Noisebridge's sewing guild hosts sewing events and maintains five mostly functional sewing machines and a variety of sewing tools.
RESOURCES: Sewing Machines
EVENTS: Sewing Project Night
CHANNELS: #sewingstation on Slack
- 1 EVENTS
- 2 HOW TO BE EXCELLENT BY NOT BREAKING THE MACHINES
- 3 RESOURCES
- 4 Sewing Machines
- 4.1 High Speed Lock stitch (Juki DDL 227)
- 4.2 Straight Stitch Walking Foot (Juki LU-563)
- 4.3 Five-thread Overlock Serger (Juki MO-2416)
- 4.4 Brother SE400 Embroidery Machine
- 4.5 130-Stitch Computerized Sewing and Quilting (Brother XR1355)
- 4.6 Pfaff Creative 1471 sewing machine
- 4.7 Kenmore 385.11803800 sewing machine
- 4.8 Singer Simple 3229 sewing machine
- 4.9 Singer Heavy Duty 4423 sewing machine
- 4.10 Singer 57817
- 4.11 Singer CG-590-C
- 4.12 White YM-43-8
- 4.13 Singer 621-B
- 4.14 White E-6354
- 4.15 Brother Exedra E-40
- 4.16 Kenmore Overlock 3/4D
- 4.17 Singer Ultralock 14U64A serger
- 5 Scissors
- 6 Thread snips
- 7 Rotary cutters
- 8 Parts Needed
- 9 HISTORY
- Sewing Machine Training
- Sewing Project Night
- In early 2019, we had a “Sewing Machine Fix-a-Thon” in which we serviced some of our sewing machines and determined what parts needed to be ordered.
HOW TO BE EXCELLENT BY NOT BREAKING THE MACHINES
We have home machines and industrial machines, and the home machines are all, to varying degrees, much more breakable. They're consumer products, often designed and built with a modern “what is this ‘repair’ of which you speak?” mindset, not built to withstand abuse or rough handling.
To that end, here are some strong guidelines for how to Be Excellent and use the home sewing machines in ways that don't break them:
- First, always be gentle. Treat the machine like a puppy. It will bite you, die, or incur a huge bill if you damage it.
- Do not pull fabric through the machine. Let the feed dogs do the work, or drop them if you want to free-sew or embroider. Pulling work through the machine is a good way to bend or break the needle, damage the bobbin and/or bobbin case and/or shuttle, pull the shuttle out of phase, or otherwise damage something. You're lucky if it's the needle or bobbin; those are replaceable. Anything else takes the machine out of commission.
- If fabric isn't feeding properly, you may need to adjust the presser foot pressure. See point #4.
- Do not turn the handwheel backwards. The handwheel on the right side of the machine must only ever be turned towards you. Imagine a belt running over the top of the wheel; it should only ever run towards you. Turning a handwheel in reverse is always risky; don't take that risk with a machine you're not willing and able to immediately repair.
- Change the machine's configuration as you need, but put it back when you're done. Every machine should have a standard presser foot and a “universal” needle (of approximately 90/14 diameter) loaded when not in use. It should be on the default settings for presser foot pressure and tension(s). Anyone who needs something different should make whatever changes they need, and change them back before they put the machine away/leave.
- Put the machine away when you're done/before leaving. The cutting table is not a machine storage rack.
- Keep the machine's parts with the machine. Most machines have a storage compartment on the front of the bed (the bottom portion of the machine where the bobbin is). Any feet, spool caps, and other easily-lost parts that come with the machine should be kept there. That includes the standard presser foot, if you remove it to put on some other foot. The pedal should be kept with the machine at all times, and should have a paper tag tied to it identifying which machine it belongs to. (Such tags are kept in a drawer in the sewing area.)
- Use the correct needle, and change the needle when needed. Always check which needle is loaded into the machine before you start sewing—make sure it's right for the type (woven vs. knit vs. solid) of fabric, the tightness of weave/knit, and the weight of the fabric.
