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ISMACS’ Sewing Machine Book List

BOOKS ON SEWING MACHINE REPAIR & MAINTENANCE

For repairs, there is no substitute for a specific machine’s Service Manual (and parts list). These are the instructions for engineers who might have to dismantle the entire machine. Well-written service manuals (Singer’s are a good example) usually don’t require any previous knowledge of the machine and explain it in such a way that anyone could learn it as they go along.

Failing a Service Manual, the next stage down is an Adjuster’s (and User’s) Manual, which contains enough information to help keep a machine ‘timed’, at least, and set the correct needle the right way round etc. Many such manuals are available for free download from manufacturers. Failing an Adjuster’s Manual, an exploded Parts Diagram will at least show what should be where.

There is no one book that will teach the repair of every machine. One model directory that lists all the industrial machines available in the sixties in a vast Excel-type spreadsheet, gives only one line per machine – and still runs to 500 pages! Singer produced hundreds of domestic models and over a thousand (slightly) different industrials.

Mending sewing machines IS within the capabilities of most people. So is putting them in the car and taking them to the menders. Most of the repair books will help decide when to take which route.

Basic sewing machine repair, book cover.

Basic Sewing Machine Repair

Author:

K. Kiri & S. Kalmakoff

Publisher:

South Pacific Appropriate Technology Foundation (SPATF), P.O. Box 6937, Boroko, Papua New Guinea.

Format:

Paperback. B&W. & microfiche.

Date:

March, 1979 (1st Edition)

Pages:

63

Very clear, concise and comprehensive maintenance and repair instructions aimed at sewers in Papua New Guinea, where parts shops are rarer that hens’ dentists (“How to make a tension release pin from a nail” etc.). Information delightfully divided between “some machines” (Singer 15) and “other machines” (66/201), but plenty of “if your parts look like this, do this…”. Illustrations drawn from Singer and Janome manuals. Remarkably thorough.

The care and adjustment of sewing machines, book cover.

Care and Adjustment of the Sewing Machine

Author:

F.B. Wright and Harold Clough (originally, Professor Byron B. Robb)

Publisher:

New York State College of Agriculture (Cornell University). Cornell Extension Bulletin 815

Format:

Paperback

Date:

Revised 1956

Pages:

63

Cover shows a woman confidently adjusting her Featherweight. Simple maintenance for American machines from 1890-1930s. Seems to be an expanded update of ‘Sewing Machines – Cleaning and Adjusting’ (see below), including a useful interchangeable needle list and how to sharpen needles.

The complete guide to treadles, book cover

The Complete Guide to Treadle Sewing Machines

Author:

Reuben O. Doyle

Publisher:

Privately published

Format:

11” x 8”, B&W illustrations, sold by online download

Pages:

85

Care, maintenance and use of treadle machines, with generic information pertinent to a wide range of models (including hand-wound). Sound, clear advice on basic tension setting, oiling, timing the shuttle etc. – and a good chapter on the ruffler. See also: “Sewing Machine Repair For The Home Sewer!” & "Serger Repair for the Home Sewer" by the same author.

The complete handbook of sewing machine repair, book cover

The Complete Handbook of Sewing Machine Repair

Author:

Howard Hutchison

Publisher:

Tab Books, Blue Ridge Summit, P.A.

Format:

Paperback

Date:

1980

Pages:

308

Essentially for modern machines. It dismisses treadles in an introductory paragraph and everything else pre-1960 in the following two pages. Then it’s onto a limited range of zigzag models (New Home, Brother, White & Pfaff). If these machines are what you’re after, then the service and repair information is excellent, with plenty of clear illustrations.

The Complete Sewing Machine Handbook

Author:

Karen E. Kunkel

Publisher:

Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. (Cassell plc in UK)

Format:

Paperback, hardback. Colour

Date:

1997 (hardback)

Pages:

160pp

ISBN:

0-8069-0848-3

For owners – and prospective owners - of modern machines and a good ‘next step up’ from the instruction manual. Good advice throughout for sewers, explaining the capabilities and operation of the latest models - decorative zigzag stitching, darning, embroidery, etc. and a fresh approach to explaining those attachments.

