Preventative Maintenance 5 08/22/2015

sewing1One area of your machine that accumulates a lot of thread lint is the bobbin area. This is an area that needs to be maintained periodically. There is a lot of precision work happening in there and lint and dirt can cause many issues that sometimes are intermittent and otherwise hard to diagnose. Just a cleaning of the bobbin area can quickly make your machine run so much better.

There are 2 basic bobbin types. With the top loading bobbin, you load the bobbin from the top. These are sometimes referred to as drop in bobbins. The needle plate is secured over the bobbin area. The other type of bobbin is either on the front or left side of the machine. In this case you place the bobbin in the bobbin carrier and then install that assembly into the machine.

For best performance the bobbin are should be cleaned every 2-3 hours of sewing. This is a general rule. Depending on the material and thread used, more or less lint buildup can occur which can effect this period. But it never hurts to keep it clean. The more you clean this area the easier it becomes. It is much easier to maintain then have to do a thorough cleaning after neglecting this area.


TopBobbin2Remove the access cover and the bobbin.  Remove the needle plate. Remove the carrier. Some machines have a cover under the bobbin area that can be removed to gain even better access to the area. Remove it as well if it exists.

Depending on how dirty the area is will depend on what you use to clean it. You can use a sewing machine or computer vacuum or an air compressor. When using the air compressor I recommend a pressure setting of no greater than 70 lbs. You can also use a canned air with some cautionary steps. Do not turn the can sideways or upside down.  YOU DO NOT WANT ANY LIQUID REPEL ANT TO SPRAY FROM THE CAN AS YOU CLEAN. Liquid and metal causes rust. Rust can cause a trip to Fix & Sew for repair or probably parts replacement. If the can gets cold by long use, let it warm up again before using. You can also use a brush to remove any solid, stuck on items.

The hook race is a circular groove that runs around the bobbin case. This groove or track allows the hook to travel in a circular path around the bobbin when the machine is in operation. Pay close attention to this area when cleaning. You may have to use a toothpick or something similar to get it clean. This is an area that broken needles can hide in as well.

Once you have thoroughly cleaned all the areas you will need to use some oil. Less is best. One drop is all you will need. I use a syringe type of oiler to get a very fine drop. Remember we want to keep lint, dust and goo from building up. Oil attracts this so, less is best. Also, the type of oil is very important. Use oil that is specifically designed for sewing machines. DO NOT USE 3 in 1, WD40 OR SIMILAR PRODUCTS.

You need to place the drop of oil in the race that is located on the inside of the hook. Movement of the hook will spread the oil. You can also spread the oil using a cotton swab. If you use a swab be careful not to let it catch on anything and tear off some of the cotton. Reinstall the items in reverse order. Once installed rotate the hand wheel manually towards you and observer the bobbin area for smooth and proper operation.


FrontLoadBobbin2FrontLoadBobbin8Open the bobbin area. Remove the bobbin carrier and case assembly. Disengage the bracket(s) that hold the hook cover in place and then remove the hook cover and hook. Remove the needle plate to expose the feed dogs. Thoroughly clean the area as discussed previously as part of the top load bobbin.

Once you have cleaned the area, apply a single drop of oil to the race as previously described in the top load bobbin section. Replace all parts in reverse order. The hook is like a half moon and fits in correctly only 1 way. You can also rotate it slowly and it will slide in place when in the correct location. The hook cover will not go one correctly if the hook is not seated properly.

FrontLoadBobbin9FrontLoadBobbin3Be careful when installing the bobbin and bobbin carrier assembly. Try not to use the hinged handle to hold the assembly. This is used only during removal to release the assemble. Using it during installation can cause incorrect seating of the assembly. If you get into practice of installing the assembly without using the handle, it will lessen the likelihood of incorrectly seated bobbin carriers and bobbin. Rotating the assembly as you insert it can help to locate the proper position. Once installed rotate the hand wheel manually towards you and observer the bobbin area for smooth and proper operation.

We will address winding, threading and tensioning the bobbin next post.

