actually, if I am going to be honest here, I think that I have had problems with the thread tangling or the needle breaking over the entire course of the eighteen years that I have been using it. But I thought it was just a part of sewing and had nothing to do with my ever-developing abilities. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

One day, I decided to take it to the best sewing machine shop I could find to see why I continued to have so many problems with it, and what the shop owner told me was an eye-opener. She told me that there was nothing wrong with the machine and that I just wasn’t operating it properly. She then proceeded to show me a few tips. After that, I haven’t had a single problem with needles breaking or the thread tangling.

These tips really has saved me a lot of frustration and that is why I have decided to share them with you today. After all, I figured I couldn’t be the only person on the planet that might need a little bit of a lesson on stitch length or properly using needles. I am sure that there are a lot of people who could use this sage advice. Of course, I am sure that veteran seamstresses will probably be bored senseless by the tips I am going to give here today, but I hope that all of the rest of you will learn something new today.

The first thing that I was taught was that I was using the wrong needles. I was using a Singer machine but was using a Brother sewing needle. That was the most obvious of my problems but it wasn’t the only one. I also had the wrong tension on the machine. The lady at the shop told me that once I had the tension set on my machine correctly, there usually wasn’t a reason to change it. She advised me to adjust the tension so that the stitches above and the ones below were of equal length. These two pieces of advice really helped me and I hope they help you out too.

Let’s Practice Some Sewing Stitches

The only way that you are going to get better at using your sewing machine is by doing a lot of practice, and I do mean a lot of it. Sure, when you start using it for the first time you are going to make a lot of mistakes, and probably mess up quite a bit of fabric, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth the effort. In fact, you will realize that you the more time you put into it the better you become. As with anything worth doing in this life.

Today, I am going to tell you how to perform some of the most commonly asked for stitches that I have seen people ask for in numerous sewing machine reviews and articles. These are the basic ones that will get you started on your goal of becoming the sewing machine master that you want to become. Some of them might seem hard at first, but don’t be discouraged. Perseverance goes a long way in sewing.

The Handy Back Stitch

This stitch is necessary so that you don’t have to spend time tying the front and back ends of your stitch. It’s also fairly easy to do. You simply sew a few stitches forward, and then when you are ready, push the back switch button. The needle will now begin to travel backwards. When you have reached the beginning of your stitch, stop. Keep practicing until you have it mastered.

Dreaded Straight Lines

Sometimes it can be pretty hard to sew a straight line, so a little bit of practice is recommended. When I first began sewing, I found that if I took a piece of fabric that already straight stitch lines, and practiced following them, that I was able to improve the straightness of my lines. I know that it will work for you as well.

Of course, this isn’t the only way to practice sewing straight lines. You can also take a piece of fabric that is striped (like a dish towel) and practice following the lines. Or you can take a ruler and draw some straight lines on a piece of scrap fabric using a market. Then all you have to do is try to follow the line. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work well the first couple of times you try it. You will get better.

On To Advanced Stitching

Now that you have mastered the basics, it is time to move on to something a little bit harder: curved lines. This type of stitching will often give the most anxiety to beginners, but it isn’t as hard as you think it is. You have to sew a little bit slower and use a steady hand, but it’s well worth the trouble.

Well, these are the best sewing machine practice guidelines that I can give you today. Hopefully, these will not only show you how to start practicing your stitches but will also encourage you to start practicing as well.

Sewing Machine Safety

Sewing machines were designed to be fairly safe to operate. You don’t usually hear stories about people being severely injured by these devices. And there are a lot of things that are a lot more dangerous to operate, such as lawn mowers and even your stove. However, just because the likelihood of serious injury isn’t that great, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t exercise caution using them. They are machines that are plugged up to an electrical source and they do have moving parts, so extra care is recommended.

However, judging from just a small sample of the sewing machine reviews I have read recently, it would appear that there are some people who aren’t sure of the safest way to use their machines. That is why I decided to write this article today. I want everyone who reads it to be aware of the safety precautions they should take when they are operating these devices.

Safety Tip #1: Beware Of Needles!

This piece of advice might be a bit obvious, but I am going to state it anyway. Whenever you use your sewing machine you should keep your fingers away from the moving needle. After all, you don’t want to inadvertently stitch up your finger. Not only does that hurt, but it is also a waste of good thread. Now you would think that this type of injury would be more common with novice seamstresses, but trust me, I have seen a lot of experts accidentally sew up their finger. In fact, about two-thirds of all sewing machine accidents involve needle puncture wounds.