Compound Feed Walking Foot Machines, Maintenance-Repair-Troubleshooting

Author:

Werner Schwartz (Technical Director

Publisher:

Consew (Consolidated Sewing Machine Corp., N.Y. & Miami)

Format:

11” x 8”, B&W illustrations, online download (no charge)

Date:

1985

Pages:

36

Specific to Consew industrial machines but will help identify walking foot and sewing problems generally. Impressive trouble-shooting section and a chapter on servicing clutch motors, common to many industrials. Included as typical of some of the excellent publications, helpfully posted online by diligent manufacturers. Google and ye shall find.

Dyke's service manual, book cover

Dyke’s Sewing Machine Service Manual

Author:

Ottis Dykes

Publisher:

187, Fitzgerald Rd, Rochelle, Ga. 31079

Format:

9” x 6 (approx.), paperback.

Date:

1978

Pages:

137, plus index

Text is identical to, and a reprint of, Robinson’s S.M. Service Manual (see below).

How to adjust sewing machines, book cover.

How to Refurbish Sewing Machines, A step-by-step guide for Singer models 66, 99, 15K & 201

Publisher:

Tools For Self-Reliance, Netley Marsh, Southampton, Hampshire, SO40 7GY. http://www.tfsr.org/publications/
technical_information/sewing_machine_manual/

Format:

A4, online download. B/W photos.

Date:

2006

Pages:

78

A stunningly good repair manual. Tools for Self-Reliance is a charity that sends, amongst other things, sustainable sewing machines (common Singers) to the third world. They need donated machines to work and have produced these instructions, downloadable free online, to help generous members of the public service their donations. Extremely thorough and profusely illustrated with CLEAR photos of virtually every moving part, plus tensions, timings, case refurbishment, etc. Excellent!

Bert Robertshaw's sewing machine repair, book cover.

How to Repair Your Own Sewing Machine

Author:

Bert Robertshaw

Publisher:

194, Lytham Rd, S.S. Blackpool, England. http://www.singer-featherweight.com/
bert/bert.html

Format:

8½” x 6”, paperback, B&W illustrations

Copyright Date:

2003, Sew-Sales (Reprint). Original c. 1911.

Pages:

36

Clearly written by an Old Sewing Machine Guy as his cloth-capped picture reassuringly confirms on the cover. A short but informative book - originally written in the early twentieth century - that quickly explains the workings of domestic machines by shuttle type (transverse, vibrating, oscillating and rotary) - even a passage on the Class 29 bootpatcher - with sufficient information to get most machines back in time/tension etc. The modern reprint has clear line drawings and a troubleshooting section: ‘50 difficulties and their remedies’; plus a few pages from old Bert’s original catalogue for nostalgia value. Basic, but a good place to start. In print (2010).

How to service and repair yopur sewing machine, book cover.

How to Service and Repair Your Sewing Machine

Author:

Mathew Levy

Publisher:

Kogos International Corp. 1140 Broadway, New York I, N.Y., U.S.A.

Format:

9” x 6”, paperback

Date:

1962

Pages:

86

Library of Congress Card No. 62-9020

Written for use in the garment trade. An extensive troubleshooting guide with sufficient instructions to help operators maintain their machines. Generic information but clearly presented and illustrated.

Interchangeable Needle List (Sewing Machines for which Singer Needles Can Be Used)

Publisher:

Singer Manufacturing Co.

Format:

8” x 3½”, paperback, B&W illustrations of Singer needles

Date:

1909

Pages:

80

A useful list; 80 pages, comprising hundreds of (largely) American, domestic machines and their corresponding Singer needles. Canadian and a few British manufacturers are also included. Photographs of the needles to help I.D. The entries for Wanzer machines should be viewed with suspicion.

Mr Needlebar’s Needle Book

Author:

Chrys Gunther

Publisher:

Published privately, The Needlebar, www.needlebar.org/

Date:

2003

A guide to dating sewing machines. Written by an expert collector.

Mr Needlebar’s Needle Book

Author:

Chrys Gunther

Publisher:

Published privately, The Needlebar, www.needlebar.org/

Format:

8”x5”, paperback

Date:

2004

Pages:

200

A comprehensive and reliable cross-referenced list of needles and substitutes. A phenomenal labour of love from a highly-respected collector. Currently (2009) out of print but the author reassures us, however, that a new version is being compiled and will be published when it’s ready.

Overhauling Treadles

Author:

‘Captain’ Dick Wightman

Publisher:

Treadle-on Publications, www.treadleon.net/

Format:

DVD, 90 minutes.

