How Long Should Sewing Machines Last?
When it comes to buying sewing machines, you get what you pay for. A cheaper machine may not last as long as a more expensive one, but if sewing may be a passing fancy for you, starting with a cheaper machine might be your best option.
If you are looking to buy an extremely inexpensive sewing machine, say in the $50 to $80 range, you will be getting a beginner machine that might last up to three years, if you’re lucky. Some of the extremely inexpensive machines break after a few uses. If you want something that will last several years, stay away from the mini machines.
If you spend just a little more, you can get a better machine that will last longer, like this Singer heavy duty sewing machine. Despite being portable, it is built around a strong metal frame which gives it more durability. It has 97 different stitches you can use, all of which are set with manual control knobs.
If quilting is your thing, you can pick up this Brother sewing/quilting combo machine for about the same price. It has 165 different stitch functions which can all be set and adjusted digitally. With an automatic needle threader and led back-lit panel, you will soon forget that you bought an inexpensive sewing machine! It has a lot of high-end options and gets great reviews.
Both Singer and Brother are respected names in the sewing industry. Both these machines, when maintained properly, will last five years or longer.
When you start looking at heavier-weight machines or sewing and embroidery machine combos, that is when you see the price increase. Just like the examples above, the less you pay, the less time the machine generally lasts. Investing a little more into your purchase can result in a number of more years of sewing machine usage.
Related: Where to Find Used Sewing Machines (5 Places to Look)
Longevity by Brand Name
Most sewing machine companies dare not predict how long their machines will last. A lot of that depends on the user, how they care for the machine, and how they use it. Names of sewing machine companies known for good products, in addition to Singer and Brother mentioned above, include Janome, Bernina, Husqvarna (yes, the same people who make mowers and other outdoor tools also make an excellent sewing machine). My first sewing machine was a Kenmore, a Sears sewing/embroidery combo machine. It remains my machine of choice for all my sewing projects 20 years later. When my dad bought my mother her Singer sewing machine, he surprised her by buying the cabinet for it, too. That was in 1959, and it’s still sewing today.
Tips For Extending The Life of Your Sewing Machine
No matter how little or how much you invest in your sewing machine, there are things you can do to prolong the life of your sewing machine:
Use a Cover
Cover your sewing machine when it’s not in use. This helps protect it from dust, which can settle into crevices and mechanisms.
Keep Bobbin Casing Clean
Dust the bobbin casing before each use. Before you start working on your sewing project, take the small brush that comes with your sewing machine’s cleaning set and use it to whisk away any dust in the bobbin casing. Dust can hang up the motion of the bobbin, which can negatively affect both the upper and lower thread tensions, which leave you with loose stitches. Add a single squirt of oil after dusting, if your sewing machine manual recommends it.
Only Use Oil Designed For Sewing Machines
Speaking of oiling your sewing machine, only use oil meant specifically for sewing machines. Do not use cooking oil, even in a pinch. Follow your sewing machine’s manual for oiling instructions. If your sewing machine oil looks dirty (it should be clear) or if you see sludge in the bottle, it is time to buy new sewing machine oil.
Change The Sewing Needle
Change your sewing needle after 8 hours of use. Sewing machine needles are a very important part of the mechanics. The needles need to be in their best shape so the machine can work at optimal performance. Eight hours is the standard recommendation for changing your sewing machine needles.
If, however, you are sewing through especially thick fabric or through a fabric adhesive product like Wonder Under or HeatnBond, you should change the needle after completing the project even if it has been less than eight hours. Especially in the case of sewing through an adhesive product, if your needle is gummy it will not function properly.
At the very least, it might leave residue on your fabric. In the worst case scenario, the gummy needle makes sewing difficult which can result in the bobbin thread knotting beneath your fabric or the needle getting stuck in the fabric and tearing a hole in it.
Use Only Recommend Parts
Use only recommended parts with your sewing machine — that includes needle sizes and bobbins. Some machines use plastic bobbins; some use metal, and some accept both. You can find out what your machine requires in the user’s manual. (By the way, if you happen to lose your manual, look up the machine name and model number online to find an online copy of the manual.)
Perform Annual Service
Most importantly, you should have your sewing machine serviced once a year — maybe even twice a year if you run it like a workhorse. That means you need to find a sewing machine repair shop in your area. A general tune-up can run $50 to $100. Expect to pay more if your machine is a combination machine — sewing/quilting or sewing/embroidery. Larger machines (like a six-head embroidery machine) will cost more for a tune-up because of the additional parts involved in the cleaning process.
If you have a repair that needs to be made or if parts need to be replaced, that can cost more. If you are concerned about the price, let your service shop know and ask them to call you if they run into any repairs that need to be made. You can decide at that point whether you will pay to make those repairs or save the money to invest in a new machine in the near future.