Sewing Machine Research
ISMACS International
International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society


Cheapskates' Corner

There is a wealth of free information for those keen to learn more about their machine. Entire books have been scanned and posted online if you don't mind the printing costs, and the downloading, and the binding, and...

Here is an incomplete list of some of the most useful; covering REPAIR & MAINTENANCE (domestic & industrial machines), SEWING MACHINE HISTORY and SEWING TECHNIQUES.

Some links will take you to sites run by commercial retailers. I don't know them and their mention is not an endorsement; merely an acknowledgement of their generosity in providing good, free information.

Please respect appropriate copyrights. (07-08-2009)


'Recent Advances in Sewing Machinery'(Scientific American), a lengthy, illustrated, technical discussion of industrial machines (Singer and others). A century old but no less relevant for that. Part one (of many) is at
Singer's 'Mechanics of the Sewing Machine' (1914) is an academic document aimed at teachers, which devotes half of its 80 pages to 'How to Teach Physics by the Use of the Sewing Machine'. An inventive marketing ploy that explains ways of investigating dynamics, forces, levers, pulleys, data collection, etc., etc., all using the readily available . Plus a comprehensive, illustrated explanation of the workings of all the Singer domestics then available.
'How to Refurbish Sewing Machines', A step-by-step guide for Singer models 66, 99, 15K & 201'. Tools For Self-Reliance is a charity that sends sewing machinery to developing countries. To help ensure that donors send them working machines, they've posted an excellently illustrated repair manual, crammed with every aspect of machine and case repair.
Sewing machine maintenance, from an industrial retailer's P.O.V. 'Oil every four hours...' etc. (Industrial Sewing Machines). Good routine information. The first of several pages is on:
Thread and tension issuesare explained in detail by Sewing EducationalWarehouse, at
Timing remedies and setting instructionsetc. for an impressive range of Singer, Kenmore, Bernina, Brother & Husqvarna machines are reached from their Sewing Machine Service Information page...
Timing (Regular and Shuttle Hooks), Stitch Formation, Top and Bottom Thread Tension Adjustment and Troubleshooting (SewUSA)
Military manuals are a great source; concise information; non-sewing servicemen, for the use of. Typical is that published for U.S. airmen who keep a range of machines to mend anything from uniforms to parachute webbing and heavyweight tarpaulins.
Chapter 4 covers a selection of common industrial machines (Singer 111w155, 31-15, 331k1, Consew C-30 and a 'Model 225') in all the detail needed for thorough maintenance
Chapter 9 has more, including instruction on the 7-33, 31-15, class 111w, 211w & Consew 99R
Parts lists and special equipment details for mobile repair shops (Singer)
Antique Sewing Machines has some great animations explaining how the various mechanisms work
Browsing the Smithsonian is always a rewarding trek. Download their vast catalogue or be inventive with their search engine
Or browse by company name
For example, this companion book to the Wilcox & Gibbs 'Silent' chainstitcher (c.1870s) contains 80 pages of information, mechanics, 'history' and company propaganda. W & G fans will not be disappointed.
Vintage Singer Machine Support Site provides general maintenance information and specific advice on more-modern Singer machines: Stylist Line 457, 413, 416, 418, 513, 518, 533, 534, 538, 833, 834. Touch & Sew models: 600, 620+, 630+, 640+, 750, 756, 758, 770, 775, 778, 776, 774, 724 and more 700 series. Futura models:900, 920, 925, 935. Creative Touch models: 1030, 1036, 1411, 1425 series. Athena models: 1200, 2000. TouchTronic 2000, 2005, 2001, 2010. Slant-O-Matic models: 401A, 403, 404, 500A and 503, ("Rocketeer"). Singer Featherweight, models: 221and 222. Singer 6233,6234,6235.
Sewing Machine Troubleshooting Guide (Singer, Janome, etc.)
Technical Sewing Machine Problem & Repair
Singer Embroidery Software, Updates, latest Downloads & Futura Software
Overlocker Troubleshooting
Overlocker, Caring for.../Overlock stitches and their uses.
Pfaff Embroidery Software
Janome Software Updates & Help Files
Steam Press Troubleshooting and repair
Ludger Halbur's Nahmaschinen AntikÐ the sight for old German machines.

back to top


ISMACS:Antique and Rare Sewing Machines & Sewing Machine Research
'History of the Sewing Machine'by James Parton. (1822-1891) is provided by the University of Michigan's 'Making of America' project. Documents claiming to tell the history of the , I have learned, are not necessarily unbiased and reliable. This otherwise entertaining read claims to have been compiled partly from court documents. It ends, however, with a dozen pages of recommendations (advertising) for Howe machines. Hmph.;cc=moa;sid=8aaa8a3df70d3d549c2c5d44822f0da0;q1=elias-howe;idno=ajs2890.0001.001;seq=3;page=root;view=image;size=s;frm=frameset;
'The Sewing Machine - its Invention and Development'by respected Smithsonian curator, Grace Rogers Cooper (1970s). Scholarly, illustrated appraisal of the origins of (mainly) American machines. Later editions were updated and expanded.
'The Servant in the House- a brief history of the 'by Frederick L. Lewton, a textiles curator at the Smithsonian in the late 1920s. An academic viewpoint so it's probably reliable, but not many pictures. At the Smithsonian
'The Sewing Machine: its history, construction and application'written by Dr Herzberg, translated by Upfield Green (1864), 100+pp.A comprehensive description of the various mechanisms available in the early days, showing just how many of the parts we take for granted had already been invented - just 13 years after Singer's first machine. Dry, academic and very thorough.
'Genius Rewarded, The story of the sewing machine' (1880), 70pp. Singer was a great one for adapting and improving the work of others. Here the subject of the Singer revision is history. Illustrations of the factory and manufacturing processes.
'The Disappearance of the Domestic Sewing Machine, 1890-1925'by Marguerite Connolly
The Hagley Library catalog could be useful for research into trade publications.3,301 entries were found for '', each bearing a very brief abstract. Not sure how you access the actual documents. I'll get back to you.
A good, general introduction to the workings of various S.M.s. and some history. A hypertext document with plenty of explanatory links.
'The Machine that Changed the World'- Exhibition catalogue. Machine Collection Catalog.pdf

back to top

Sewing techniques

'Home and School Sewing'by Frances Patton (Cornell Hearth Library)
Chapter 10 of the airmen's manual (above) gives comprehensive instruction on sewing techniques for using the machines. Other chapters may also contain sewing instruction.
Using Buttonholers & Presser feet

back to top