- Solid fabrics such as leather or vinyl require special “leather” needles, made to pierce solid objects. Knitted fabrics, including T-shirt fabric, require “ball point” needles, which are less likely to pierce/cut a yarn. Tight weaves such as microsuede may require “microtex” or “sharp” needles that can find their way between the yarns. Denim and heavy canvas may require “denim” (a.k.a. “jeans”) needles. Most normal woven fabrics will work with a “universal” needle.
- If you're using the right kind of needle but it isn't going through/is skipping stitches or is stitching irregularly or with difficulty, try a heavier diameter or (if woven) a denim needle. Most likely the needle is bending when it hits the fabric. Continuing to sew in this state is a good way to permanently bend (i.e., ruin) or break the needle.
- Needles wear out! They are a consumable. If you're pretty sure you have the right kind and diameter of needle, change it out for another like one. If that works better, safely dispose of the worn needle—don't put it back for some other sucker to try.
- Avoid computerized machines unless you really need them. Computerized machines are much more delicate than mechanical machines. The best reason to use a computerized machine is it's the one with embroidery features and you need that. Otherwise, take a mechanical one such as the Singer Simple or Singer Heavy Duty if it's available—they hold up better.
We have five mostly functional sewing machines:
Industrial style machines
- Single Needle Lock Stitch (Juki DDL 227)
- Straight Stitch Walking Foot (Juki LU-563)
- Five-thread Overlock Serger (Juki MO-2416)
- Brother SE400 Combination Computerized Sewing and 4x4 Embroidery Machine
- 130-Stitch Computerized Sewing and Quilting (Brother XR1355)
All sewing machines have QR codes on them that link to their entries on this page. Please use them.
We also have these sewing amenities:
- Giant ass table with cutting mat surface (50 inches x ? inches )
- Irons and Ironing board
- Big donation bins of extra thread and fabric you can use for projects
- lots of odds and ends
- 2 dress forms
- Full length mirror
Sewing Machine Usage Tips
- Please DO NOT unthread the sewing machines unless you must. (e.g. to remove a spool of thread, simply cut it close to the spool so that the next person can simply tie a knot with the next thread and pull it all the way through to the needle). This is most important for the serger.
- Needles, bobbins, and other parts are located in labeled drawers underneath the pegboard (PLEASE KEEP IT ORGANIZED). Also check the drawers attached to each sewing machine table.
- The closest place to get parts is at Apparel City, on Howard between 11th & 12th.
- Needles may differ between machines and come in sizes (10, 11, 12, 14, 16, etc.). The higher numbers are heavier gauge needles suitable for thicker fabrics.
- Needles also come in different types, including (this is an abridged list; look to other sites for more complete lists):
- Jersey: Has a ball point, for knitted fabrics (including T-shirt fabric).
- “Universal”: Moderately sharp, for most woven fabrics. Denim needles are the same but more rigid, for tighter weaves of thick yarns (like denim or canvas).
- Microtex needles are the sharpest, for tight weaves of thin yarns, like microsuede or nylon.
- Leather needles have a tiny blade at the tip, for cutting holes in leather and vinyl. Don't use a leather needle for woven or knitted fabrics: The blade will cut the threads rather than squeezing between them, leaving holes that may start rips.
- Needles for the straight stitch machines must be inserted with the scarf facing right. Please check the respective manuals.
- If you've never operated a sewing machine before, ask some people at Noisebridge (Kyle or Ely). Sewing machines are not self-explanatory and this page does assume a certain amount of prior general knowledge.
- Read the manual and do some research online.
- Printed manuals for the two Juki Machines and the Thompson are located in a grey binder on the bookshelf
- Use scraps for testing to determine thread tension and sewing speed.
