Sewing machine mechanics & my new machine!

The only thing harder to find than a good sewing contractor who can sew small lots at a reasonable price (I work with one closely by the way) is a good sewing machine mechanic.

my industrial sewing machine mechanics

As with everything in this business, it pays to develop a relationship. That itself is easier said than done. Take the case of my local guy, Paul Velasquez (his helper on the left is Jeremi):

I have to make arrangements a month or more in advance. Context is important in that I’m calling him to service the machines; I’m not having a crisis. Anyone who is down a critical machine is first in line and of course, the better a customer you are, the higher your priority versus a casual customer. The latter would be me. No emergency, small customer so I’m last. So I sweeten the deal by trying to source what parts and equipment I can through him. Take the example of this new machine I bought today (!), a Juki 1541S:

It’s a walking foot. I have been meaning to replace the half dozen Consews I sold before my last move with something spiffier. It doesn’t have a thread trimmer; the only model (1541-7) that does, comes with air and I don’t have air. [I could get it easily enough, I have the compressor but I really don’t want the noise.] On the plus side, this machine is less than half the cost of the one I had my heart set on ($1800 versus $4,200). I’m starting to get over my disappointment, I’m sure this one will grow on me. But back to establishing relationships.

If you’re handy and have the time, I’m 100% behind you in learning to service your own equipment -I’ve done it for 17 years. However, comes such a time that if (hopefully) you become moderately successful and don’t have the time anymore, it becomes less costly to have a professional service and repair your equipment for you. Having someone at your ear means having an adviser who can tell you how to solve an incalculable number of sewing problems.  Often, you need to learn new settings for new materials, learn about nifty attachments to perform cursory functions (roll hemmers are the bomb) and even, equipment on the market you may know nothing about. When someone is getting out of the business and has machines to sell, your mechanic will probably be the first to know. And sure, he or she will get a cut on the deal but this is as it should be. They don’t just source it for you, they’ll deliver and set it up for you too and that’s got to be worth something.  Oh and not just machines. They’ll know about cutting tables and sundry.

If you live outside of an apparel circuit like I do, it is very common that your mechanic is a dealer too. Keep in mind that “dealer” doesn’t mean one has a store front with machines in stock. It means they have wholesale relationships either with the factory or a distributor. My mechanic doesn’t have a store front and doesn’t have much in the way of inventory but he can order whatever I need. Generally, your mechanic cum dealer will charge list price, deliver it and set it up for you for that price. For me that is great. I could have purchased this from another supplier -to whom I would have paid list- but then be on the hook for shipping and then I would have had to set it up myself.

To be fair, it is usually a cake walk to set up a machine. They usually come complete (motor, table and machine) and at best, all you need to do is put a plug on the cord. Perhaps you would be amazed to know that many machines don’t come with plugs. Nobody is trying to cheat you, they don’t put one on as a convenience to you. You might need a trolley plug (if you have raceways) or a standard outlet. In today’s instance, there was a plug but it was too short (hey Consew -it was a Consew servo motor- what’s up with that?). It barely reached 6 feet up (most of us plug machines in overhead). I mean, 6 feet up, not a six foot cord. I think it was 4 foot.  Anyway, Paul switched out the cord with one he had on his truck so it would reach the pedestal outlet overhead. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just ask and I’ll explain it.

Anyway, I’m glad to finally have this machine. I’d been after him for about 6 weeks to drop it off and of course, to service the other equipment.

Speaking of, a lot of mechanics travel these days. Paul has customers on the east coast that he visits regularly. In fact, he is out of town the first month of every quarter. Which is why I’m glad he has an assistant now. Jeremi only works part time though. He is mostly a stay at home dad. I hope this relationship works out well for the two of them because somebody needs to take over Paul’s business. He looks very young but he’s been in the business for 45 years and is going to have to retire at some point. Rats,  I got off track, if you need a mechanic, it is possible that Paul will travel to your location.  Just don’t hog him to the extent that I can’t get him back to my place. You can contact him at 505-263-0143.

OT: I have got to get some real sewing chairs. The chairs I’m using (as seen in the photos, how embarrassing) are the kitchen chairs from when I lived at the Brewhouse in El Paso TX 10 years ago.

