Maintenance on my Tin Lizzie


Just like most mechanical machines, long-arm quilt machines require regular maintenance. How nice it would be to just turn on the switch and start quilting. Unfortunately it wouldn’t take long for equipment failure to occur. Listed below are the steps I take to keep my machine running smoothly.

First and foremost is checking the oil. A long-arm quilt machine has many parts requiring lubrication. Each time I get ready to use my machine one of the first things I do is check the oil. Although there’s no hood to lift there is a dip stick. This dip stick is tiny compared to that of a motor vehicle. The procedure is very similar.

The next and most obvious key to successful operation is the accurate threading of the machine. Missing just one step can cause missed stitches and/or broken thread. Long-arm quilt machines are a bit trickier to thread than conventional machines. To simplify the threading process I always leave enough thread in the machine to make one complete pass through the circuit.  That way when it comes time to change thread colors all I do is tie the new thread to the end of the old one and gently pull it through. The only time this fails is when my knot falls apart. Of course it’s not the end of the world. It just means I have to finish it myself.

Thread is inherently accompanied by lint. Lint is an ongoing obstacle; too much accumulation will create problems with the bobbin as well as the movement of the machine on its rails. An accumulation of lint, threads or other debris will prohibit the wheels from moving freely. A bumpy ride makes for wobbly stitches. Wobbly stitches is a recipe for a very unhappy quilter.

To keep my machine gliding effortlessly I regularly clean the rails as well as the wheels that ride on them. Cleaning them is a simple procedure. I utilize a dusting wand to remove obstructions from the rails. To clean the wheels, of which there are many, I hold an ordinary facial tissue against each of the wheels as I advance the quilter. You’d be amazed at the volume of debris one can remove.

The frame, which provides not only support for the long-arm quilt machine but also the path by which the machine travels, is composed of many metal and plastic parts. Those various parts are held together by screws. Each of those screws has the potential to loosen up. On one such occasion I experienced one of the consequences. A screw securing one of the handles on a rod came out. A quick phone call to the supplier of my machine, Park City Quilting, resulted in a very simple solution. Ever since that episode I faithfully check the status of each and every screw. A little turn here and a little turn there keeps everything together.

The last but not least maintenance issue is the all important needle. The needle of a long-arm quilt machine travels at a very high rate of speed. The repetitious movement causes wear and tear on the needle resulting in burrs and/or a dull needle. This deterioration can cause damage to a project. To eliminate that possibility it’s important to regularly replace the needle. Some people believe every project deserves a new needle. Others are of the opinion that closely monitoring the status of your needle for problems is just as effective.

Well this brings my tour of long-arm quilt machine maintenance to an end. Perhaps it’s a bit more information than you were interested in. If I lost you somewhere back in the first paragraph there’s no need to worry because you won’t be tested. I am happy though that you took the time to stay with me. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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