Winding a Bobbin
Juki DDL-227 & Juki LU-563
- To wind a bobbin, place the empty bobbin on the horizontal spindle to the right of the machine body (near the hand wheel). Run a second thread through the upper holder, down to the tensioner at the back of the right side of the machine, in line with the spindle. Thread the end through one of the holes in the bobbin side, from the inside to the outside. Press the lever to push the spindle down in contact with the sewing machine belt. While holding the thread end so it doesn't just whip out of the bobbin, press the pedal to run a couple of inches (if there were fabric in the machine). Soon enough you can let go of the thread end as it will have been caught by windings on top of it. If you are doing a lot of sewing, you can start a new bobbin before the current one is empty, and let it wind up as you sew. When the bobbin is full, the lever will automatically snap out away from the belt and stop winding thread.
Most home sewing machines
The bobbin winder is usually on the top of the machine near the right corner (right being the side with the handwheel). It should look like a short spindle that can't be removed and sticks up about half an inch (the thickness of a bobbin) from a flat round surface.
Place a bobbin on the spindle, then:
- On some machines, the handwheel can be pulled out to switch from sewing to bobbin-winding. (Push it back in when you're done winding bobbins.)
- On the big Singer machine, the handwheel has a part that flips up to engage the bobbin-winder.
- On the Brother machines, the bobbin spindle can be slid between the left (sewing) and right (winding). In the latter position, a brake slightly intersects the bobbin and will stop it from getting over-wound.
Once the machine is in winding mode and is powered on, press the pedal slightly and make sure thread is going onto the bobbin properly. Once it's winding properly, floor the pedal until the bobbin is fully wound (some machines will stop the bobbin automatically; others may require you to pay attention).
Remember to switch the machine back to sewing mode when you're done winding bobbins!!!
Repairing a Sewing Machine
- If a sewing machine is actually broken and non functional, as opposed to just you can't figure out how to make it work, please call Billy from Apparel City at 415-816-8645 (mobile) and schedule an appointment for him to come fix it.
- He usually charges around $80 per hour, plus parts.
- Email the list and people will chip in to cover this. If you can't manage this process, email the sewing list and find someone else who can. Also, please put a note on the machine so people know what is going on with it.
High Speed Lock stitch (Juki DDL 227)
- Juki Maintenance Notes - Replacing the counter knife, needle bar, thread guides, etc.
These were originally written for our old DDL-5550-6 machine but the 227 is very similar.
- General fabrics, light-weight materials and medium weight materials.
- Not for leather or book binding. Please use the right tool for the job.
- Clutch motor (fast!)
- Recommended thread size of Tex-40 in the DDL
Manual for Juki DDL-227
Straight Stitch Walking Foot (Juki LU-563)
- This is a high tension machine. You must press the knee lifter to pull thread through. This will release the tension.
- Conversely, DO NOT run into the knee lifter at all while sewing. This will release the tension and your stitches will be too loose.
- Pressing back or letting go of the pedal will engage the brake. Slightly depress the pedal to release the brake. You must do this to use the hand wheel
- Medium weight and heavy weight materials, leather and vinyl
- Not for light-weight materials!
- Clutch Motor
- This machine is VERY fast
- Horizontal Bobbin
- Recommended thread size Tex-70 in the walking foot
Manual for Juki LU-563
Five-thread Overlock Serger (Juki MO-2416)
Does Not Work as of 2019-03-09: The machine sews but does not cut well. This machine will be serviced professionally.
- Pulling fabric out of the machine may cause thread breaks. It is best to feed thread with the pedal when removing your workpiece.
- DO NOT UNTHREAD THE SERGER. It takes about 30 minutes and a lot of patience to thread this machine. However, if you are an experience user of industrial sergers you will be able to thread this machine quickly. Using tweezers helps. Also, using the correct thread for the correct machine is essential. Good Luck and happy sewing.
This machine is not made for knits. It is made for wovens. It is a five spool. It has a clutch motor and this is the reason that it goes so very rapidly. The overlock sews to prevent fray. However, the machine make a chain stitch at the same time. For example, if you were to look inside of your jeans, you can observe these methods. A chain stitch and overlock. This type of machines is used for medium weight fabric.