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  1. Chery says:

    GEE Kathleen. At LEAST buy a couple of $30-$40 rolling office/computer chairs from KMart or Walmart. They are adjustable to a point and they ROLL. I have these~~~LOVE THEM. HINT HINT… Put it on your CALENDAR to SERVICE the roller wheels every month. REMOVE the THREAD from the rollers. I didn’t THINK about this until I landed on my BACK on the floor because my wheels were CLOGGED with thread and wouldn’t roll. Treat your sewing machine guys like the GEMS THEY ARE. HAPPY FALL :)

  2. Theresa Riess says:

    Yes, he does look fairly young but he may have started very early, as in helping out a family member so you may have him a little while longer. Congratulations on the new machine.

  3. Marie-Christine says:

    Congratulations on the new machines! But yes, you need something better than kitchen chairs, unless you want to have to retire early due to back/neck pain. How about some office warehouse kind of place for used equipment? They often have the kind of older stuff that was actually better designed for sitting work, I’ve never found better than that 50s secretary’s chair :-)..

  4. Good info as always, Kathleen. As parts and supply distributors, we at SouthStar hear constantly from sew biz folks all around the country who are looking for a mechanic. We have started a list on our site, but we need more listings. Frankly I think sometimes those who’ve found a good mechanic are afraid to let anyone else know about him! Here is the page:

    If you’d like to submit someone’s info for listing or encourage your mechanic to do so, please use this address and we’ll gitter done:

  5. Sarah_H. says:

    Also check out on eBay, and suppliers for dr offices/beauty salons. The latter have good, heavy duty stools that are meant to move easily and have lots of adjustment.

  6. Lisa Blank says:

    Congrats on adding another machine to the stable. She’s a beauty!

    You are so right about the value of a mechanic. I depend on DH for troubleshooting the occasional problem, but I have no local mechanic (that I know of yet) who can come out and service the machines or fix a major problem, should one develop. Plus, I’d love to have someone who could help with the occasional sewing problem.

  7. Lisa Blank says:

    Oh, and I think my jaw dropped when I read that you bought a machine without a thread trimmer! I understand your explanation, and it makes perfect sense. I was just surprised until I read the rest of the paragraph!

  8. Judy Gross says:

    Kathleen, I couldn’t agree with you more, I have found a gem of a service technician, he will problem solve with me over the phone, and is generally available when I need him, but I don’t abuse the situation. When I need a new machine – I ask him, he finds one, and I buy it through him. I recently had a problem with my new set up – ultralight weight fabrics (0.5 oz / sq yd mylar film with dyneema threads laminated in it), heavy thread, long stitch and the zippers just gave me a headache with thread tension problems. I gave him a call, described the problem, he shipped out new zipper feet the next day which he filed out the groove on the bottom of the foot (made it much larger) – problem soved. He explained to me what the problem was, but I’m just glad he was able to fix this so easily. Like I said, a real gem and I dont’ mind paying a bit extra for his service.

  9. Sabine says:

    My old mechanic retired as I sold the store front. I was very sad. The funny and really sweet thing was-he bought ME chocolates as a Thank You. (I served as a drop off location for private customers for machine repair, maybe that’s why) Anyways, I miss him, but at 75 and bad health….

    Then my cover-lock screwed up and I needed help. I found a mechanic in Calgary…quick to respond, awesome service, good advise etc. You can even save travel expenses if you bring the machine (just the head, not the table etc) to him. I was impressed.

    Chairs: What IS a real sewing chair?

  10. Ronnie says:

    I’m jealous, wish we had someone like Paul. It has only been in the last month that I have found someone to service my machine, and he is just learning. He’s very nice and all, but can’t really help with any problems. I’m still calling the guys in Denver whenever I have a major problem and hope they can walk me through it.

  11. Natasha E says:

    In my dreams pleasant
    visions appeared of kathleen
    new gear. Cute Guy

    True story I DID have a sewing related dream after reading this posts where your technician sold me all kinds of wonderful machine that exist only in dreams. Oh and Bill Clinton was there too.

  12. On the topic of sewing machine mechanics, I am changing my career and I’m thinking of refining my machine repair skills. I currently work on Bernina home machines and a Bernina industrial. Is there enough demand in the Portland, Oregon area for another mechanic?

  13. Jane Langer says:

    I have no one I can ask about a $3000 Consew double needle industrial sewing machine I bought brand new through a company in Mpls MN (I am skeptical that the company is telling me the truth). I live a few hundred miles away and this was the nearest place to obtain an industrial machine and the company I sew for also uses this company so I felt going new and using a trusted source was smart.

