APTN News Sunday
The needle darts up and down with polished precision, but the reverse on the machine glitches.
Luckily for these avid sewers and quilters of the Northwest Territories, the “Stitichin’ Gwich’in,” is but a phone call away.
Roger Fraser of Yellowknife, better known as the “Stitchin’ Gwich’in” is the only one in the territory that repairs broken sewing machines.
After spending years sending his wife Karen Fraser, a talented seamstress and traditional wear maker’s machine down south for service, they decided to get their certification as technicians.
The two travelled down to Austin, Texas to take the course.
The Stitchin’ Gwich’in is only a year-and-a-half into his repairs, but already business is booming.
Fraser prides himself on being thorough when it comes to repairs, especially when he is without a manual for a machine.
“To do a good jobs you have to do a good two hours. Other technicians could repair in an hour but I am still learning,” he said.
When the winter roads are open, Fraser has serviced upwards of four machines in a day.
His most valued tool of the trade – a cotton swab.
“The most common problems are with the needle and the hook. If that’s out of whack you are going to skip stitches or it won’t sew at all.”
For machines that are routinely used, Fraser recommends having them serviced once a year as most machines need to have a deep-clean from fabric particles and dust and a top-up on grease.
For the next project, a 1930’s Swinger from Inuvik is placed on the workbench. It’s older machines such as this that give him some grief, but not because of the fix.
“Waiting for parts and finding parts for the older hand crank machines is difficult,” he says. “I go on eBay and have a sewing supplier located in Toronto they give me parts but you have to order $150 worth of parts so I either have to wait until I need parts or guess what I will need in the future.”
The parts are inexpensive, and before the business opened for northerners to ship their machines down south was greater than the cost to have the machines serviced.
Stitchin’ Gwich’in says he has received nothing but positive feedback from customers.
Like Marilyn McGurran, who co-owns a quilting company in Yellowknife.
McGurran relies on her long-arm machine to sew up quilts from N.W.T. communities, saving clients a few hundred dollars by staying in the north.
She stresses the importance of sewing in the territory.
“You have six months of winter and sewing is big up here. There are a lot of talented people up here who like to create.”
But when a spring on her $10,000 machine broke she turned to the Stitchin’ Gwich’in.
“He said I don’t know how to fix that machine. I have never touched one or worked on one. I said that’s okay I know you can fix it.”
Fraser told APTN he hopes to work with local governments to set up public repair workshops in all five N.W.T. communities.
Until then the Stitchin’ Gwich’in will keep the thread a’ twitchin’.