Safety Tip #2: Properly Store Your Machine

Whenever you are away from your machine, you should make sure that you turn it off and unplug it. Sewing machines that are left on while unattended can create a lot of heat, which can quickly become a problem if there are flammable materials around it.

There are several reasons for unplugging the machine. First, you don’t want the machine to be damaged by an electrical strike, especially if the machine isn’t hooked up to a surge protector (which it should be). The second reason is that an unplugged machine is a lot less interesting to small fingers that might try to turn it on and end up hurting themselves in the process.

Safety Tip #3: Mind Your Cords

Before you plug in your machine to use it, you should carefully examine the power cord for any signs of wear or damage. This is especially true if you have pets that like to chew on things. You don’t want to plug in a sewing machine with a damaged cord and get a nasty shock, or even worse, start a fire. And you also should unplug the machine whenever you are replacing a part.

These are the best sewing machine safety tips I can give you. If you follow these steps, and avoid distractions, then you will lessen the chances that your machine will end up turning against you. Sewing machine safety is as important as proper operation of the machine, remember that.

Getting The Absolute Best From Your Sewing Machine

Combing through dozens of sewing machine reviews I have come upon a common theme. There is a ton of advice on how to use your machine or how to do various kinds of stitching work, but there is really very little advice on how to get the most out of this machine. Now I understand that some of you might think that getting the best out of your machine would fall under the column of how to use your machine, but these are really two things that are as different from one another as apples are from oranges. A how to use your sewing machine tutorial tells you how to thread your bobbin, what settings to use and how to get your work done effectively. A tutorial telling you how to get the best out of your sewing machine tells you the best practices to use that will help your sewing machine perform to its full potential. Do you see the difference?

Well, since there aren’t any good tutorials telling people how to get the most out of their machine, I have decided to write my own. Which you just so happen to be reading right now. In this article, I have done all I could do to write a piece that tells you the best sewing machine practices that will help you squeeze out one hundred percent of your machine’s potential. Thus enabling you to turn even a lower quality model machine into a masterful sewing instrument that will help your create the best work possible. Hopefully these tips that I have worked out over the past few years will be as useful to you as they’ve been to me. Here they are:

  1. When loading your machine with thread, be sure to use both the same kind of thread in both the bottom and the top spools. This will enable you to get the maximum amount of tension, which will result in a better looking stitch.
  2. It is always a good idea to press the fabric you are about to stitch. Doing so will result in stitching that is a lot neater. If pressing isn’t possible, then you can iron it. And if you can’t iron it, then at least make sure that it is as smooth as possible.
  3. Be sure to read your particular machine’s manual. You might think that you don’t have to read the manual because you have used hundreds of different sewing machines, but trust me you do. Each machine has different tension settings and you want to be sure that you use the ones that are for your particular machine. This will result in a better stitch.
  4. Be sure to clean your machine on a regular basis. Not a lot of people do this but they should. A lot of fluff can get caught under the needle plate and not removing this can have a drastic effect on your stitching.

And that concludes my advice on getting the best out of your sewing machine. If you follow these tips, then you should end up with improved performance from your machine.

The Most Common Errors While Using A Sewing Machine – Part One

Modern sewing machines are wonderful devices that not only make sewing an easier chore to do but have a bunch of features that make them pretty much error-proof. Of course, that is not how it seems to a lot of people. There are quite a few people out there, and maybe you are one of them, that really get tired of their machine acting up in one way or another. If you don’t believe me, then all you have to do is read some of the sewing machine reviews and you’ll see what I am talking about. It seems like there are quite a few machines out there that are rebelling against their users.

It would be easy to blame the machine, but unfortunately it isn’t the machine’s fault—at least nine times out of ten. Most of the common “malfunctions” that crop up during sewing have more to do with user error than a shoddily designed machine. I hate to break it to you but it’s the truth.

Fortunately, it is something that can be remedied. Today, I am going to show you some of the most common sewing machine errors and the best sewing machine remedies for these errors. Fixing these problems as they arise will allow you to solve them quickly and get on with the task at hand.

Problem #1: My Needle Keeps Unthreading

This is the most common problem. You have just threaded your needle and as soon as you start sewing—bam—it comes unthreaded. Fortunately, this is easy to solve. First off, always make sure you have an adequate amount of thread pulled through the needle and out the back of the machine. At least several inches. Second, make sure that your needle is at the highest position possible before you start sewing. You can make sure that the needle is fully raised by checking the top of your sewing machine. If you can see the take-up lever, then the needle is fully raised. If you can’t, then hand crank your machine until you can.

