North

DIY sewing machine repair: Yellowknife couple aims at small business after fix-it course in Texas

A Yellowknife couple flew all the way to Texas to do something about the lack of resources for fixing broken sewing machines in the territory.

‘Everybody has machines in their closets waiting to get fixed,’ says Roger Fraser

Meet the faces of Yellowknife's future sewing machine repair technicians: Karen Wright-Fraser and Roger Fraser. (submitted by Karen Wright-Fraser)

How many broken sewing machines does Yellowknife's Karen Wright-Fraser have?

"Ten," says Karen, laughing.

"Right from one of the first Singer machines. I have computerized machines, a fur machine, antique machines, a Singer, a Brother, industrial machines, you name it," she says.

Unfortunately, all of these machines are broken, and have been slowly rusting away in a closet for decades.

"Her machines are always breaking down. Nobody fixes them in the territory," says Karen's husband Roger Fraser, addressing a real need in the North. "So we just had to look for a course."

One of Karen's broken sewing machines. (submitted by Karen Wright-Fraser)

Last week, the Yellowknife couple flew all the way to Texas to do something about the lack of resources for fixing broken sewing machines in the territory.

Together, they took a sewing machine repair course offered by the Fix Sewing Machines Institute.

Nobody fixes them in the territory.- Roger Fraser

Roger knew he wanted to take some kind of course as a retirement project. He chose one in Texas that was less than a week, intensive, and would offer DVDs to take home and a 24/7 hotline for technical support from the instructors.

On top of that, the institute offered a buy-one-get-one-half-off deal, so Karen "jumped at the opportunity" as well, Roger says.

Northerners drive down to Alberta for repairs

Charlene Adam knows what it's like to not have sewing machine repair service readily available.

The owner of the Quilted Raven in Yellowknife, and the president of Yellowknife Quilters Guild, she's even driven her machine down to Edmonton to get it fixed.

"There are places in Grand Prairie, Alberta. And some people will go that far and take their machines down there," said Adam. 
Roger hopes to start his own sewing machine repair business in Yellowknife. 'We'll start it off small and see how it goes from there. In Yellowknife, but we also talked about the smaller communities.' (submitted by Karen Wright-Fraser)

But for those in the territory's capital, there's still some hope for those with broken machines.

"There's a fella from Johnson's Sewing Centre in Edmonton, and he comes up about every two years for anywhere between two to four days. He's at one of the hotels and people can drop off and pick up their sewing machines," explains Adam.

The technician last visited mid-2016.

Roger's certificate from the Fix Sewing Machines Institute. (submitted by Karen Wright-Fraser)

"People have been coming in [to my store] the past few weeks and months asking about fixing their machines. Well, nobody's coming up here for another year and half."

"It would be great if there was somebody here," Adam said. 

Tips from Karen

Karen said she learned quite a few things during the course.

"The most interesting part for me is that most of the time, when the machine breaks down, it's actually the user, it's not the machine," she says.

She says it's important to keep the machine clean.
A lot of times, Karen learned, broken machines are a result of user error. She recommends making sure your machine stays clean. (submitted by Karen Wright-Fraser)

"There's all kind of stuff that will jam it up. Some of that stuff in there, if it's not cleaned out, it'll make your stitches skip and so it just has to be clean."

"And apparently your machine should be serviced once a year."

But that's not easy for people in the North, so the couple hopes to start their own sewing machine repair business.

"Everybody has machines in their closets waiting to get fixed," says Roger.

But don't call him up just yet. Roger says he wants to practice and hone his skills before accepting his first customers.

"We'll start it off small and see how it goes from there. In Yellowknife, but we also talked about the smaller communities," says Roger.

with files Joanne Stassen

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