    I have read so many comments on how important it is to have a well oiled machine yet my machine has leaked oil since purchase one year ago in October. I have read that all machines will throw out a little oil. I have tried that adjuster knob for the top reservoir in all positions with the same outcome – The oil leaks out and down through the machine down to the presser foot and onto the material left under the presser foot with puddles and also spits onto table behind and also out the bottom and into the pan and bottle. Many emails and phone calls have been made to my repair guy or company and I was finally told to just quit adding oil to the top reservoir and let it run out and see if that helps the problem. Since I don’t sew fast and furious he said to just add oil in the areas of which are marked with the red mark around the machine from time to time and other areas he had shown me when he set it up. I was assured it won’t blow up anything. Obviously this cured my oil leak but is this do-able for the life of the machine?

    I totally understand why my guy doesn’t want to make the trip up this far just for one machine so I have taken pictures or called and tried to fix the issues over and over. I feel like he thinks I am dumb of which I would say yes I am dumb but I am a newbie so I am just impressed that I (and my hubby) have kept this machine/lemon running!

    The bobbins or jams have been so bad I have had to learn how to take out those tiny screws that feel like they have loctite on them and then reassemble to unjam thread or metal stuck on metal…

    It had this great digital variable motor with it but a few months after purchase it just popped loudly and quit so I was sent a knobbed dial motor which doesn’t have the many different abilities but suits my purpose and my husband and I put it on.

    The gear under my left bobbin holder has come loose a few times and the hook all of a sudden is off 1/4 inch all the way up to within 3/4 of an inch off. I have to tilt the machine and readjust the gears to get it in the right spot again and running well (this is considered timing?). Should I use loctite on the screws in the gears to see if that holds or will it totally blow things up? When I tilt the machine to fix the gears, the bobbin (or hook) reservoirs leak out oil at what I think is an alarming rate, I have learned the adjustment dials on those too but still think this is something to be concerned about?

    I have called on many jams and problems after many hours of troubleshooting first and when I just can’t figure it out I call hoping that they/he would say they would be up to get it in tip top shape or maybe admit it isn’t the normal actions of a new machine but I just get asked a few questions and told to try a few things and call back if it isn’t right but I lose so much time and money when having to do this!!! I am a newbie user but the person I deal with seems to think these are easy problems and I should have no problem fixing them. This company on its website says it will service the machine once a year for free as long as you own the machine. Does service mean they will fix it since I bought it new and they have not made any onsite visits to take care of the many problems yet?

    A Machine down for me is money lost for all of those many ruined pieces and time I have spent troubleshooting for days and having to fix what is supposed to be a new machine. I am seriously needing to buy a used machine to have as a back up – at least if it is used it had to be running better than my new one does. These machines aren’t so easy to find but I honestly don’t want to give this place anymore business if they don’t seem to care after they sell it to me. Are these normal issues and I just need to replace and fix things myself? He didn’t hesitate to ship out more oil or the new motor without charge but now that it is a year old I am scared I will never get the oil problems addressed and he will stop out for 1/2 hour someday and ‘tune it up’ and vanish again for another year or never!… I love piece work but it isn’t like I work side by side another worker to help me answer these type of questions. Any suggestions on a different brand double needle industrial machine – hopefully a used one that doesn’t take every dime I have to purchase)?

    I have sewn and fixed many regular sewing machines so when offered the chance to sew industrially at home I was more than excited and confident. I have health issues and this makes it possible to even work and pay some bills. This Consew is fun when it runs well but man I am tired of the time I have had to literally fix it vs just oil it up and stitch all day. Help??!! Any suggestions or comments (good or bad) appreciated. Thanks for reading : )

  14. Sabine says:

    1st: It’s NOT normal
    2nd: You have had it a year….get your free service…which means cleaning and lubricating the machine, repairs are extra….but they should be done at the same time. If a tune-up is all they do, take it anyways.
    3rd: Find your own mechanic if they are giving you the run-around. You don’t owe them loyalty for “good service”, they owe you loyalty for buying your machine from them.
    4th: Do NOT use loctite, as tempting as it sounds. Make sure your machine is sitting solid on the floor and maybe see if you need to replace the setscrews. It sounds like they vibrate loose, but it could also be that the tip is worn.
    Good luck

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