Embroidery Machine Maintenance Tips

By on September 1st, 2020
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embroidery machine maintenance
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It’s a lesson that is taken taken me a long time to learn. When you take care of things –  they last longer. I know it may seem obvious, but for me it took years to appreciate that sentiment. And, it is one that definitely applies to your embroidery machine. The better you take care of it, the longer it will last, and the better it will operate. But what exactly does it mean to properly maintain an embroidery machine? Well different machines have different care and maintenance guidelines, but there are a few simple tips I’ve learned for optimal embroidery machine maintenance.

Clean your machine

Every machine has different protocols for cleaning. So, you should definitely check your manual and see what is recommended for your specific make and model.  Then, actually do it! I find that it helps if I put a reminder in my calendar each month.  But, you may need to clean your embroidery machine more frequently if you use it on a daily basis. 

I have learned some great cleaning tips over the years from my embroidery pals. A simple way of removing little threads and bits of lint from your embroidery machine is to use a makeup brush to clean out your bobbin cage. I actually recommend getting a set of makeup brushes exclusively for this purpose because you will get a variety of sizes that will work well in different areas.

Another great cleaning hack is to use a thin business card to clean underneath the bobbin cage screw.  Little threads like to get caught in there as well. 

Ever notice how when you break a thread somewhere along the thread passage, bits and pieces get stuck in there? Well, if you “floss” the entire thread passage some unwaxed dental floss, you can oftentimes remove a treasure trove of little threads and lint.  

It’s tempting to want to use canned air to blow out your entire machine, but this can actually be detrimental.  It can force pieces of thread and lint deeper into the machine.  I’ve also been tempted to blow into the bobbin cage to try to remove excess lint – but this too is a bad idea.  It introduces moisture into your embroidery machine which is a big NO NO. 

Cover your thread

thread storage bins
Thread storage bins. Photo provided by Barbara Stimpert and used with her permission.

When you leave your machine embroidery thread out on shelves or thread racks, it can collect a lot of dust. Then, when you put that thread through your embroidery machine, it can introduce a lot of excess debris into the machine. Dust, lint and bits of thread can mess up your tension and the machine will not stitch as well. So, by storing your thread in a storage bin, you may be able to prevent embroidery machine maintenance issues.

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Cover your embroidery machine

embroidery machine cover
Jeri made this custom cover for her embroidery machine, and, of course, added a monogram! Photo provided by Jeri Reynolds of JR’s Embroidery and More

You want to know the best way to keep your embroidery machine clean and free from dust, lint and moisture? Cover it! If your machine came with a cover, then use it.  But, if you need a cover for your embroidery machine – you can easily make one. 

Check out these PDF patterns for almost every make and model of embroidery machine on Just Sew Patterns.  Just think, if you make the cover yourself, you can easily monogram it before stitching it all together.  Genius! 

Turn your machine off when you’re not using it

I learned this lesson the hard way, I burned out the screen on my embroidery machine and I think it was due in part to leaving it on all the time. (I mean – I left it on – A LOT!) It cost me about $400 to replace that dang screen.If you’re not using your machine, then turn it off. Save some energy and extend the life of your screen. I know it takes a second for the machine to boot up, but believe me, once you spend $400 for a new screen, you get a bit more patient.

Use the correct weight and type of embroidery thread

Embroidery machine are calibrated for a specific weight of embroidery thread.  If you veer from that, then you will have issues with your tension which might be difficult to correct and require servicing of your machine.  

It can be tempting to use regular thread on your embroidery thread, which too, is not recommended.  Regular sewing thread does not travel as smoothly through your needle, so you will likely get more breakage.  In addition, those spools of regular thread often have notches on the edge of the spool.  It’s easy for thread to get caught in there which can cause your thread and sometimes a needle to break.  Broken needle particles can get stuck inside your machine and cause a whole lot of trouble.  

So… read your manual, figure out what weight embroidery thread you should buy and stick to that.  A lot of people have strong embroidery thread brand preferences, but they really run the gamut.  A lot of people buy their first set of machine embroidery thread on Amazon, and based on the reviews are pretty happy with it. 

Change your needles regularly

The best way to avoid getting pieces of broken needle stuck in your embroidery machine is to not have your needle break.  And the best way to avoid needle breakage is to change your needle regularly.  You know when I used to change my needle?  When it broke.  But this is not a good idea.  Needle can get gummy, get nicks and burrs and even bend slightly.  Once this happens, they are more prone to breaking. 

Oh – and while we are on the topic of needles, be sure to use embroidery machine needles instead of regular sewing needles in your embroidery machine, because there definitely is a difference between the two

Oil your machine or don’t oil your machine

The jury is definitely out on this one.  Some service people say not to oil embroidery machines with sewing machine lubricant because if you get oil in the machine, it will damage the electronics. First, check your manual, then inquire wherever you get your machine serviced.  Then just do what they say. 

Avoid spray adhesive

Spray adhesive is great until it gets all over everything! Did you ever see the picture of how nasty and gunky my embroidery hoop got before I figured out how to clean it? If this was what my hoop looked like – imagine what it looked like inside my embroidery machine.  A gunked up inside of an embroidery machine is not going to perform well at all. 

I definitely try to avoid spray adhesive and use sticky back stabilizer whenever possible.  However, in some cases I have no choice but to use it – such as when I stick a piece of cut away stabilizer on the inside of a garment.  I try to spray it in a sink (although that gunked up my sink) so it’s best to just use it outside. 

Be gentle with your machine and its accessories

I find that when I’m working quickly, I can be a bit aggressive with my machine.  But, you can easily break a hoop and even parts of your machine when you push a bit too hard.  I know this because my sister cracked her embroidery hoop by pressing too hard.  So, slow down, relax, and be gentle with your embroidery machine, and it will last a whole lot longer.  

Bring in for yearly service

I know it’s hard to part with your embroidery machine for a few days, but yearly or even bi-yearly servicing (depending how often you use it) can help keep it in tip top shape.  Think of it like a trip to the dentist.  Post college I went a couple years without going to the dentist.  Big mistake.  I ended up with a root canal and a crown.  The lesson I learned was that preventative maintenance facilitates longevity which is a bit of wisdom I apply to my teeth as well as my embroidery machine. 

Happy stitching! 




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