Saturday, 12 December 2009

Tip 7 - look after your dogs - feed dogs that is!

I am actually quite amazed how many sewers do not know how to gain access to the feed dog area of their sewing machine and more surprisingly WHY this is so important. But then if you have never been told I suppose you wouldn't know ..... hence todays tip :

learn how to remove the sole plate and clean your feed dogs

Ok I hear you say ...."what exactly are the feed dogs and where is this plate? "

Lets begin by sewing a simple seam on a piece of fabric. Take your hands off the fabric and let the machine do the work. Do you notice how the fabric is travelling through the machine ALL BY ITSELF ? Well the reason this happens is down to the FEED DOGS. They are used to pull the fabric forward (or backwards) through the machine. Put simply, they are the 'drive wheels' of your sewing machine and without them your fabric won't move (by itself!)

Find your dogs!
Your feed dogs are quite easy to see and locate. Lower your needle and look at the sewing bed where the needle disappears into the guts of the machine. (If you can remove your pressor foot that will help you to see more clearly). Either side of the needle you will see a slot just over half an inch long. Got it? Now raise your needle. As you do a set of ridged teeth should start to poke through the slots. These are your feed dogs. Lower the needle again and watch as the ridged teeth disappear. The action of these ridged teeth - the feed dogs - coming to the surface and then disappearing is all part of the mechanism that moves your fabric through the sewing machine. Amazingly simple really isn't it?

Feed dogs are a much underrated aspect of our sewing machines but the truth is we do rely on them so lets look after them.

The Sole Plate
Surrounding the feed dogs will be a metal plate (on some machines this may be plastic). This is known by several names ... I call it the Sole Plate but your sewing machine manual may call it a Slide plate , Cover plate, Feed dog plate or Pressor Foot plate amongst others. We are going to remove this so consult your manual and discover how you do this. Every machine will be different. Most domestic machines have an easy 'pop-off' mechanism but if you are using a semi-industrial models you may find you have to unscrew the plate in some way. Take your time with this and READ the manual ... you don't want to damage this plate. BUT don't be afraid to do it either .... !

Get out your duster
Right ... once you have removed the plate be ready for a shock! You will looking into the guts of your sewing machine now .. ta dah! and yuck ... see all the dirt and dust and lint build up? Oh yes .. it will be there sure as eggs are eggs and we need to get rid of it! Use your brush from your sewing kit to clean out all those crevices and if you have one get hold of a new clean stencil brush (or household paint brush) and get deep into the machine with it to remove all those stray threads. Pay particular attention to your feed dogs. Look at the grooves between the teeth and the teeth ridges ... often you will see a build of lint that has 'felted' up. Get this out ! Left in place ... it WILL gum up your machine.

Canned Air
I don't recommend using canned air by the way .... it can send lint and theaad further into the machine and can deposit some moisture on metal parts that could (I suppose) start the rust up. Your choice of course but I wouldn't use it. Its just another expense too and nothing that a good brush can't cope with.

So now your feed dogs should be nice and clean. Keep them this way! Depending on how much you sew you may need to give this area a good clean once a month or more. So give your feed dogs a treat ... they will thank you for it!

So to recap : today's tip is:

learn how to remove the sole plate and clean your feed dogs


Christy said...

Thank you for the wonderful tip! I think my feed dog needs some cleaning.

Trudi said...

My dogs and I are very well aquainted :o) hehe, I love catching those dust bunnies, and at the moment it's a daily occurance! Great tip, no machine should leave the shop without a lesson by the dealer imho!

Diane J. Evans said...

It's amazing how well my machine runs after I clean the dogs! Great tip!