- This machine has a knife placed to cut the fabric as you sew, and it *is possible* to cut your finger badly on this knife if you are not careful. BE CAREFUL. This machine also can go extremely, sometimes startlingly, fast.
Manual for Juki MO-2416
Brother SE400 Embroidery Machine
Works as of 2019-03-09 (but see Parts Needed below)
This machine is awesome, and can do many different stitches as well as CNC embroidery. It's usually stored on the wall of the sewing area. It looks like a home sewing machine but is as expensive as an industrial one and is many people's favorite machine.
- Embroidery Machine
- Manual: https://download.brother.com/welcome/doch000184/885v31_v32_v33_om04en.pdf
130-Stitch Computerized Sewing and Quilting (Brother XR1355)
Works as of 2019-03-09 (but see Parts Needed below)
- This machine is stored away in one of the sewing area cubbies.
- This machine does 130 different stitches including lots of cool decorative flowers and patterns. It is also the only machine that can do a zig-zag stitch.
Manual for Brother XR1355
- PDF - http://download.brother.com/welcome/doch001142/xr1355ug02en.pdf
- Spanish copy located on bookshelf in grey binder.
Pfaff Creative 1471 sewing machine
Works as of 2019-03-09
This machine has a bobbin case, so it requires a little bit more knowledge to change out the bobbin than newer machines that have a top drop-in bobbin.
Kenmore 385.11803800 sewing machine
May Work as of 2019-03-09 (but see Parts Needed below)
Singer Simple 3229 sewing machine
Works as of 2019-03-11
This machine has a bobbin case, so it requires a little bit more knowledge to change out the bobbin than newer machines that have a top drop-in bobbin.
Singer Heavy Duty 4423 sewing machine
Works as of 2019-09-28
Has a top drop-in bobbin. Likely to become our workhorse, as the Heavy Duty is a sturdy mechanical machine.
Has a one-step buttonhole feature with a plastic buttonhole foot. Tricky to use but handy if you know how.
A knob on the top of the machine, near the slot where the take-up lever pops up, enables adjusting the presser foot pressure. Like top thread tension, this should generally not be messed with and should be put back after a job that does require adjusting it, but changing the presser foot pressure makes sense in certain circumstances:
- For thick works such as three or more layers of denim (e.g., when hemming denim garments), reduce the presser foot pressure in order to be able to drive over the inseam and outseam.
- For light works made of thin or sheer fabrics, or slippery fabrics, you may need to increase the pressure to ensure the feed dogs can properly feed (all layers of) the work.
Always put the presser foot pressure back how it was when you're done!!! Setting up future machine-users for difficulty/failure is un-excellent.
- Quick-start guide: http://www.singerco.com/uploads/download/HD%20Series_ANT_Generic_QSG_F_0222_lo-res.pdf
- Manual: http://www.singerco.com/uploads/download/a719909a6ca001462cb1c2536a04506fa9ff327c.pdf
Manual: In Manuals Collection
Brother Exedra E-40
Kenmore Overlock 3/4D
Manual: In Manuals Collection, also https://www.noisebridge.net/wiki/File:Overlock_34d_38516631.compressed.pdf
Singer Ultralock 14U64A serger
Works as of 2019-03-10
This is a four-thread overlock machine. It's evidently meant for knitted fabrics, as a silkscreened note on the upper-left of the front of the machine notes that it requires a Singer 2045 needle, which is a ball point.
The thread guides above the machine are on a pole that telescopes out. Make sure to raise it before using the machine; it works better that way.
- Manual: http://www.singerco.com/uploads/download/974c69637ba13cd29bf98419910a853043dc9e83.pdf
- Parts list: http://parts.singerco.com/CPpartCharts/14U00/14U64A.pdf
The sewing station includes a variety of scissors, including straight scissors/shears, a pair of pinking shears, and a couple other specialty scissors.
