‘How To’ Get Started With Sewing: Clean Your Machine

How to clean your sewing machine.

What is it about cleaning your sewing machine that just makes you think….hmmm, no thanks!? It’s such a vital, yet easily overlooked, and widely avoided aspect of sewing machine maintenance.

There are some sewists who have developed very good habits over the years and regularly clean out their sewing machines. When I quizzed these diligent folk in my sewing group, I was impressed to find out that the majority of them who regularly sew clean out their sewing machine at least once every few days. Only a very small few reported doing so daily.

Unsurprisingly, it was generally reported that sewing machines are rarely being regularly cleaned. With lack of interest in the task, limited time, or deeming it a pointless task for the amount that they sew being cited as reasons. I personally clean out my machine every 3-4 days, even though I sew every day. I admit, I need to increase the frequency of my cleans but being honest, I do find it an arduous task.

The cleaning out of our machines could prove to be cost effective in the long run. “A regularly cleaned machine will lessen the need to service your machine over time,” says Jenny Field, owner of Needle and Shed. “I regularly receive sewing machines where the owners think there is a major issue and it turns out the machines just want a good clean.” So what really is keeping a large proportion of us from regularly cleaning our machines?

If you sew infrequently, the need to clean your machine as regularly isn’t as great, but it is still an important part of maintaining your machine. There is no harm in cleaning your sewing machine after every use, or at the very least, after every project. It’s a great habit to start forming and means that your machine is ready for the next time you use it.

If you’re encountering any weird and wonderful, unexplained issues with your machine, it could be that it needs a good clean. (DISCLAIMER: If you think there is something seriously wrong with your sewing machine, please do not hesitate to get it checked out by someone who knows what they are doing. There could be a plethora of other reasons as to why your machine isn’t sounding right or working correctly. A sewing machine that hasn’t been cleaned in a long time, or never, can present sounds and actions that appear to be a major issue but are resolved with a good clean).

Perhaps some sewists are reluctant to clean their machines because they aren’t sure how to clean them. Our sewing machines can look very complicated, internally. They are such a big investment that the thought of unintentionally breaking them, or messing them up in some way, can be greater than the need to remove a few bits of thread and dust. If you fall into this particular camp, here’s quick a video I put together of me cleaning out the bobbin area of my sewing machine. I use an old makeup brush and tweezers that came with the machine. That’s my preference. Your machine should at least come with a cleaning brush that you can use. Other things that I’ve heard being used to clean machines are pipe cleaners, miniature vacuum cleaners, and mini paint brushes, to name but a few. Once you get into the habit of cleaning your sewing machine, you can get creative as to how you go about doing it.

Cleaning my sewing machine

If your machine doesn’t allow you to get underneath the bobbin area with the push of a button, it’ll require you to unscrew the plate. This can be a bit of an arduous task for some, scary for others. Especially if you’ve never done it before. The benefits of cleaning out all of the dust are far greater than the potential risk of causing any damage. Be gentle and anything that you remove, pay attention to how it slots back in place to make sure you can put it back correctly once you have finished cleaning.

Our sewing machines are a big investment, so it’s important that we maintain and look after them as best as we can. Regularly cleaning your sewing machine is a big part of ensuring it remains in the best condition possible, for as long as possible.

Sewing Machines Under £100

Sewing machines under £100 to help start your sewing journey.

Here, you will find a list of sewing machines currently on the market, for under £100 (correct as of 30/10/2020). They are inexpensive, very basic, and great if you want to give sewing a go for the first time. If you then decide that sewing isn’t for you, starting up won’t have broken the bank.

There is always an argument that going too simple can be detrimental to the sewing journey of the beginner sewist. These machines will not necessarily have some of the time-saving functions that sewists love (e.g. automatic needle threader, automatic thread cutter, automatic bobbin winding). This can deter some sewists and create a barrier to sewing, stopping them from starting projects. I think having a very simple machine is a great way of helping new sewists to learn the basics of sewing for themselves. It’s all part of the joy of sewing and will leave you even more in love with this pastime. It also means that you’ll have a machine that you aren’t afraid you’ll break, or afraid to make mistakes on.

