Sewing Machine Repair FAQ:

How often should I change my needle?

I rate this is as the number one question, because it’s the single most important and easy thing a person can do to prevent sewing problems and perform a perfect stitch.  As a rule of thumb every new project deserves a new needle.

Despite the fact that a tailor once told me he used the same needle in his machine for 30 years, needles do wear out, bend and get damaged.  Worn, bent or damaged needles can cause skipped stitches, uneven seams, and frayed or broken thread and damage your valuable fabrics.  They can even damage your machine.  Isn’t avoiding any one of these problems well worth the cost of a new needle?  If your needle strikes anything harder than fabric you will likely have damaged it.  To check your needle for a burr, rub your finger down the side and off the end of it.  Do this all around the perimeter of the needle.  If you feel a rough spot throw it out. To learn more about needles, check out these great websites:


What thread should I use?

Good thread!  Not the three for a dollar type.  Not the stuff your great grandmother left in her sewing box.  Thread is not like wine.  It doesn’t get better with age.  Spend a little more and get good thread that will perform well on your machine.

Brands like Superior (http://www.superiorthreads.com)  Guettermann (https://www.guetermann.com)  Mettler (http://www.amann-mettler.com) and Coats (http://www.coats.com) offer good quality threads.  The websites have information for all types of sewing.
Cheap threads are made with short weak fibers that break off and build up in your sewing machine causing all sorts of problems.  They also tend to stretch much more and create uneven tension.  Quality thread looks good, performs better, and is easier on your machine.  It is a pleasure to work with and is longer-lasting.  So, cheap thread offers no real savings.

Should I lubricate my machine?

Maybe.  Many machines today are self-lubricated.  (Their bearings are impregnated with lubricant).  Some are not.  And, some are partially self-lubricated.  It’s best to check with your machine manual.  (If you have no manual contact us and perhaps we can supply you with one)

In any case, even self-lubricated machines need replenishing of lubricants since these dry out with time and use.

Self-lubricated machines are best left to qualified technicians to lubricate as some or all of the covers have to be removed and this can be complicated. It is also easy to lubricate the wrong parts or apply too much or too little to them.  Before lubricating your machine, be sure it is absolutely clean.  Use only quality sewing machine lubricants, not general-purpose oils.  We use only the best synthetic lubricants available.

As a rule non self-lubricated machines should be lubricated with every eight hours of use.

Many industrial sewing machines and sergers have a lubrication bath or tank.  The levels of these should be kept between the high and low marks.  The oil should be kept fresh and clean using only quality industrial sewing machine oil.

How often should I have my machine tuned up?

Customers that have had their machine tuned up (a complete in-depth cleaning, lubricating, examination of the entire machine condition and adjusting of the tensions) often comment that it has never run so well.  Then they ask, “How often should I have my machine tuned up?”  The answer largely depends on how much the machine is being used, what type of fabrics and thread are being used, how clean you keep it and the experience of the sewer.  If you are a regular sewer, that is, your sewing habits and frequency are fairly consistent, when you bring your machine in for a tune-up tell your mechanic how long it has been since your last one.  After examining it he or she should be able to arrive at a reasonable time frame for the next tuning/cleaning. A rule of thumb may be one to two times a year for frequent high use sewers and every year or two for moderate sewers.

The owner of the machine in this picture had been doing a pretty good job of cleaning where she was able to.  Little did she know how much of the thread and fabric lint escaped her reach!

Machines left dormant for an extended period of time may also need to be tuned up before using them since many machines tend to stiffen or seize up with lack of use.  While it’s important for you to keep your machine clean and free of lint dust, and to lubricate, it is often difficult to access very important parts that need cleaning and lubrication.  Therefore, having a qualified technician tune up your machine is very important.  Do this before it becomes an emergency.

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Pro Sewing Machine Doctor

Why are my stitches uneven in length?

Several things may cause this to occur.  Intermittent skipping of stitches will produce some short and some that appear to be long stitches.  Check the condition of your needle, and be sure to use the proper needle for the type of fabric you are sewing on.  Ensure that the needle is inserted properly.  If your machine continues to skip stitches contact your technician to determine the cause and solution.

Inconsistent stitch length may be caused by insufficient presser foot pressure or feed dog height may be too low.  Adjust the presser foot pressure (on machines that have this adjustment) accordingly to ensure the material is being fed at an even rate.  Be sure that the drop feed mechanism on your machine is in the up position.

Allow your machine to do the feeding of the material, and do not pull faster than it feeds.  Choice of presser foot type is very important especially when sewing difficult to sew fabrics, or materials like leather or vinyl, so choose the appropriate foot which may be a Teflon, a walking or a roller foot in those 2 cases.

Why does my thread keep breaking?

Cheap or bad thread.  Cheap or bad needles.  (Check out the two FAQ’s above and call me in the morning).  Incorrectly inserted needle, inappropriate thread tensions, improperly threaded machine and damaged or misaligned parts can all cause thread breakage.

We love solving sewing problems.  If you have one contact us and we will see what we can do to resolve it.