DO NOT USE FABRIC SCISSORS FOR ANYTHING THAT ISN'T FABRIC. Paper and other non-fabric things will rapidly dull blades to the point where we need to sharpen them again to use them on fabric.
There are some “paper only” (i.e., pre-ruined) scissors on the tools wall since we know people will look in the sewing section for scissors. There are also some “fabric only” (i.e., not yet ruined) scissors that should only ever be used for fabric.
Also related: There is a sharpening stone on the tools wall in the sewing station.
Thread snips are the small scissor-like tools used for cutting the thread sticking out of a work so you can remove the work from the machine.
Thread snips shouldn't be used to cut fabric—use the fabric shears (scissors) or rotary cutters for that. Neither should they be used on non-fabric things like paper or tape.
There are three pairs of thread snips hanging from the tools wall in the sewing section.
These look similar to pizza cutters but are NOT FOR FOOD USE (both because it trashes the blade and because the blades are not food-safe: new blades are coated in machine oil).
All of our rotary cutters are 45mm, except for one, which is 60mm but has no blade. It's unclear whether we'll keep that one, since we would need to keep 60mm blades in stock and that would mean figuring out where to keep them and what to use them for.
How to use
Each rotary cutter has a cutting (blade extended) position and a safe (blade retracted) position. The Olfa ergonomic cutters will also spring back to retracted automatically, and can't be extended unless the safety button is pushed to the unlocked side.
Rotary cutters should be used on a cutting mat such as the one on the main sewing station table. Usually you want a straight cut, so you should use an acrylic ruler to guide the blade.
Rotary cutters are EXTREMELY sharp, so be careful. Please keep the cutter blade-side-up so it's less likely to come into accidental contact with the table or anything on it—if you can see the blade, you can avoid contact with it.
- Follow an acrylic ruler.
- Keep your body (including fingers) out of the path of the blade.
- Only use a sharp blade. Don't use a rotary cutter with a dull or trashed blade. Change out the blade if you have to.
- Don't force it to cut if it's not cutting.
Rotary cutters are mostly pretty foolproof. As long as you don't cut yourself, your ruler, wood, another rotary cutter, a 1973 Oldsmobile, or anything else that isn't fabric, the blade should enjoy a good, long life.
But, every blade wears down eventually. Blade sharpeners exist, but we don't currently have one, and a sharpener can't save a chipped or bent blade.
If a blade can't be sharpened, there are new 45mm blades in the storage drawers along the wall.
Changing the blade
Different rotary cutters have different parts, but they all have these four, in this order:
- Rotary cutter body
You should try to keep all of the parts (including those not listed—some cutters do have some bonus parts) in the correct order. If you get the order wrong, the blade might not spin freely or it might be too far from the cutter body. If that's the case, no biggie, just disassemble and try again.
No tools are needed.
- Remove the nut by hand, keeping your thumb on the hub/screw on the other side.
- Gently turn the cutter over and let the blade fall out onto your fingers, and any other parts onto the table.
- Sharpen or replace the blade.
- Put the blade onto the screw.
- Put the screw (with blade) into the cutter, and put all of the other parts, ending with the nut, onto the other side.
Some of the parts (especially pedals and/or cords) for the sewing machines have, shall we say, installed a walking foot. Here's what we're currently missing:
- The Kenmore:
- Needs a 6V 1.2A negative-outer power supply. (Janome #525808008 is the authentic power supply for this model.) We have a wall-wart in the wall-warts bin that's *almost* right, except it's 1.5A, and the Kenmore just runs full-bore with that supply plugged in, regardless of any pedal that may or may not be plugged in.
- Needs a bobbin case cover.
- The White E-6354 is missing a power cord. (This one may be a challenge…)
- 2008: Noisebridge began having sewing machines at 83c.
- 2009: Rachel purchased industrial sewing machines from the sewing shop that formerly occupied Noisebridge's 2169 space with member donations and held its first Sewing Workshop at 2169.
- 2015: Grand reopening event of the rebooted Sewing Station.