DISCLAIMER: Clicking on the photos will take you to the website where the particular sewing machine can be purchased. There are NO affiliate links. I found these machines by doing a brief Google search. This is a non-exhaustive list. Make sure you do your own research before investing in a sewing machine. I haven’t used any of these machines myself, so I cannot provide a review, nor can I vouch for their quality. There are reviews available online.

Sew Crafty Midi Sewing Machine £29.99

Hobbycraft Mini Sewing Machine £33

Sew Amazing Sewing Station Machine £40

Hobbycraft Midi Sewing Machine (available in various colours) £50

Silver 12 Stitch Mini Sewing Machine £59

Sew Amazing Studio Machine £60

Hobbycraft 19S Sewing Machine £75

Brother LS14s Manual Stitch Sewing Machine £80

Brother LK14S Sewing Machine £89

Singer M1605 Sewing Machine – Exclusive to Hobbycraft £100

Singer 1409 Promise Sewing Machine £100

Get Sewing Machine Savvy

A guide to choosing a sewing machine.

You don’t need a sewing machine to sew. Hand sewing is a craft in itself. Knowing the basics of sewing by hand will always stand you in good stead for any sewing project. However, purchasing a sewing machine usually comes at the top of the list for those who are new to sewing. I remember how challenging it was choosing my first ever sewing machine. For that reason, I’ve provided some important points to consider before investing in a sewing machine. They’ll help you to choose the best one for you.

How Much to Spend – Budget

Have a budget in mind when searching for a sewing machine. It’s very easy to get carried away looking at machines with all the bells and whistles, then spending too much money on a machine. Be clear on how much you want to spend before you start looking.

Machine Condition – Brand New Vs. Second-hand

In most cases, your budget will determine this choice. A shiny, new machine is always an exciting purchase but it’s important to stick to your budget. Second-hand machines can be a fantastic, affordable option. Just make sure you do your research. Find out the last time the machine was serviced. Check and make sure that the machine is in good working order before any money is exchanged. If you don’t feel happy, don’t buy the machine (this also applies to buying a brand new machine).

Where to Look – Online Vs. Local

Visiting a local sewing machine dealer or sewing shop is great for three main reasons. Firstly, you get to support your local businesses. Always a win! Secondly, you get to view the machine in person and be hands on. Thirdly, you can get free, in-store tuition on the machine you’ve purchased. If you have any questions or issues with your machine, they can be dealt with quickly, in person.

Viewing a machine online means that you can see a vast range of machines available from each different brand. There are often great deals to be found, making it potentially cheaper to purchase a sewing machine online, in some instances. However, I personally feel that you miss out on physically seeing the machine before you purchase, and asking questions from a knowledgeable source. A happy compromise might be to view a machine locally, then purchase the machine online if you see any great deals.

Personal Requirements – Manual Vs. Computerised

Choosing a manual or a computerused sewing machine will be based on your personal requirements and preferences. Budget will also have a significant part to play in this decision. It might be best to purchase a basic sewing machine that will enable you to get used to the different functions and stitches. Once you feel that you are progressing in your sewing, and you are more aware of exactly what you are looking for in a machine, you can then upgrade.

Some people want to buy the best machine they can afford as their first machine. It can be very motivating when you have a machine with all the bells and whistles, because you want to make sure you make the most of your purchase, by sewing as much as possible. However, do be careful not to purchase a machine that is too complex for your sewing abilities. It might prove to be an unwelcome barrier to your sewing, if you find yourself needing to constantly look at the sewing manual, just to figure out how your machine works! Also, you don’t want a machine that you’re too afraid to use for fear of breaking it.

