Scope and Archaic Arcane

When I started posting about sewing machines, the intention was to cover what I was doing along with some of the maintenance we should all be doing and some of the basic repairs that nearly everyone could do.

Eventually, I started to get requests for certain posts and videos which is extremely flattering.  It told me that people were enjoying – and learning from – what I was doing.  Some of the requests have been excellent suggestions and often form the basis of the posts you’ve seen on this site.

Some other requests though have been for videos or posts or private help on major work.  I thought today I should clarify my position on this a little bit.

Let’s look at an analogy:

Many generous mechanics and handy people will (and do) show people how to change spark plugs (maintenance), maybe brake pads (maintenance/basic repair) or maybe even something like changing the airbag module light bulb that always burns out on some very specific vehicles we’ve owned (basic repair) – *mutter mutter mutter* I digress.

Very few if any though are going to do an entire video or post on how to remove an engine to change the timing chain, then reinstall the engine (and have it work).

This is actually more similar to some sewing machine repairs than you might think!

They’ll probably suggest a mechanic or if they’re licensed and in your area, they may offer to do the work for you – for a fee.  Their time is worth something to them – their education and experience has taught them that.   Their off-time is also worth something to them – maybe more – even if they donate some of that off-time by doing free videos or blog posts.

Similarly, there are many things I consider when it comes to whether I’ll cover a particular process:

  1. It was never my intention to cover major repairs or complete tear downs of machines.   There is a time and a place where sewing machine technicians (of whom I am one!) are worth their weight in gold.  Some jobs require service manuals* and some jobs require more than the service manuals.  Service manuals are not always that good. Sometimes, even with a service manual – experience will make the difference between success and a box of parts – partly because the service manual assumes it’s being used by a trained technician.  My goal is to empower vintage machine enthusiasts not marginalize the value of sewing machine technicians.
  2. Some projects don’t lend themselves very well to long distance hands-off fixes.  Some things really do need to be seen to be diagnosed.  Even a mismatch in terminology can sabotage the  success of this sort of thing.  I once had someone tell me that the bobbin string thing wasn’t running.  I had to ask the person about 10 questions before we could get on the same page.
  3. Some things are way bigger in scope than a person realizes.  I get caught out every once in a while even still sometimes.
  4. Do I have the time to do it right?  (As it is, there’s at least one video out there that I’m really not happy with but it’s popular, so I leave it.)  The time commitment to make videos and posts on very technical things, especially posts with a lot of photos is significant.  On the average, even a stream of consciousness video takes me about 10-12 times longer to create it than the actual length of the video. Posts generally take me a half to a full day and go through an average of 13 revisions unless the photos require a lot of setup – then there’s more time involved.   This is even harder when someone needs information yesterday.  My current backlog is about 15 months and my current email response time is greater than 10 days. Seriously.
  5. Support – When I make a how-to video or post, there’s always a percentage of people who want clarification of a point, have trouble with a step or two, or say “Hey!  I have a related issue, it’s…”  And that is perfectly fine and expected.  My point though is that support takes time as well.  Let’s say 10 people have a question about rebuilding a specific tensioner.  How many will need extra support with a major repair?
  6. Availability of a victim machine.  This is the main reason I cover largely Singer machines and generally only machines that I already own.  The cost involved for me to acquire all the machines I’ve been asked about so I could do posts or videos is unrealistic.  What I try to impart instead is the theory.  You may notice that most of my posts and videos often also cover the why as well as the how.  I do this because – for me at least – if I know why something does what it does, I can usually figure out how it’s supposed to do it – even if it’s a different model or brand.  This is the tool I’m trying to offer the community.
  7. *Added Aug 22, 2017 – Is this a request to provide free support for a company who was paid to fix someone’s machine but didn’t do it right?  These will be denied immediately.  Here’s the thing: If you paid for a service and it wasn’t done right – take it back and tell them it’s not done right. How is it right for you to pay someone else for service, them to get paid for nothing and then this somehow falls to me to provide free support for the company who didn’t do their job?  This time investment as described above belongs to them, not me.

* and no, I won’t send anyone service manuals for machines that are still on warranty or manuals I have access to because of my training, qualifications, or affiliations! I sign agreements stating that I won’t do that.  And yes, I have been asked.

If you’ve read this far – Thank You!  Please believe, I’m not trying to snub the community that we’ve built here.  Instead, I need to set some clear boundaries.  This way, hopefully we’re all on the same page and can just enjoy ourselves.








20 thoughts on “Scope and Archaic Arcane”

  1. Hi Tammi,
    I just stumbled on your blog some days ago because I freecycled a Singer 99k with pedal issues, and I love it (your blog, not the pedal issues)! Coming to your site feels like falling down the rabbit hole of knowing how a sewing machine works.
    Wondering if you are still around and writing new posts every once in a while? In any case – I will be back! Thank you for all the effort put into that blog 🙂


    1. Hi Claudia!

      Thanks for your kind words! Yes, I’m still around. I get pretty busy sometimes, especially in the summers so I don’t get to post very much. I do try to make some time when I come up with a post I think will help people out though.