Problem #2: My Fabric Is Hyperactive!

If you are attempting to thread your garment or piece of fabric and it just won’t sit still long enough to finish the task, then you don’t have the presser foot lowered. The presser foot holds down the fabric so you can stitch neatly. If it’s not lowered, your fabric will move with the needle. Don’t let that happen, lower your presser foot.

Problem #3: Uneven Stitching

If you just finished doing a stitch and it looks really loose on one side and really tight on the other side, then you most likely have a tension problem. Check the settings on your machine and make sure that the tension is set correctly. If that still doesn’t fix the problem, then check your bobbin and make sure that it is not only inserted in the machine in the correct way, but that the thread is pulled through those grooves that are in the bobbin case.

The Greatest Sewing Tips Of All Time

I know that everyone says that they have the best sewing machine tips, and I am sure that is true to some extent. The tips that work for you always seem like they are the best tips in the world. Which is why I am going to refrain from displaying too much bravado about the tips I am going to present to you today. Some of these tips you will most likely use—thereby making them the best tricks in the world—but others you may already know of, so you’ll most likely toss those to the wayside. That is fine with me. Pick and choose the ones that work for you. The point of this article is to help as many people as possible with their sewing.

Keep The Thread Guide Raised

When you sit down to sew, make sure that your thread guide is in its most raised position. If it isn’t, then when you begin the needle will become unthreaded. Make this a regular habit and you eventually you will check it every single time.

Keep Your Needle Down

Another thing that should become a habit is keeping your needle down whenever you stop to do something else. A lot of people will raise the needle whenever the stop to put pins in the garment. Learning to pivot the needle while it is still in the fabric will allow you keep your seams aligned perfectly.

Start By Hand

A great tip is to always start the first couple of stitches by using your hand-wheel. This will allow you to make sure that not only is the needle entering the fabric smoothly (which can be a plus if you are sewing heavy or bulky fabrics) but will also allow you to avoid time consuming thread jams.

Retread On A Rethread

One minute you are stitching along and the next minute you are looking at a thread that is either too loose or too tight. If that is the case, then you should rethread the entire machine. The spool, bobbin and everything else. This will usually solve the problem and prevent you from wasting a lot of time going through a check list of possible problems.

Don’t Use Universal Needles

Universal needles may be good for basic projects, but they aren’t good for much anything else. If you can, then you should get a needle that is specific to the type of material that you are sewing. Cottons and calicos often use a smaller needle, while denim needs a bigger needle. Use the right needle for the job and you will end up with a better looking project.

Do Your Research

If you are considering buying a new sewing machine, then make sure you put in your due-diligence. Check out sewing machine reviews, talk to friends and check out features. A sewing machine is an investment that should last you a long time and make your work easier. Be sure that it does both of those things.

Getting To Know Your Sewing Machine

If there is one thing that I have learned from reading hundreds upon hundreds of sewing machine reviews, it’s the fact that many beginners don’t know they have to get used to their machines. Most people don’t realize that each sewing machine seems to have its own unique personality, kind of like a pet. It doesn’t matter if it is a brand new state-of-the-art machine that was bought online or if it is an older one that was bought in a thrift store or at a garage sale. If you want to get the most out of your machine, then you really have to get to know its tendencies. It’s really worth the time to get to know your machine—whether its new or just new to you—so that you can get the most out of it.

That is why I am going to give you some tips that will help you familiarize yourself with your sewing machine without all of the headaches involved with such a learning curve. It doesn’t matter if you are a novice or if you are the best sewing machine master on the planet acquainting yourself to a new machine. These tips are going to help you get up and running in a shorter amount of time and without all of the aggravation, trust me.

The Manual

The first step in this process is locating the manual to your sewing machine. Every single machine on the planet has a manual that shows you how to properly operate it. The manual is an important part of the machine and tells you everything you need to know about it. It tells you how to properly use it and how to maintain it. Therefore, it’s very important that you familiarize yourself with it. Of course, if you bought your machine second-hand, then it may not have come with the manual. That’s okay, because you can find the manuals to almost all but the most exotic brands online, and they are usually offered free of charge by the manufacturer as well.