A sewing machine is an investment, so take your time when deciding on which one to get. Finding the most suitable sewing machine for you may take some time, but it’s worth the careful consideration. Once you’ve found the right one, your sewing journey will go from strength to strength.

This is a non-exhaustive list of factors to consider when buying a sewing machine for the first time. I hope you’ve found this post useful and that it helps you find the right sewing machine to meet your needs.

Labour of Love

The process of making two aprons from scratch.

It’s been challenging. It’s been frustrating. I almost gave up…many, many MANY times. I’m happy to say that I persevered and even though I would have liked better results (I expect far too much of myself, I’m working on this flaw) the 2 aprons are finally complete:

I made mistake, after mistake, after mistake. Even right up to the very end of the project, when I thought that I had completed my final apron; I turned it around and noticed that I had stitched one of the apron ties to the main body of the fabric. Gggrrrrrr!!! I had to dig deep and find the strength and will to finish those two aprons. I had a moment (it lasted for 20 minutes) when I contemplated throwing away one of the partially completed aprons. I was desperate, disappointed and fed up beyond belief with myself, my supposed lack of sewing ability, the fabric not doing what I wanted, the sewing machine not doing what I wanted, life being unbearable, blah blah blah…..I was at a low point.

I then pulled myself together (somewhat) and felt absolutely horrified at the thought of WASTING FABRIC!! NO!!! Then I began to wonder if anyone kept a stash of projects that had gone wrong, simply to remind themselves of how hideously something had turned out at the first attempt. Out of curiosity, does anybody out there do this? I am genuinely considering creating a fabric room 101-esque stash of reject projects. I dispelled that idea, because it felt too much like giving up (which I cannot stand to do) and that’s when I formed a new relationship with my ‘unpicker’. It turns out that this bad girl was the best £1.25 I’ve ever spent:

My best friend: the fabric unpicker

Those 2 aprons had me unpicking like I’d never unpicked before, as though my life depended on it. I could easily call myself a master unpicker. If you need stitches unpicking, I’m your girl. I essentially more than doubled the time needed to complete both aprons, because I had to unpick the majority of my work. What I can say is that this experience has taught me never to be afraid of unpicking. This might sound strange, but I had this idea that every stitch I made HAD to be perfect FIRST TIME. That the calibre of sewist was directly proportionate to the number of times you made a perfect project. Now I know that thought was completely ridiculous, because there is no perfect project and there will always be mistakes.

I should never be afraid to unpick stitches that are not correct, because as I have experienced, it can be the difference between completing a project that I am proud of and binning a project altogether. These 2 aprons will always be remembered as my first sewing labour of love. They taught me patience, the importance of paying attention to detail, the art of taking my time and they also showed me the full extent of my love for sewing. They are going off to wonderful homes where I am know that the love and appreciation for these handmade treasures will far outweigh the love, care and hard work that went into making them.

I have now made 5 projects in the 13 days since my sewing adventure began. I have already compiled a list of projects that I wish to complete. I am really itching to start making clothes and I must admit that in the early hours of the night when my insomnia had firmly taken hold, I started to peruse blogs of other sewists whose sewing skills I greatly admire. One particular blogger had made ‘The Bettine’ dress from a pattern by Tilly and the Buttons. I love the style and the pattern is ‘easy,’ so a great first garment for me to make.

I am currently awaiting the pattern’s arrival and it will be one of the projects I will start in the next few weeks. I am very excited to see how it turns out. Shout out to Emily, writer of the blog, ‘Self Assembly Required’ for posting about her experience using this pattern. It definitely helped me to find my first garment pattern. While I wait for ‘The Bettine’ pattern to arrive, I will start on my next project: pillowcases. I am anticipating that they will be simpler to complete than the aprons and provide a much needed break from my ‘best friend’ the unpicker. It has been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder…

First Unsupervised Project

My experience sewing solo. No workshops, just me at home with my sewing machine.