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Preventative Maintenance 4 08/14/2015

sewing1Another essential to your machine operating at its peak is the thread. Thread is what holds the fabrics together. One thread is under the fabric and is supplied by the bobbin. The top thread is drawn through the needle. The sewing machine moves the need and thread through the fabric and down further and is caught by the hook. The hook moves the thread around the bobbin thread. As the needle is retracted back through the fabric it tightens to form a locked stitch. The locked stitch is between the fabrics. Besides the needle an improperly threaded sewing machine is probably the next most common cause of problems. There are many wrong ways to thread a SewingProcesssewing machine but only 1 way to do it correctly.


There are so many sewing machines out there how do you know how to thread each one? Most modern machines have a guide to follow. Maybe arrows. colors  or numbers. But they all have the same basic way they are threaded.

The first thing to do is raise the pressure foot. I will mention this again at the time it is most critical. But if you get in the habit of doing this first the issue later explained can be avoided in most cases. It is easier to remember at the beginning than in the middle of threading. It is just how our brain works I think.

Thread comes on a spool. The spool can be mounted vertically or horizontally. You should always use a properly sized spool cap that slides over the spool pin on top of the spool. The proper size would be the smallest spool cap you can use SpoolCapsThreadsthat still has some of the cap extending out over the spool. Why is this important? A spool cap has 2 main purposes. First, it keeps the spool in place. We do not want that spool moving. This can cause unpredictable tension issues, tangling of the thread etc. Second, modern spools have different ways to hold the thread on the spool when you store them. Maybe a slot you wind the thread around, a cap that pulls up so you can wind the thread around or just a groove you force the thread in. All these can cause issues if the thread catches on them. Again, the tension can be affected unpredictably or may even break. It is just a best practice to get use to using a spool cap. Note: On some machines it may be necessary to utilize a spool net to make the thread slide off the spool smoothly.

TopThreadingOnce you have properly mounted the spool, draw the tread off the spool and draw it through the first thread guide. Next, look to the left or below for the next guide. Depending on the machine there can be as many as 4 thread guides. They can be positioned across the top, back or front of the machine. Newer machines have done a great job at eliminating so many guides.

After the thread guides, the thread will go through the tensioning discs. The older machines have them on the front of the machine. Many newer machines have them out of easy view behind a cover(s). Improper threading through the tensioning discs is a very common sewing issue. As mentioned before, RAISE the pressure foot. This is the critical point. Why? If you do not raise the foot the discs have tension on them, closed. The thread will most likely ride on the outside edge and not between the discs. The discs are there to apply tension to the thread as you sew. In order to do this the thread MUST be between the discs. So raise the pressure foot so the thread can be placed between them and not on top. The pressure foot can remain up until you thread the needle.

After the discs the thread passes through the tension spring. On older machines with the tension discs exposed at the front, you can easily see the spring. On newer machines it may not be exposed. But as you draw the thread through the discs properly it will be engaged with the thread. I mention it because it is a part of the threading and you should be aware of it. The tensioning spring keeps the thread stable in the discs while sewing.

After the spring, you need to draw the thread through the take up lever and then back down towards the needle.

On many machines there may be a guide before the needle. It is usually close to the needle. Pass the thread through the guide.

Before you pass the thread through the eye of the needle, pull on the thread. As you pull the thread there should be very little resistance. This is because you have the pressure foot rasied which releases the tensioning discs. Now lower the pressure foot and pull on the thread again. You should feel the resistance now. If you do not feel resistance, check the threading at the tensioning discs again.

Finally, pass the thread through the eye of the needle.

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Preventative Maintenance 3 08/06/15


There are 2 main types of power distribution systems utilized in the world today. In the United States we use a 120V AC and in Europe they use a 240V AC system. The electrical system in a sewing machine was specifically designed for use on the appropriate power system. The cord end for each system is different. There are multiple cord end types within the 240V systems that are OK to adapt and use. Again, the key here is the power source/type. The machine MUST match the power type it is used on. Do not simply replace a cord end and plug it into a different type of power source. There is a means to using these machines on the different power source. You must purchase the proper step up or step down transformer. Many can do both. For more details you can talk directly to a sewing repair company like Fix & Sew.

