Friday, October 10, 2014

How Did I Become A Sewing Machine Mechanic?

I am often asked, how I became a sewing machine mechanic.  I got lucky!  I've worked at a quilt shop that sells and repairs sewing machines for over 10 years.  When the assistant tech retired, The Boss asked me if I’d like to learn.  I had worked on cars a little and enjoyed it.  And I have a high mechanical IQ.  So I was pretty excited about the offer!  I’ve been training as a sewing machine mechanic for over 8 years, and I still learn something new every day, and The Boss still has to help me with the hard stuff.  There's a lot to learn!

The best way to learn, is to become an apprentice to someone who has been doing it for a long time.  The Boss started learning when he was 16, and he’ll be 57 soon.   He didn’t really have anyone to teach him, and he’ll tell you that he “learned from the school of hard knocks.”  So he's a  patient man, and  doesn’t get upset with me when I make mistakes.  Making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn.... as long as you don’t do any permanent damage. :-)

If you can't train under a pro, here are some ideas...

1)  I’ve seen some good books on Amazon about sewing machine maintenance.  They can teach you the basics.  

2)  The older mechanical machines are a good place to start.  You can get them from the thrift store for $10 to $25.  Take them through the "What To Check..." list that's at the top of my blog, and see if you can get them sewing.

3)  If you become a sewing machine dealer, you can attend their conventions.  I’ve been to “Bernina University” once.  But you don’t really learn much from power point presentations.  

4)  There’s a website, where you can get help with working on vintage sewing machines...  Just above the quilting board, there’s a section “For Vintage and Antique Machine Enthusiasts.”  There are some nice people there, who are great about answering your questions.

5)  There are so many variables in sewing machines, that you need to be the kind of person who can figure things out.  We very rarely use the service manuals.  We know the basics, and figure out the rest.  There's so much that isn't in the manual!

 6)  You NEVER want to start un-screwing things that you don’t know what they do.  We had a woman try to adjust the timing on her Bernina, and really scrambled her machine.  She unscrewed things that we are taught to NEVER unscrew, even as sewing machine mechanics.  It would cost her about $400 to send it to Bernina and have them unscramble it.  We’ve had a few older mechanical machines that have been scrambled beyond repair, as well.

Being a sewing machine mechanic is fun and rewarding... most of the time.  Other times, I’m really glad The Boss is there to help me.  I can't imagine trying to figure out all of these machines by myself, without The Boss to take care of the harder ones.


  1. Purchasing a sewing machine can be overwhelming with various options coming in to the picture. I was wondering whether to buy a straight stitch, zigzag stitch or fancy stitch sewing machine.
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  4. Thanks for such superb info; this in actual fact comes in handy.

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  6. Nice to read this article will be very helpful in the future, share more info with us. Good job!
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  8. Nice to hear the backstory! I'm a female getting started in sewing machine repair. Also love to work on cars!

  9. The Boss and I were just talking about how so many of the OSMG’s (Old Sewing Machine Guys) are retiring and don’t have anyone to take their place. It makes more business for those of us who are still doing it. The machines come from farther away because they’re loosing their local OSMG’s.

    I sure hope you can get into the business. The world sure does need more good sewing machine mechanics.

  10. Thanks for the outstanding advice, it really is useful.
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  11. I just found your blog! Oh, my gosh, I hope you are still fixing machines! I teach computer repair and maintenance and own over 14 sewing machines myself. I want to do this when I retire! Thank you for having this site!

  12. Hi I am really interested in becoming a mechanic apprentice. If anyone knows of someone in Norfolk/Chesapeake/ VABeach, Virginia area who’s willing to train me,please let me know. Thanks much