A few days ago, I started and completed my first unsupervised project. It was another ‘envelope’ back cushion and the results were not too shabby. I could easily pick apart (pun intended) my project and be really hard on myself, but I will resist the temptation to do so. I have to be realistic: it’s my third EVER sewing project, it’s my first ever time following the instructions and creating it by myself, PLUS I finished it within 3 hours. I’m very proud. Here is the finished product:

‘Envelope’ back

My mum will be the lucky recipient of this cushion, along with my one of the items of my next project that I’ll start today, which is 2 aprons. For the aprons, I have had to create a pattern using the original, completed project, as I was not provided with the dimensions for the material. This has meant pushing myself further and taking the initiative to start learning more sewing skills. I’m very excited for where this will take me in terms of upcoming projects (pillowcases followed by a simple gathered skirt, perhaps).

Remember when I wrote about my unsuccessful use of the overlock stitch on the sewing machine, during my first unsupervised sew, which prompted the purchase of the overlocker? Well, I have to admit that I am now very happy with my decision to purchase the overlocker. An expense that I could perhaps have done without, however the results are brilliant. See for yourself:


Now that I have proved to myself that I can really sew, that it’s not just a fluke that occurs when I’m in a sewing class, I am ready to start the next project. I’ll let you know how it goes. My sewing adventure continues.

Unsupervised Sewing

Trying the overlocker for the first time and seeing the results.

Basic sewing kit: Check!

Sewing machine: Check!

Fabric and accessories required for projects: Check!

Skills required to complete the projects: Lacking….

…Or perhaps that’s just what it feels like going it alone for the first time. So far, I’ve been working under the guidance of experienced tutors in a really supportive environment. It’s only normal that I would encounter problems when sewing unsupervised for the first time. This is the logical part of me reasoning with myself in hindsight. At the time, I was very frustrated, to say the least. I had started my first project, the cushion, and had gotten to the part where I needed to overlock two sides. I do not own an overlocker and had made sure to obtain advice on how to ensure the edges of the fabric did not fray. I was shown on the sewing machine I eventually purchased how to use an overlocking stitch on the fabric. I felt confident that I could achieve the same result at home. I was aware that it would not be as pristine a look but that it would do the job. Well…see for your self:

Attempt number 1:IMG_2843

Attempt number 2, which turned into a practice when I realised I’d messed it up again:

Attempt number 2

There were multiple attempts that followed, but none of them much better (some much worse) than the examples shown above. After spending an inordinate amount of time trying to perfect my skill with the overlocking stitch, I decided that enough was enough. I would buy an overlocker. The results when using one were so much better:

Results using an overlocker

This really made me disappointed in myself, because it felt like the classic case of the newbie who enthusiastically purchased everything. It still feels that way. SO much so that 3 days after this frustrating defeat, I’ve not picked up my sewing where I left off. My overlocker arrived today and I couldn’t even bear to open it. Having read through my earlier posts, it has given me the push I need to continue and reminded me that there will be moments in my sewing journey that I find challenging. However, I must persevere. In any case, the overlocker has now been purchased and if it helps to remove a barrier that has stopped me from sewing for 3 days, then so be it. Judge as you wish! I’ve grown accustomed to using an overlocker and it would have eventually been purchased at some point.

I have been researching beginner’s dressmaking and sewing courses in my local area and have come across one that starts in April that will enable me to learn and practice the basics. Overlocking stitch, you may have won the battle, but you will not win the war! I’m taking the easier way out for now to avoid discouraging myself any further, but I will continue to practice the overlocking stitch on the sewing machine. I know it will come in handy one day. In my opinion, if I can’t get the basics right then I’ll struggle to advance. Fancy machines can only get me so far. Tomorrow, I will continue my project and also find out what’s waiting for me inside this box:

The boxed overlocker

My First Ever Sewing Machine

The unboxing of my very first sewing machine.

