Sunday, April 18, 2021

Weekend Review: You and Your Sewing Machine


You and Your Sewing Machine / Bernie Tobisch
Lafayette, CA: C&T Publishing, c2018.
144 p.

This month my local Garment Guild was fortunate enough to have author Bernie Tobisch speak to us via Zoom all about working with our machines to our best ability. His humour and knowledge (and great props!) are all found in his excellent book on building a better relationship with your sewing machine. 

This book is comprehensive, based in his nearly 50 years of maintaining and servicing sewing machines of every brand. It's well laid out, easy for the reader to follow and to find what you're looking for. It's broken up into three sections; Getting to Know Your Sewing Machine (features, all the various parts and how they work and why), Maintaining Your Good Relationship (using the right foot, cleaning, lubricating, updates and other little bits), and Problems and How to Fix Them (tension, needles, threads, specific common issues). It ends with a quick reference Troubleshooting Guide that's 5 pages long and gives quick possible solutions to various common issues - and where to find more info in the book.

Laid out this way, there's a logical progression, and one thing I especially liked is that in the beginning he describes the different kinds of bobbin cases found in various machines so that you can be sure you're looking at the one that is in your machine when you're looking up the problem solving bits. I found the section of getting the tension right in your machine to start with really useful; then it's just little adjustments for the particular project as you need it, and very little bobbin adjustments are ever required. While we often think first of tension as the root of most problems, he notes "it's hardly ever the tension".

There are tons of large clear photos for everything, which include his oversize props that make needle threaders or tension disks, for example, extremely understandable. There's a lightness in the writing which makes it both informative and entertaining. He's very straightforward and is clear about what you can do yourself, and what kind of things require you to take your machine in to a technician. I learned a lot from his presentation to our Guild, and this book is a super addition to that knowledge. I feel like it's the class handouts from a very informative discussion! I think that I'll be more inclined to fiddle with a few of the issues I might encounter before deciding that it's up to the shop to fix it. Also, I feel more informed about why problems might be occurring, so I can avoid easy errors such as buying cheap needles or bobbins that aren't made for my machine. 

Definitely recommended if you are interested in keeping your machine running smoothly and getting the most out of it for as long as you can. 


  1. Thanks for the review, this looks like a useful book. Can you compare this to Bernie's other book "Sewing Machine Reference Tool"? (C & T Publishing,2020 I believe)? I saw this when looking up "You and Your Sewing Machine".

    1. Hi Lodi -- I haven't seen that one in person yet, but it looks like it's a coil bound reference book -- probably much like the troubleshooting guide but with full info and photos for specific problems. Looks like a smaller book meant to live by your machine!


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