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Repair Café Follow Up:

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

Sewing Machines and Sewing Repairs!

by Debbie Colgrove (debcolgrove101@gmail.com)


Regular readers of the Taghkanic Gazette may know of the recent Repair Café, held in September at the Roe Jan Library. As one of the fixers at the event, it was clear to me that a lack of some basic knowledge is the main things preventing people doing sewing projects themselves. If you don’t know me, I am the author of two sewing books, wrote a large sewing website for 19 years, volunteered with Columbia County 4H to help introduce sewing to our local youth, as well as having started sewing in 4H when I was much younger. I was asked to participate in the repair café and enjoyed answering many questions about sewing. As someone with years of sewing experience, I've encountered most of the stumbling blocks that stop people in their tracks.

One of the first obstacles is getting a sewing machine to sew. Believe it or not, the most common problems are usually a simple fix. When threading the sewing machine, missing even one guide or not having things set up properly when you thread it causes nightmares for any novice. It may seem easier to hire someone to do a simple mending or to just replace the item rather than going to battle with your sewing machine. In an attempt to make sewing easier for everyone, I was asked to share this information on the Gazette, and hope it is helpful!


Before you start or thread your sewing machine:

  1. If the machine hasn’t been used in ages or you have no idea when the needle was changed last, change the needle. A new straight needle that is not tarnished or nicked can make all the difference in the world!

  2. Use a new spool of thread. Old thread can get weak and rot. If you are in doubt about your thread, hold a piece between your two hands and see if it snaps when you tug on it. If it breaks between your hands, it will most likely do the same thing in any garment you mend with that thread, making your repair a waste of time and energy.

  3. Thread and other sewing supplies will seem expensive when you hit the stores, Get on mailing lists and use a phone app to obtain coupons. Shopping the sales saves a fortune on sewing equipment and supplies.

  4. If you have the manual for your machine and it’s been sitting around for a while, look up the directions for servicing your machine, winding the bobbin, and threading the machine. Take things one step at a time. Ideally, read the entire manual to get the most out of your machine. If you don’t have the manual, look it up online. Almost every sewing machine manual can be found online, most for free. Use the brand name, machine model and machine make with the term “manual” in your search terms. For Example: Brother CS7205 Sewing Machine Manual.

  5. Grab an old shirt, made with a woven, non-slippery, mediumweight fabric to use as practice and testing fabric, as you get to know your sewing machine. If you don’t have something you want practice on, try the remnant rack at a fabric store, looking for a woven quilting weight fabric. Remnants are small pieces of fabric that are discounted because of their small size. Don’t hesitate to ask for help in a fabric store. Usually, fabric stores also have a clearance section where you can find fabric up to 90% off.

Pointers for threading a sewing machine:

  1. Thread the machine with the presser foot up. Once the presser foot is lowered the tension is engaged, and the thread will not set itself between the tension disks the way it needs to in order to form even stitches. If the thread is not in every guide along the path from the spool of thread to the needle, the result will be a knotted thread nest UNDER the fabric, which causes most people to think it is a problem with the bobbin. However, 9 times out of 10 it is the upper threading causing the thread nest under the fabric.

  2. Depending on your machine, you may need to make sure the nick in the thread spool for holding the thread is not stopping the feed of the thread off the spool. Turn the spool around or use a separate thread stand if feeding the thread off the thread spool seems to be an issue.

  3. When placing the bobbin in the bobbin case, again follow the manual instructions. The thread has a specific path it needs to follow and will not sew acceptable stitches if the top thread and the bobbin are not threaded correctly.

Believe it or not, not so long ago, local dealers sold machines and taught you everything about the machine. Unfortunately, now there aren’t many sewing machine sales and repair locations that give you lessons when you buy a sewing machine. This forces us to buy machines off the shelf, in big-box stores, with no guidance whatsoever as to how to operate the machine.


Before I volunteered at the repair clinic, I compiled a list of sewing machine repair services and places that do mending and alterations (see below). I have personal experience with the ones listed and checked with them before giving out their information or recommending them. One starts at $59.95 to inspect and service your machine, finding any issues with the machine. I personally trust them with providing reliable information as to whether the machine is worth investing in repairs. If you are leery of driving that distance and think you have a threading problem, I can look at your machine with you and teach you how to thread it and make sure it is just a threading or operator error before you invest in the ride. Unfortunately, it is necessary for me to charge $20 for an hour of time to offer this service. If there is a problem with the machine itself, you’ll know a bit more before you make the trip or call the repair shop.


Finally, take classes. Many of the sewing machine resource and fabric stores offer classes for specific projects. Beginner classes for skirts, pillows, pillow cases or shorts are a great place to start. If you are inexperienced with your machine, I recommend talking to them about your skill level before you reserve class space. They may even offer classes to help you learn about your sewing machine. You have nothing to lose by asking!


Sewing Machine Repair (and Sales)

S & S Vac & Appliance Sunday & Monday Closed

(http://www.ssvac.com) Tuesday & Wednesday10 AM–5 PM

420 Violet Ave., (RT 9-G) Thursday 10 AM–7 PM

Poughkeepsie, NY 12601-1042 Friday 10AM- 5 PM

Phone: 845-452-6122 Fax 845-452-3739 Saturday:10:00AM - 2:00 PM

Email: ssvacappl@yahoo.com

Excellent Sales, Service, Classes and Lessons

Services all makes and models of sewing machines.


Sew and Vac, Inc. (2 locations)

Excellent Sales, Service, Classes and Lessons

Services all makes and models of sewing machines.

1.) Located in: Poughkeepsie Plaza 2.) 1789 Western Avenue

2600 South Rd Suite 39, Albany, NY 12203

Poughkeepsie, NY 12601 518-446-0437 Call for Hours

Phone: (845) 473-2770 Call for Hours

If you have a project that is extravagant or beyond your skill set, these locations specialize in Alteration and Repair Services:


Debbie Colgrove – mending, hems and repairs

795 Taghkanic Road Taghkanic NY 12523 – 518-851-9536

MRS Sew 'n' Sew Repairs-Minor

Clothing Alterations 22 YEARS IN BUSINESS

(518) 537-3688 Call for hours

4903 State Route 9g

Germantown, NY 12526

The Sewing Place - Clothing alteration service

Catskill, NY · (518) 755-7903

Twines of Silken Thread 146 Fairview Ave Hudson NY · (518) 751-2037

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2 Comments


Debbie, so glad you wrote this article. I appreciate all of your information. Joanne

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Debbie so glad you wrote this article. I appreciate all of your information.

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