Oct 26, 2009

Adventures in sewing: cleaning the machine

I've had my sewing machine for almost ten years, now, and it was probably that old or older when I permanently borrowed it from my mother. (She was afraid of sewing her hand to the fabric, anyway.) It's a Dressmaker FA 590 — or maybe just a Dressmaker 590; the manual I have says both — and it's all lovely metal inside, so it's heavy, but super-sturdy. This is the machine I used to sew all my Jedi costumes except the first. (The first was all hand-sewn. In a week. Erk! With the gracious help of my mother, who is not afraid of sewing her fingers to the fabric if she gets to hold the needle.) This machine has sewn a great portion of the Ren Faire costumes I've made in more than ten years. This machine did my One Power concept costume in the first year of the Wheel of Time track at Dragon*Con. It's a lovely machine and I feel no urge whatsoever to replace it (though I would consider adding another machine to the collection...).

For the past couple of years, though, the machine has been acting up. And it occurs to me that, you know ... I should probably clean it after all these years. ;)

New Mexico State University, for some reason I haven't tried to figure out because I have 2,000 other things to do before Friday, has directions on how to clean your sewing machine. They look ... rather intimidating. But if uncaking all the accumulated machine oil, dust and thread fuzz will make my machine run like new again, then that's the way the starship flies.

The bulk of the grime-fighting tools came from Jo-Ann. Check! (Why do I need a bottle of sewing machine lubricant and a bottle of sewing machine oil? Oh, well. Bought it anyway. It'll get used someday.) But this solvent stuff eluded me. I checked Jo-Ann, Home Depot, the automotive parts store ... None of them gave me an obvious choice on what sort of solvent to use against sewing machine oil and years of thread fuzz, so I didn't pick anything up. Plus, I have an instinctive aversion to putting turpentine or mineral spirits or acetone into my sewing machine. It's probably silly — but I also didn't want any of that stuff sitting around the house, unused, afterward. What am I going to do with 3/4 of a bottle of turpentine? The boyfriend and I wondered if citrus oil would work.

And lo! A little research online turned up Citra Solv ... which looked familiar; it's one of those things I've seen at the health food store but ignored as something I don't have a use for. Well, now I do. I'm going to try it on my sewing machine.

The final members of the grime-fighting team*:

Cleaning the sewing machine: prep

The challenger:

Cleaning the sewing machine: prep

Find out what happens, find out who wins, on the next episode of Star and Crossbones Iron Sewing Machine Cleaners!

Cleaning the sewing machine: prep

*In the grime-fighters photo, from left to right, top to bottom: bottle of Citra Solv (to dissolve crud), sewing machine oil, dust/lint brush, sewing machine lubricant, tweezers (to pick out crud), screwdrivers (to help me disassemble, if and when I need to), and, in the bottom row, new sewing machine needles to use after the machine is clean. Because friends don't let friends use old, blunt sewing machine needles.
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