Good Habits for Quilters - Machine Cleaning

A few weeks ago I read a book called Atomic Habits. Generally I am purely a fiction reader, but a friend recommended this one a while back and I decided to give it a try. I'm not going to say that this book has revolutionized my life, but it has made me think a lot more about the small habits in my life.

Which of course made me think about quilting, because quilting is a big part of my life, and guys . . . my quilting habits are bad. HORRIBLE. So I thought it would be fun to do a series of posts this year on developing good quilting habits and I am going to start with one of the only habits I am actually pretty good at: cleaning my machine.
Good Habits for Quilters Machine Cleaning - Kitchen Table Quilting

I am not going to go into all of the detail of the things you "should" be doing to clean your machine because that will vary so much based on your model, I am going to tell you what works for me (and I hope you will share what works for you in the comments). This is going to be one of those things where there might be a "right" way to do things, but if the "right" way is something you can't maintain, you've got to do what works for you.

This is what works for me: I clean my machine after every 3 bobbins. In order to maintain this, I only wind 3 bobbins of thread at a time and as soon as they run out, I know it is time to clean my machine. I have heard people say that you should clean your machine after every bobbin, but that just isn't practical for me.

This is how I clean my machine. Depending on your machine, yours might have different needs so make sure to check your manual for specifics.

  1. Turn off and unplug your machine.
  2. Use a tiny screwdriver to remove the needle plate.
  3. Take out the bobbin case and remove dust and lint.
  4. Using a soft bristled brush, clean around the bobbin casing, feed dogs, and all throughout this compartment. 
  5. Then use a pipe cleaner to clean deeper into your machine. I probably do this every other time I clean my machine, but it really helps get the lint that falls down into the bottom.
  6. Place a drop of oil on the sewing machine wick (consult your manual to see if your machine needs to be oiled and where to apply the oil).
  7. Replace the bobbin casing (I usually turn my handwheel a couple of times to make sure I have seated the bobbin casing correctly) and the needle plate.
  8. Use a pipe cleaner or brush to clean the foot and around the needle (mine tends to get a little linty). 
  9. Take a minute to wipe down any lint on the exterior of the machine.
  10. Plug your machine back in, turn it on, and get back to sewing!

Cleaning my machine takes me about 5-10 minutes. Afterward, I wind 3 more bobbins and I am ready to go. With all of the bad habits that I have cultivated in my sewing life, cleaning my machine is important because it helps me avoid skipped stitches and other frustrating consequences of a clogged machine. 

A great way to keep your machine dust-free is to place a cover over it when you aren't using it. Of course I don't do this because I am lazy and I sew with my machine almost every day so I don't take the time, but if you aren't a daily sewer (or even if you are) it can help keep your machine protected.

Do you have any advice for keeping your sewing machine clean? I would love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments!


  1. I'm pretty good about cleaning out the bobbin case, but I do it based more on project than bobbins. I wind those ten at a time. I HATE running out of bobbins in the middle of something. My Janome doesn't seem to think I should oil, so I don't. And I never cover my machine. Yep, I know I should, but I don't.

  2. I run my pipecleaner around the inside every time I change my bobbin, takes about 10 seconds. Then, when I get done with whatever project I am working on, I remove the needleplate and do pretty much the same as you to give it a deep clean, then I change the needle. I am new to Janome since I've only had this machine a few months. The Kenmore I keep in at the quilt group has to be oiled every time it is deep cleaned, it still runs great.

  3. Good idea for a series! My machine has several holes that need oil, and I for sure oil it up and clean it well before I start quilting a new quilt. But that isn't all that frequent - a couple of times a month? So I also do it after a week or so of quilting. When I DO do it, I wipe the whole machine down to make sure there's no excess oil, and just to 'dust' it.
    That said, I cover my machine every day when I'm done sewing and it STILL gets dusty! RE: bobbins, I fill several when I'm ready to quilt but otherwise do a couple as I need them. On scrappy projects I use up all the colors! I am faithful about changing my needle - for sure before quilting a new quilt (and after).

  4. Pipe cleaners are amazing for getting deep in the bobbin area and gently finding those sneaky link pieces. Even a tiny bit of lint can cause a major difference in performance. This habit is a good habit for 2020.

  5. Not sure how I first found you and started following on Instagram, but I’m sure glad I did! Your tips, patterns, and blog are awesome. I’m new to quilting and I can’t wait to try one of your awesome designs. This post in particular has inspired me to stop everything I’m doing on my day off and deep clean my machine (I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t ever cleaned my machine before). I can’t wait to follow along and adapt many more good sewing and quilting habits this year.

  6. I clean out my Bernina every weekend with a q-tip and brush. I’ll have to try a pipe cleaner! The machine counts my stitches and tells me when to oil, which is every 2-3 weeks. I put 2.5 million stitches on my machine in 2019 according to the service records at the “spa”, where I take my machine faithfully after Christmas every year. And they clean the internal parts then that I can’t reach.

  7. I clean my machine every two bobbins and once a year take it in for a deep cleaning service.

  8. I was surfing the Internet for information and came across your blog. I am impressed by the information you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Commercial Appliance Repair

  9. Those are good tips for machine cleaning, but don't forget to change your needle too! Sewers often choose not to change their needle thinking that it's not necessary. A dull or burred needle will cause stitching issues. In addition to doing your machine cleaning you should take it in regularly for a proper servicing so that a sewing machine technician can get deeper into your machine and get the fluff that you can't reach. He/she will pop the covers off, clean out the mouse nests that collect (sometimes they are real mouse nests), remove any broken needles that collect down deep, clean out the old grease, put in new grease, check the settings to ensure that your machine is performing properly, oil where needed and test it to ensure that it sews properly. My husband does sewing machine repairs as a side job and you'd be amazed at the difference once they are tuned up.
    Regular cleaning can have many variations. If you sew every day it should probably see a professional every 6 months. If you sew weekly (on average) once a year is fine, if you only sew occasionally try for every 2-3 years and if your machine has sat for more than a year then take it in before you sew to avoid damaging the working parts of the machine. When your machine sits the lint and fabric bits wick the oil and become hard lumps. The longer it sits the worse the problem. Your machine is an investment - take care of it.

  10. Thank you so much for posting this information. I'm one of the quilters that clean my Janome at least once a week as I do some sewing almost everyday. But I always forget to change the needle when I'm finished with a quilt or some smaller projects (bad habit), thanks for the reminder.

  11. yep, every bobbin change, whether I am in a hurry or not. I have to keep my machine clean. I also cover my machine when I leave to do all the stuff I need to do elsewhere in my life.
    I have an old Singer 316G and need to keep it oiled.
    It is a good reminder to everyone. Keep your machine clean.
    Also, change those needles and check your tension. If your tension is bad, it could be numerous things, like cheap bobbin bad needle, or old thread.

  12. I don't know much about machine so I only use vacuum around the machine. I wonder if I could find some video on Youtube, thank you for sharing the post!


Powered by Blogger.