Sewing2In the beginning sewing machines power was supplied to them from either a hand or foot. The first treadle sewing machine was manufactured over 150 years ago. In fact one company still manufactures a treadle machine. They do this for third world countries where electricity is lacking; in addition, there are groups of people like the Amish who prefer not to use electricity. The hand crank machine is no longer produced. These machines may even become more popular with those individuals that want to get off the grid.


A frequent source of sewing machine issues can be caused by electrical problems. Even technicians who work on multi-million dollar equipment usually diagnose a issue first by making sure they have power. In their case it goes even further because there usually are several types of power sources to diagnose. Lucky for us, sewing machines are less complex than those machines.

Many times sewing machines are moved about in your immediate sewing environment and periodically they are moved from location to location. Sewing machines can become unplugged or have a loose connection. Sometimes a problem can occur due to wear and tear on the cord, plugs or the foot control.  Bare wires are a safety concern. They can cause a shock or even a fire. When two wires touch they can cause a short.  A complete break in the wire can also occur. You may have an intermittent issue or the machine just does not operate at all. These issues can have detrimental effects on today’s sewing machines. The more electronic they are the more concern there is to spikes or changes to voltage supply.

Periodically you should inspect your sewing machine cords. Look for prongs that are bent or damaged or maybe even show burnt signs caused by arcing. Look and feel for cracks, cuts worn spots along all wires. Look inside connectors, like where the cord connects to the machine or plugs into the foot, for damaged pins, sockets etc. Remember to check both the connector and where it connects to the machine or foot. Again black arcing can be an indication of a poor connection and should be addressed.

In many cases, basic wiring issues can be repaired simply with a visit to a local hardware store for supplies. You should only do these repairs if you are comfortable working on them AND with the proper materials and fix. Get advice from someone familiar with electrical wiring or talk to a repair center like Fix & Sew. In many cases, minor wears to the cord can be addressed with electrical tape. Some cases require the whole cord be replaced. You may be able to patch a cord making sure you use the proper supplies. If the issue is in the foot control and the machine is less than 10 years old or is a very popular model, an original part may be available. If you cannot find a original part then you can usually find a suitable after market replacement.

The key to this preventative maintenance is to do the periodic inspection and do not use a faulty machine cord or foot control.

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Preventative Maintenance 2 07/28/15

sewing1Sewing machine issues can happen at any time. Some of the issues you may see are the machine does not power up at all, it won’t run when you press the foot, it runs slow, the thread keeps breaking, the wrong stitch sews from what you selected, the threads skip, the thread bunches up on top or underneath the material, the fabric does not feed, the sewing does not look right etc. etc. etc. Each situation requires different diagnosis. In the next few blogs I am going to address the most common causes of sewing machine problems. Again, before you panic and take your machine in for repair to a technician like Fix & Sew, you need to make sure these common causes are not your issue.

The first common issue is…. THE NEEDLE. For some reason most sewers do not like to replace the needle often, yet that is the most used item on the machine. Maybe it is cost or we look at a needle and visually do not see anything wrong. We think because the needle is still sharp enough to poke us and draw blood, ouch, that they surely can poke through the material. But there is more to a needle than poking through the material. Think how often that needle goes through the material. That needle has to go through clean and then pull the bottom thread up. It has to do this consistently and smoothly. Microscopic issues cannot be seen. In addition, the needle heats up as it does this and it wears out.

Besides going through the material there are other forces on the needle. Not intentionally, but some times we try to “help” the material through the machine instead of letting the machine feed it. Maybe we had to pull a bunched of material out or that bunched up thread stopped the needle. Maybe the needle struck something like the stitch plate or bobbin etc. There are many forces going on.

