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Sewing machines are easy to repair in the Repair Café. This certainly applies to mechanical ones. 73 percent of the sewing machines brought to the Repair Café are successfully repaired (see Figure 1). This is evident from the RepairMonitor, the online tool with which Repair Café repairers keep track of their repair data.

Sewing machines often don’t work because people don’t use them properly. This becomes clear when looking at the top 5 most common problem with sewing machines, found in the RepairMonitor:

  1. Tension broken or too high/low
  2. Broken/tangled bobbin winder
  3. Needle adjustments/stuck
  4. Needs cleaning and/or oiling
  5. Broken gear
Figure 1: Success rate of sewing machine repairs

Fortunately, sewing machine specialists are present in most Repair Cafés. They know a lot about the right settings and can help you on your way. In almost half of all repairs (49%), Repair Café repairers graded the repairability of the product as a 7 or higher (from a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the highest).

As can be seen in Figure 1, in only 11% of registered repairs of sewing machines, the repairer was not able to fix the problem. 16% of the registered repairs were ‘half repaired’. In many cases this means that a spare part was missing, or an advice was given to adjust the needle or tips on how to oil the sewing machine.

Singer, Pfaff and Husqvarna

According to the data in the RepairMonitor, people come mainly with sewing machines from Singer, Pfaff and Husqvarna (see Figure 2). Models from the brands Toyota and Lewenstein are likewise popular.

Figure 2: Top 5 sewing machine brands brought to Repair Cafés, according to the RepairMonitor

When sewing machines are successfully repaired, in many cases one of the following things was done:

  1. Cleaning and lubricating the sewing machine
  2. Choosing the right thread tension
  3. Adjusting and given tips for maintenance
  4. Foot pedals fixed
  5. Coils and gears were replaced.

With a mechanical sewing machine, you stand a good chance of a successful repair at a Repair Café!

Setting up your sewing machine

Repair Café Nieuwegein (the Netherlands) has a sewing machine specialist: volunteer Marieke. “People often don’t know how to do stitching”, she says. According to Marieke, people often thread the thread incorrectly out of ignorance. The manual of the sewing machine or internet can offer a solution. Make sure to use the same yarn above and below and always re-tension the thread before sewing. Always use the correct needle and make sure it is clean. A good needle is a needle that is sharp. Also put the coil in well. If the bobbin is not properly seated in the bobbin case, the needle will not go back and forth, preventing sewing.


As with all devices, maintenance is also important with sewing machines.

  1. Clean your sewing machine regularly.
  2. Make sure you take the power off before cleaning.
  3. You can clean a sewing machine by taking the frame apart.
  4. Dust can then be easily removed. This way, you will also become familiar with the inside of your machine.

Cleaning a device is a good start to understanding it. Moving parts can be lubricated with sewing machine oil. If you have a self-lubricating sewing machine you don’t have to; these machines continue to work well on their own.

Newer machines are less repairable

Newer sewing machines are often much less repairable than older models, according to Repair Café repairers. This can also be seen in Figure 3, which represents the success rates of sewing machine repairs registered in the RepairMonitor, grouped by how old the machines are. Sewing machines which have been produced before the 2000s have a higher repairability than the newer once.

Marieke notices that people often have to return the newer machines to the specialist in case of problems. In such cases, a new chip often has to be inserted. You cannot easily tinker with such machines yourself. That is a pity, says Marieke. Few young people with a sewing machine visit Marieke in her Repair Café. It is often older women who don’t know how to handle their sewing machine anymore.

Sewing machine websites

Fortunately, there are more and more good sewing machine websites. Marieke often visits the Matri website. It has a whole <step-by-step-maintenance plan> with clear images and many sewing machines parts. Furthermore, it provides sewing tips as well as a forum with solutions to common sewing machine problems. When it comes to right maintenance , then this website provides a detailed description of how to take care of your sewing machine.

If you own a Pfaff sewing machine, there is also the possibility of visiting their website. Here you can enter your machine name and find the manual online.

Come to the Repair Café!

Do you need help fixing your sewing machine? Many Repair Cafés have many sewing machine repairers amongst their volunteers. Find a Repair Café near you! See you soon!

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