Date:

1999 & 2005

Video transcription of the author ’s demonstration/lecture on restoring and servicing treadles and their cabinetwork.

Complete guide to erepairing sewing machines, book cover.

Repairing Sewing Machines – a complete guide (and setting up a repair business)

Author:

Not declared

Publisher:

Not declared

Format:

11½” x 8”. Paperback. B&W line drawings

Pages:

218

Included because it’s readily available on a certain auction site. A hotchpotch of good but randomly presented maintenance instruction, interspersed with advice on setting up a repair business (which includes the suggestion that, having set up said repair business “any repair that involves replacing parts should be entrusted to a repair agent”). Pretty much all the necessary adjustments seem to be there but it’s up to the reader to translate the generic information to the specifics of their machine. Includes a chapter on blind-stitch machines but a good third of the book is simplistic advice on starting a home business (sample dot-matrix flyers?) and equipping a sewing room.

Robinsons sewing machine repair, book cover

Robinson’s Sewing Machine Service Manual

Author:

Lee Robinson

Publisher:

Value House, 349A Whitehorse Rd. Croydon, England. (some editions: Walla Walla, Washington, U.S.A.)

Format:

9” x 6½” (approx.), Paperback, reinforced with card by public library.

Date:

1958 (6th printing 1972)

Pages:

137 (140pp in some editions), plus index.

Dewey:

681-7677

A thorough, concise and copiously illustrated (B&W line drawings) analysis of the principal domestic machine types; from the vibrating shuttle (Singer VS2, 27 etc.) onwards. Zigzag, too. Comprehensive instructions for the diagnosis, dismantling and repair of pre-1958 machines. Older models with a transverse shuttle, or producing a chain stitch, are not covered. Chapters also on S.M. motors/controllers; relevant tools; equipping and adapting a repair workbench - with a built-in treadle!

Sewing Machinery. A Practical Manual of the Sewing Machine

Author:

J.W. Urquhart, C.E.

Publisher:

Crosby Lockwood & Co., London

Format:

6½” x 4½”, B&W illustrations.

Copyright Date:

1881

Number of Pages:

172

“The aim of the Author in preparing this little treatise was to confine himself within the limits of such a production as might be read with advantage by that numerous portion of the community engaged in selling and adjusting sewing machines, as well as by the general public interested in stitching mechanism.” And this practical Victorian volume does exactly what’s engraved so modestly on the tin. Repair and maintenance details for Howe, Singer, Wilcox & Gibbs, Wheeler & Wilson (models 1-8!), Grover & Baker, Little Wanzer & Weir machines prior to 1881. An excellent and elegant read. Probably no longer affordable except, perhaps, by Isaac Singer’s heirs.

Sewing Machines

Author:

Rosamond C. Cooke

Publisher:

Manual Arts Press, Peoria, Illinois

Format:

8” x 5½”, hardback, B&W line drawings

Date:

1922

Pages:

140

“Every girl is the potential customer of some sewing machine company, and a knowledge of every standard make of machine should be a part of her general information.” A high school textbook, designed to teach the underlying principles and construction of the sewing machine and help teachers to “operate any machine quickly and easily”. Well-illustrated, comprehensive explanations of many American machines of the period and basic sewing instruction. Chapter on chain-stitch machines and their attachments. Makes covered: Davis, Domestic, Eldridge, National, New Home, Standard, Singer, White, Willcox & Gibbs, Rotary and Greist attachments.

Sewing Machine Attachment Handbook

Author:

Charlene Phillips

Publisher:

Krause Publications

Format:

8”x 8”

Date:

May, 2009

Pages:

144

ISBN:

ISBN-10: 0896899233
ISBN-13: 978-0896899230

Search Amazon for The Sewing Machine Attachment Handbook

Everything you need to know about attachments; what they are, what machines they fit and comprehensive instructions for using them. Good photography; clearly presented and elegantly designed.

Sewing machine cleaning and adjusting, book cover.

Sewing Machines – Cleaning and Adjusting

Author:

Helen S. Holbrook & Albert V. Krewatch

Publisher:

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farmers’ Bulletin No.1944

Format:

9” x 6”, paperback

Date:

August 1943

Pages:

24

Simple machine maintenance, quickly and straightforwardly explained. Produced during WWII to encourage the Home Front to make do and mend. A slight publication but a good place to start. Useful illustrated interchangeable needle list for American machines.