The Bobbins

You may have several bobbins around your house that have been leftover from the machines you’ve previously owned and you might be tempted to re-purpose them for your new machine. I’m sorry but that is not a good idea. Most manufacturers have bobbins that are unique to their machines. Even if they appear to fit, then they might not be right for your model. And that is why I recommend that you get ones that are made specifically for your machine.

Practice Repeatedly

The last piece of advice I can give you that will help you get to know your machine a little better is to practice and practice again. Start off by practicing on scrap pieces of cloth. This will give you a good idea of your machine’s tendencies and help you concentrate on controlling its speed and settings. After you have done that, then you can move on to trying to sew simple patterns and eventually move on to putting the machine into full service.

Making Your Own Sewing Machine Patterns

Most of the best sewing machine patterns I have used have been ones that I have made myself. Sure, I could have bought pre-made patterns or even found free patterns online, but I actually like crafting my own. It indulges my inner artist and gives me a bit of a challenge. It is also extremely gratifying sewing your own unique article of clothing from scratch.

I understand however, that creating your own pattern from scratch can seem pretty intimidating. It was for me at first. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it a try. All you need is a little bit of time, a bit of patience and a plan on how to proceed. Now, I can’t help you with these first two things, but I can help you with the last part. Today I am going to teach you how to make your own pattern.

Before you begin making your own pattern however, you need to understand the basics of clothing construction. This is knowledge that can only be gained from first hand observation. Take some old pieces of clothing and take a good hard look at them. Deconstruct them if you have to. Just make sure that you understand how clothes are put together. You should also have a basic understanding of how your sewing machine handles certain fabrics. This knowledge can come from first hand experience or from reading sewing machine reviews.

Now that you understand clothing construction, it is time to start your first pattern. You should definitely start with something simple and I think I have the perfect project for you. It was one of the first projects I ever did too. It’s turning a plain man’s T-shirt into a onesie.

The first thing you need to do is to fold the onsie in half and place it on a piece of light cardboard material. Then trace the other half of the onsie. This will become your pattern. Be sure to allow for the seam, after all you don’t want it to be tight, and that should about do it. You have your pattern.

You can take this basic approach and apply it to just about anything. You can turn already made pieces of clothing and make them into something else. It is something that I have been doing for quite a long time now and it has never failed me. I’m sure it will work for you as well. Sure, you might have to practice a bit to get everything right and your first few articles of clothing might be a disaster, but if you put in the time and effort I am sure that you will be happy with the result.

Sewing Hacks – Part One

If you are like a lot of people, then you have just been using your best sewing machine for simple projects. Just for things like doing seams or stitching a hole. Which is fine of course, but you are really limiting the power of your machine. Perhaps you have been doing things this way because you aren’t sure if you can handle bigger jobs. Well, if that is the case, then I am going to show you some sewing hacks that will make those big scary projects look like child’s play. So if you are ready, then let’s begin.

Sewing Bulky Material

If you have ever been frustrated trying to sew bumpy fabric such as terry cloth, then take heart. I have a trick that will keep your presser foot moving forward at warp speed. All you have to do is place a plastic bag over the material. The sewing machine will sew right through it and you can keep the machine moving forward on a nice smooth surface.

Sewing In A Zipper

Sewing a zipper is often something dreaded by most people. That doesn’t have to be the case. You can install a zipper the easy way. Sew up your seam, put your zipper face down in the seam allowance and stitch it right in place. Now slice open the seam with your seam ripper and reveal the zipper. Voila!!

The Sure Fire Way To Sew With Metallic Thread

Having problems with that delicate decorative thread? Does it keep breaking as you are trying to sew? Well, if it does, then you can use this trick to fix it. Just use a roll of normal thread with your metallic thread.  Thread them both through the eye and the normal thread will act as a support for the decorative thread.

Storing Bobbins

Are You looking for a better way to store your bobbins? Then why not use a toe separator. They will hold several bobbins securely in place and right at arms length.

Easy Way To Mark Your Seam Allowance

If you want to add a seam allowance to your project but don’t want to do a lot of measuring, then just use pencils to draw it. If you have a 5/8” seam, then tape three pencils together. If you have a 1/2” seam, then tape two pencils together. Then as you trace the edge of your pattern, you will get a perfect seam allowance each time.

Hopefully these sewing hacks will get you started on some of those tougher projects. I have gathered these tips and tricks together by pouring through countless sewing machine reviews and noting some of the best advice found in them. I have found these hacks to be very useful to me and I hope they will be useful to you as well.