      I hope to fix a little of that when fall finally hits though.

  2. I too love your blog! I learn so many things! I am a fan of the vintage Singer Sewing Machines! I currently have 401G, 411G, 421G and two 431G’s, as well as a 501 and a 503. I have some FW’s one from each decade and a FW222. I also have a Singer 2010 Touchtronic Memory Machine and recently purchased a Baby Lock Aria. I like to switch off on the vintage and modern machines. I just have favorite machines for different projects, and usually have 3 or 4 sewing machines set up for the project or projects I am working on. The Singer 400 and 500’s are for a lack of a better way of describing them are mechanical computerized machines. All metal parts and no circuit boards and chips. It is amazing what they can do for 50+ old technology!
    You do a great job with your blog. Your are doing everyone out there a service, this should be fun for you too.

    1. Wow! You have a great stash there! Even though I talk mostly about the vintage machines, I really don’t have a problem with a well made modern machine. I truly believe in the right tool for the job and sometimes that is a newer machine.

      I definitely agree though. The cammed slants are true marvels! 🙂

  3. Thank you for your posts on the Singer 400’s and 500’s – they are really helpful to me. Around here if I take an older or vintage machine into the repair shop they tell me it’s not worth repair and try to sell me another newer machine. My machines are special to me and I would like to keep them running. So thank you!

    1. You’re very welcome! I have the same problem here. I went to a local shop to ask if they had any Pfaff 1222 parts and was told “that old thing? Why bother? The newer machines are so much nicer to sew on! We could show you some nice machines…”

      Seriously? A Pfaff 1222 isn’t a good machine? *sigh*

  4. i have to agree with everyone else so far, you need to have limits. and sewing machine mechanics are seemingly an endangered species, i am all in for protecting them. i just really enjoy the posts on sewing machines. on which subject, i was looking for a 401 – i need parts for mine so if i see a likely parts machine… in the course of my search i came across a 411 and at a reasonable price, and right near me so i had to. she’s a lovely machine, almost as smooth and fast as my beloved 301 and she does zig zag and all the other stitches. the parts with her were a mixed bag of stuff – but the chain stitch throat plate is included. fortunately i have a fair supply of 66 bobbins because there were no bobbins. funny but there are about a dozen tiny (singer) screwdrivers included. i consider myself very fortunate, she works perfectly after a cleaning and some oil and grease.

    1. Ha! It’s hard to kill a 401. I’ve never had a parts machine – I keep fixing them! You did well with the 411G. It’s a great machine. But then you probably already knew what I thought about it. 😉

  5. I agree with the previously expressed comments. and, if I have not said so before, thank you for taking the time to post on your blog and record youtube videos for care and maintainance. Believe me, it is appreciated. You take care Tammi, and hope for a mild winter.

    1. You’re very welcome. 🙂
      So far winter has been very mild! No snow as of November 15th!
      We’ll see how it goes long term though.

  6. This is your website, and it is a great resource for learning about sewing machines and related topics. You’ve taken a subject many find intimidating and made it accessable. Thank you.

    I am sorry that there are people out there who have made this post necessary.

  7. Clear boundaries are always sensible IMO!

    Some people want more than what you intend on an informative blog.
    I have a bicyclz site that is very similar to yours. But I just cannot reply/respond properly to every Q I get. I just do not have the time to ‘guess’ the value of a bicycle, or sewing machine, etc. etc. that passes through my hands.

    Sorry! I cannot do it.
    I will help if I can, but time is of essence here. My time is limited, but I still want to be helpful…. There is a fine line between the two.

    So my advice would be: ‘Try to be helpful’ when you can, but it is not an endless process, without limits

    Setting boundaries sets out your limitations.
    And we all have limitations….

    You have a cool blog. Please keep it up, without excessive, onerous, responsibilities/obligations to your viewers.

    Great blog.
    Don’t be put off by Qs you cannot sensibly respond to.
    That’s all you can do IMHO: )

    I’m on your side here.

    End of ‘rant’.

    1. Rants are OK – as long as they’re sane and civil!

      I didn’t realize how common this was until I started talking about it with a group of vintage machine people and so many people mentioned similar problems. The embarrassing part is that I am/was a business analyst. Scope is a big part of what we do but I didn’t ever set it here. No matter, it’s fixed now. 😉

  8. I enjoy your blog and get a lot from it, and yes, you shouldn’t be doing yourself or anyone out of paid work. I’ve learnt enough to do a basic service on machines but I’ll still go to a specialist when I need a new wiring loom – we need the specialists to stay in business :-*

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