The Sewing Machine Handbook

Author:

Peter Lucking

Publisher:

Arco Publishing, Inc., N,Y,

Format:

9” x 5½”, hardback & paperback

Date:

1985

Pages:

112

ISBN:

0-668-06556-7 (0-668-06562-1 paperback)

A very general, beginner’s guide to sewing machines; buying, using and looking after. The instructions – especially for the attachments - are useful but not a lot more than what’s included in the manual that accompanied the machine.

The sewing machine attachment handbook, book cover

Sewing Machine Reference for Singer Sewing Machines

Author:

Charlene Philips

Publisher:

The Sewbox http://www.thesewbox.com/
catalog/item/6067450/5883672.htm

Format:

CD ($12), download ($8)
http://www.thesewbox.com/catalog/
item/6067450/5883687.htm

Date:

2008

Pages:

88

A comprehensive cross-referenced listing of Singer attachments and Fashion Aids, cross-referenced to the machines they once accompanied. Includes details of (nearly) all the extra attachments, Fashion Aids, puzzle boxes, oil cans, literature, furniture and loads more. Plenty of crisp photography and neat snippets of model information. Currently in print (2010).

Sewing Machines, their Construction, Adjustment and Repair

Author:

Paul N. Hasluck

Publisher:

Cassell and Co, London, New York, Toronto & Melbourne

Format:

7” x 4”, hardback & paperback, B&W line drawings

Date:

1905-1920

Pages:

160

Densely packed and clearly illustrated information on fixing a wide variety of pre-1920 machines; including transverse (boat-shaped) shuttle models, chain-stitchers and some industrials. Possibly the best of the repair manuals for earlier machines.

The Sewing Machine Guide

Author:

John Giordano

Publisher:

The Taunton Press Inc.

Format:

5 ½” x 8 ½”, paperback.

Date:

1997

Pages:

105

ISBN:

1-56158-220-4

“Tips on choosing, buying and (basic) refurbishing”. A valid selection of criteria to consider when buying a machine for sewing, rather than collecting.

Sincere's sewing machine service book, book cover.

Sincere’s Sewing Machine Service Book

Author:

William Ewers (with H.W. Baylor and H.H. Kenaga)

Publisher:

Sincere Press, Phoenix, Arizona

Format:

11” x 8½”, hardback

Date:

1968 1st Ed., 1970 2nd Ed., 1971 3rd Ed., 1974 4th Ed.

Pages:

209 (1971), 219 (1974)

ISBN:

0-912534-05-2 (Library of Congress 79-2683)

A comprehensive guide to domestic machine maintenance, thoroughly Illustrated with B&W line art, photos, exploded parts diagrams etc., etc. Featured machines: Singer 15, 66, 127, 128, 201, 221. White Rotary, New Home, Sears, Wards, Western Auto, White. Pfaff 130, 230 360, Riccar, Viking (Husqvarna), Adler & Elna zigzags (plus Necchi straight stitch in the 1974 edition). Many Japanese models. Excellent book, but pricey.

Sincere’s Zigzag Sewing Machine Service Book

Author:

William Ewers (with H.W. Baylor and H.H. Kenaga)

Publisher:

Sincere Press, Phoenix, Arizona. U.S.A.

Format:

10 ½” x 8”. Hardback. B&W.

Date:

1970

Pages:

176

ISBN:

0-912534-05-2 (Library of Congress 79-2683)

Pretty much everything you need to service a wide variety of American and Japanese, post-WW2, domestic zigzag machines. Copious illustrations and directions but, as genuine copies currently fetch more than the cost of a professional overhaul, DIY may prove a false economy.

Tension adjusting, book cover

Tension Adjusting & Your Sewing Machine

Author:

Alex Askaroff

Publisher:

Published privately (U.K.), available online: www.sewalot.com

Format:

8”x6”

Date:

2007

Pages:

29

A meandering, over-written guide to just one aspect of machine maintenance. Illustration is minimal and the constantly changing typefaces confusing. Handy for someone who hasn’t read their manual or has never adjusted tensions before, but …. an entire publication?

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ISMACS is an organization totally independent of all sewing-machine manufacturers, past or present and is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in these pages.  Please Note: Do not contact any ISMACS official in an attempt to solicit a valuation - it is not possible other than by hands-on assessment and your request will be ignored.