Below you will see the different parts of a needle. I will not go into the details but be aware a lot is going on at a rapid pace over many cycles. Each of these areas has a roll in creating the stitch.You can read more about the anatomy of a needle at several sites.

HorizontalNeeldeBackNeedleSome reasons you should consider replacing your needle are:

  • Every 3-4 hours of sewing or every 5th bobbin change
  • If it is rusty
  • If it struck anything metal
  • If it is bent
  • It is dull
  • Sewing skips stitches
  • The fabric appears to bounce a lot while sewing
  • Unsure condition

When in doubt, replace the needle. If your machine is just acting strange or not sewing exactly right, replace the needle. Even a brand new needle can be flawed. It is a simple and low cost thing to do. My wife has spent hours diagnosing a strange issue and in the end replacing the needle is all it took. In my many years of troubleshooting multi-million dollar equipment, I have been surprised over and over again how the simplest part can cause so a big headache.

When you replace a needle or start your sewing project, make sure you are using the right needle for the material and use a QUALITY needle. The type and size are important.

  • Stretchy fabrics – Use a stretch or ball point needle
  • Woven fabric – Use a sharp or universal needle
  • Light weight fabric – Use smaller needles (#10 or #8)
  • Medium fabrics – Use medium needles (#11 or #12)
  • Heavy fabric – Use heavy needles (#14 or #16)

There is a lot of choices for needles. It all depends on what you sew and the machine. Sewing machines, embroidery machines, serger machines all have specific needles designed for them. Many of the stores offer a guide  you can take home.  The same information in these guides can be found at


Martha’s Pink 1953 Singer Featherweight

Finally, Make sure your needle is always installed correctly. The back flat of the needle goes towards the back of the machine. Also, make sure it is fully installed. There is an exception to the flat back rule. Older Singer sewing machines put the flat to the right.

In the case of a round needle, like for a serger, you need to use the “groove” as your guide. The groove is where the thread rides as the needle goes up and down. It is on the front of the needle. This groove will face towards the front of the machine.

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Cleaning Example 07/23/2015

IMG_0053TakeupArmI have been talking about preventative maintenance in another blog. I have mentioned that even with preventative maintenance you still need a periodic cleaning and tune up. I recently worked on a machine that was well maintained but just had intermittent issues.  The picture shows what I found on the take up arm. But it was not as easy as it sounds. I did not see it during the standard cleaning and tune up. But being a stickler to go over everything multiple times, I just happened to see a small thread end in the machine as I was oiling components. When I pulled on it I found it would not come out. The thread and many others were wound tightly around the mechanism. Some I could unwind but eventually I had to remove the take up arm to free all. You can see all the thread that I removed in the bowl.

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Preventative Maintenance 1 07/22/15

sewing1As I bet you already know, sewing machines come in many different styles and types. Some are mechanical with very few stitches and others are electronic or embroidery machines and have multiple stitches and features. But they all need a regular checkup. You change your oil, check and rotate your tires and more, regularly on your car. Your sewing machine needs a check up regularly as well. Usually this should be annually. Even if you leave the machine in a closet. Before you sew with a machine that has been stored for over a year it should be cleaned and tuned up. The more expensive the machine the more important this is. Some machines can cost over $10.000 and you surely want to avoid a costly repair because you neglected annual cleanings and tune ups.The Preventative Maintenance steps are meant to keep your machine running at its best between the annual checkups.

Preventative Maintenance 1: Prevent exposure to direct sunlight, moisture, shifts in temperature and dirt

Some of the common items that can cause sewing machine issues are:

  • Direct sunlight can cause the plastics of sewing machines to deteriorate, turn yellow and even melt
  • Moisture can cause rust, mildew, mold and it really messes with the insides of your machine
  • Extreme temperature shifts is not good on many components. For example, metal can change size when temperatures change and electronics may even stop working properly
  • Lint, dust, grit and grime are very harmful to the operation of the machine. Lint is a constant enemy because just the movement of the thread through the machine causes it

Solutions to these common issues above:

