Last week I had the pleasure of give two thread lectures at High Prairie Quilts in Parker CO. I love talking about thread and sewing so giving these talks is always a lot of fun. One topic that always comes up at these lectures is linty thread. When exactly did lint in the bobbin case become a terrible plague on stitching humanity? Have we made a mountain out of a molehill?
In the last 5 or so years there have been quite a few thread manufacturers telling us their brand of thread is the best we can buy because it is lint free or as close to lint free as possible. We ooohh and aaahh over this marvelous product and believe that lint free is the way to be. I admit to buying into the lint is bad story myself. But, if you stop a moment to really think about lint and its origins you just might have to accept an alternate reality. We tend to forget one little detail…the fabric we are stitching on supplies our machines with its own bit of lint. If we are stitching on homespun or loose weave fabrics we are rewarded with copious amounts of the evil lint.
I will let you in on a secret…if you take all the lint off of a thread you will cause un-spooling problems because the thread is so slick it just falls off of the spool. The little hairs you see on thread are actually beneficial. Yes, I admit that excess lint in the bobbin case might cause all sorts of problems from skipped stitches to the dreaded bobbin rats nest of tangled thread but how much can we blame the thread and how much our sewing machine hygiene regimen?
It may seem unlikely that my thread lectures include a firm admonishment about appropriate sewing machine hygiene but it is actually one of the more important parts of my lecture. Every time I ask how many attendees clean their machine regularly I am met with embarrassed and yes, even shame filled faces! We are so quick to blame poor defenseless lint for our stitching woes when the hard reality is that we have simply neglected the task of cleaning and oiling our precious machines.
How often should we clean and oil? That depends on how much you sew, the type of machine you have and even the environment you live in. Always refer to your machine’s instruction manual to learn how to clean and oil your particular machine. When I am sewing for most of the day I will clean and oil my machine before I stop for the night. It seriously only takes about 2 minutes. A good guideline is to clean and oil after every 8 hours of sewing. I live in a dry and dusty environment so I try to clean my machine more often. Remember that cleaning out the lint is only one goal. Oiling your machine properly will add years to its life and your machine will thank you.
The bottom line is that there are very few threads on the market today that cause so much lint that it can be problematic. Clean your machine (often), don’t take everything a manufacturer tells us as gospel and let’s let lint dissolve back into the molehill that it really is.
If you have thread questions leave a comment. I am working on some thread FAQs for our forum here since most of my awesome blog readers can’t get to one of my lectures. If you have a photo of a very linty machine send it to me to help illustrate this post…my machine is clean. ;-)