Initially, the search was tedious, the machines varied and the information confusing. I spent four days researching online; watching YouTube reviews, reading reviews from various sewing bloggers, visiting brand websites and reading the machine descriptions. In the end, I was so confused and almost at the point of discontinuing the search when I remembered this simple fact: if you don’t know…ask! By ‘ask,’ I mean ask a person.

Over the last four days since I had attended my first sewing class, I had met some very knowledgeable people who would have given me a wealth of information regarding choosing a machine. For what I imagine was a combination of convenience’s sake and the natural response of our generation to immediately Google/YouTube information, I had overlooked people with years of industry experience in favour of the internet. Don’t get me wrong, the internet has its place when it comes to researching and I did find out lots of information, but I was suffering from information overload. I needed to find out the relevant information that applied to my specific sewing needs and goals.

It was when I attended my second sewing class that I took the opportunity to ask the tutor’s advice on sewing machines. I was the only person in the class, so I had lots of time to pick her brain. After discussing my budget and my sewing aspirations (probably not the right word to use, as I’ve not set very ambitious goals so far) I was pointed in the direction of a bottom-of-the-range Juki. I was told that despite it being at the lower end of that particular brand’s range, it was certainly not what you would expect from a cheaper machine.

I was informed that this manual sewing machine would allow me to develop my skills whilst providing me with exactly what I needed: an uncomplicated, hard wearing machine that would continue to make sewing appealing for me. I was informed that it had an automatic needle threader, so no struggling to thread the needle. An automatic bobbin winder, again less faffing around, and a built-in LED light to help me see better when sewing. Threading the machine would be simple, with arrows directing me at every step. I was told that it can sew buttonholes and has lots of fancy stitching, which only vaguely makes sense to me at the moment. Essentially it would do what I needed it to do: stitch in a straight line, reverse, start, stop and be as hassle free as possible.

The make-shift handle fashioned out of webbing

I asked to use the machine for the duration of the class, in order to complete the project and I’m really glad that I did. So if my first piece of advice is to do your research, and my second is to ask an actual person who knows about sewing/sewing machines, my third is to try the machine before you buy it. I used the machine for two and a half hours and fell in love with it, because it was just so simple and easy to use. I never struggled to figure out how it worked. I made mistakes with it and rectified the issues easily. I also knew it would be a machine that I wouldn’t be afraid to use for fear of breaking it – something that I think is important as a newbie because I’m bound to do something wrong at some point. I took the machine home, set it up and spent the entire evening practicing my newly learnt skills.

I can’t currently give much of a review, because I’ve had the machine for less than 24 hours. Plus, this is my first machine and I have nothing to compare it to. At my current skill level, I am happy for a machine just to turn on and work when I want it to. As my skills and knowledge of sewing and sewing machines improve, perhaps I can offer some insight into whether or not this was really a good investment. However, judging from the advice I received from the tutor, the online reviews I found and my own limited experience of this machine, so far it has been money well-spent. Time will tell and I will keep you updated. I must say that I was particularly impressed with how well packaged the machine was. Especially because I hadn’t planned on buying a sewing machine that afternoon so was ill-prepared to transport it home: imagine one newly made project, 2 bags of sewing supplies to start two projects at home (a cushion and two aprons as made in my classes), plus my handbag and a bus ride home.

I did pick up some more items to add to my basic essentials, which were now necessary to purchase, due to the arrival of the sewing machine. They were some bobbins (the machine came with 3 but I didn’t realise until I opened the box at home), sewing machine needles (I’ve been advised to change the needle after every project, to ensure the quality of work is maintained and not lessened by a blunt needle) and some thread to match the fabric for my projects. Combined with my earlier purchases, I am now all set to sew. I can’t wait to really start using this machine. I’m excited to look back at my initial posts in 6 months time and hopefully see how much I’ve progressed. I’m officially ready to start sewing at home. It’s the start of a new relationship for me and my Little Juki. Will it be a match made in sewing heaven? I do hope sew!