  • Keep your sewing machine away from windows where sun exposure is possible
  • Make or purchase a quilted cover and use it. This will keep the sun out, dust out and moisture down. You still need to keep the machine away from the direct sunlight due to the heat but this will help with yellowing cause by the UV rays
  • Keep your machine at room temperature. Don’t store it in a place like a attic, closet, shed etc. where temperatures and humidity can rise
  • Using a hard cover in addition to the quilted cover offers even more protection from bumps
  • Periodically use a damp cloth and wipe down your machine. The only cleaner you should use is a window cleaner like Windex. Cleaners like 409 can damage the plastic and others can leave a residue

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Preventative Maintenance Intro 07/21/2015

sewing1When all is going well, sewing is relaxing, rewarding and much more. When things are not going well it is very frustrating and may want to make you quit. Many times you have invested a lot of your time and effort as well as money. When that investment frustrates you, what do you do? These times will always happen as any long time seamstress will tell you. Most, if not all, will tell you they felt like quitting, throwing the machine across the room, yelled at the machine etc. at some point in their sewing adventures. They will also tell you this was not a single event. So what do you do? Do you pack it up and take it to a repair person like Fix & Sew? Do you buy another machine? Do you sell it at a yard sale or make a planter out of it?

It is a good idea to get into a habit of doing regular preventative maintenance on your machine. You should still take your machine in periodically, depending on its usage, for a thorough cleaning and tune up; however, by doing your own preventative care, there is a less likelihood that you will have unexpected repairs beyond a normal cleaning and tune up. The blogs on preventative maintenance will detail the preventative maintenance you should perform on your machine regularly or before you panic and take your sewing machine in for repair. By doing this your machine will run at its optimum and stitches will form perfectly.


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Sewing and Classes 07/20/2015


Fix & Sew is more than just a place to have your sewing machine repaired. We are here to promote sewing. With all the work and activities pulling for our time, parents, schools etc. have to choose what they focus on. Learning to sew takes time and not everyone enjoys or benefits from learning to sew. We want to help with that. We do this in many ways.

We offer small group classes in the privacy of your home or at our location. Whichever you prefer. This is great for a group of friends, a group of children, homeschooling and the classes can be customize to any area you wish to learn. Introduction to sewing, beginners, advanced, quilting, crafts are a few of the areas you can learn. These classes will be in a comfortable setting because they are not in a store. Although there is a planned time period to the lessons, we do not hold to that. If we need to spend extra time with 1 or all we can do this.

Martha Becker

Martha Becker

Sewing can be costly. It takes time. You can become frustrated. How do we know this? Because our teacher, Martha Becker, is self taught and struggled as she learned. She was persistent enough to stay with it and had to figure things out on her own. Before you decide to spend money on a machine or before you even know if you will like to sew, why not take a introductory coarse from Martha? We have some basic sewing machines as well as supplies we will let you use during this class. You can also be exposed to a variety of machines and she can explain why or why not to purchase from a sewing dealer or department store. At present we do not sell machines! So there is no incentive for us to sway you one way or the other. We can help you walk through the options of what you might want to purchase. Of course only after you test the waters to see if it is something you enjoy and want to do.

After you take a class Martha is available to assist you. If you have started a project and maybe get lost or perhaps there is one specific task you just haven’t mastered yet, get in touch with her and see if it is something she can walk you through. You can call, text email or even Skype. She wants to support your sewing adventures.

Martha also does private lessons. These can be in your home or at our location. They can be designed for a specific need or project. Unlike other lessons, you will have all of Martha’s attention. This can be a great way to build up your confidence and skills.

Hoop Sisters Quilt

Hoop Sisters Quilt

Do you want to get together and make a project? Martha is constantly learning and doing new things and we will be sharing those as a project class. Again the size of the class will be smaller like the group lessons providing more personal attention from Martha. If you have a group that wants to do the project we can set up a group class doing that specific project.

We will be posting projects periodically that Martha has completed. We also will post them to our Facebook page Please like our page. For more information, you can also visit our Web page at

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