The industrial sewing machine drawer has always been overlooked even though it is an extremely important asset. Stop and think for a minute about all the things you have in each machine’s drawer. Are there things hiding there that you haven’t seen for years or maybe didn’t know you had? Perhaps some things need to be evicted?
This is the time of year when workflow often slows down and we start wanting
to clean and organize. More than likely all of us have lofty goals in this endeavor
that are not reachable in the real world. We may even look at the mountain that
needs to be climbed and run the other way!
Cleaning, organizing and stocking your sewing machine drawers are simple but
highly valuable tasks that require minimal time. Each machine can be done as
you have an extra 10 to 20 minutes available.
Before you start going through the drawer contents, determine if the drawer is
in the best location. When you purchase an industrial machine, the drawer already
is attached to the machine table. It may or may not be convenient. Only a few
screws hold the frame making relocation very easy.
In Photograph 1, you see that I have an extended table built around the sewing
machine table. The extra table surface to the left of the machine head is what
I call the elbow table. This allows you to better hold the fabric to feed it
through the machine and keep the fabric out of your lap. When this table was
installed, my sewing machine drawer was located under the machine table to the
left of the head as well. This made it totally inaccessible. Moving it to the
outside right corner where some drawers are would not work because the on/off
switch was there. So the drawer was placed under the elbow table. Not only is
it easy to get to, but because it pulls out in front of you, it’s a little
easier to see into those dark recesses that collect forgotten tools.
EVERY SEWING MACHINE
Some tools are a must-have for any sewing machine.
1. Instruction book, if there is one. If it is too big for the drawer, you might
want to photocopy pages that you use regularly, e.g. where to oil a machine.
Fold the pages and keep in the drawer.
2. Flat-head screwdriver—one with a long shaft is preferable, but any flat
head will do.
3. Sewing machine needles—for most machines you will need heavier needles
for most work and lighter needles for sheers.
4. Needle threaders.
5. Nail file for your own nails if they should break. A broken fingernail could
pull some fabrics.
6. Tweezers with bent tips.
7. Q-tips for cleaning.
8. Brush for cleaning—I prefer a softer paintbrush about 1/2 to 5/8 inches
wide instead of the stiff bristled machine brushes.
9. Nippers for clipping threads—I keep these on top of my machine attached
to it by elastic to keep them from hitting the floor or trashcan if they should
10. Hem gauge or six- to seven-inch ruler. It’s handier out of the drawer.
If you do not have a computerized machine, put a small piece of magnetic tape
on the back of it and stick it to your machine or light. Do not use magnetic
tape on computerized machines.
11. Seam ripper—I keep this on top of my machine table.
12. Generic, multi-sized pack of hand needles and thimble if you use one.
13. Single-edge razor blades or a small pen knife. These are used to cut threads
that are hard to do with a seam ripper or nippers, e.g. open pinch pleats.
14. A dull-pointed 1/4-inch-round wood dowel about 12 to 15 inches long. This
is for turning tubes and pushing out points.
STRAIGHT STITCH SEWING MACHINE
1. The straight stitch sewing machine and the commercial zigzag machines, e.g.
Singer 20U, have throat plates and feed dogs that can be damaged easily by an
errant needle. For this reason, always have a spare throat plate and set of companion
2. Extra bobbins.
3. Feet used at that specific machine.
4. Special hand sewing needles if used at that machine.
5. Along with hand needles, have a rubber gripper to pull needles through difficult
6. Very small flat-head screwdriver to be used to adjust the bobbin case.
7. Set of needle files (Photograph 3) and emery cloth or thread. These will enable
you to file some of the burrs on the sewing machine throat plate. It may be difficult
to find a set of files. If you can’t find the set, at least see if you
can find the one that is totally round or half round.
8. Zipper pulls, ends, needle nose pliers and an old pair of scissors at the
machine where you make zippers.
9. Thumb stall (Photograph 4). Called by many names, it’s a rough rubber
tip worn on your thumb commonly used for turning pages. However, we use one for
a better grip on the underneath layer when sewing rod pocket headings, etc. This
enables you to better feed in the extra fabric that is pushed forward by the
presser foot on the top layer.
1. Small spool of cotton thread. When I clean my serger—and I mean thoroughly
clean my serger—I run multi-knotted cotton thread through all the threading
holes and channels to totally clean them out.
2. A long, fine and curved looper threader to thread that nasty lower looper.
There are several kinds available.
3. Spare upper and lower knife.
4. Any special screwdrivers that your machine might need.
5. Spare belts if you have a puller on your machine.
Always save any extra parts, screws etc. from repairs and keep them in the machine
Every person is different and you may have many other things that you need right
there at the machine. Use the drawer and make it easy to access. Now take five
minutes and go inventory one machine drawer and wipe it out while you are in
Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 26-year veteran of the drapery
workroom industry. Having owned drapery workrooms
as one person and as a company of nine, she is now president of Workroom
Concepts a consulting firm offering educational resources to the
industry on its Web site (
www.workroomconcepts.com ). Her experience
in both the retail and wholesale window covering arenas has contributed
to her success as a business consultant. A professional speaker and
writer, she has authored several industry products including Order
in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications and Price
Your Work with Confidence, available