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A man sticks to repairing sewing machines for over 40 years in Hanoi
Jenna Duong 08:16, 2023/05/01
Hanoi is the place where many odd jobs have been practiced, from ancient times to the present.

In the middle of a busy street, a man has been immersed in repairing sewing machines, once the bread and butter of many Hanoi families, for more than four decades.

Leading a comfortable life thanks to repairing manual sewing machines

Hanoian repairman Pham Van Chien. Photo: Nha bao & Cong luan

Unusual jobs in the capital such as mending shoes, repairing clothes, or locksmithing not only pay well for industrious workers but also contribute to the unique Hanoi lifestyle.

Pham Van Chien, 60, sat humbly inside the last remaining sewing machine repair shop which has been lasting for nearly 40 years on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street in Dong Da District amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. 

“More than 30 years ago, many people opened sewing machine repair shops in Hanoi. I wanted to learn the trade to support myself since I didn’t have a steady job.

I worked on the machines for a long time, often getting grease over me. I worked as an assistant and foreman many years before starting my own business,” Chien recalled.

He went on to say that a worker needs a wide range of skills in addition to knowledge to repair a sewing machine. Only when one understands the operating mechanism and common problems, will he be able to make a correct diagnosis.

Long-running manual sewing machines frequently develop flaws such as broken parts, including the arm shaft, the handle, and others.

 Chien's shop in Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi. Photo: Nha bao & Cong luan

“At that time, all machine faults were fixed manually because there was no automated support. To bring the machines back in working order, repairmen had to mend, rebuild, weld pieces, and replace parts. Each machine took one or two days to repair, depending on the specific problem”, he said.

Chien has built his own brand over 40 years, which has resulted in an ever-increasing number of customers, including owners of large tailor shops in neighboring provinces. However, the once-glorious manual sewing machines are now mostly just for show.

Reviving both manual and industrial sewing machines

 At present, the once-glorious manual sewing machines are mostly just for show. Photo: Nha bao & Cong luan

As the country has embarked on the renovation along with the development of science and technology, new types of sewing machines have been born. Workers who specialize in repairing manual sewing machines are also forced to adapt themselves to the new era if they want to continue living on the income from their trade.

“Today’s sewing machines vary in origin and design. Sewing machines from Japan, Germany, or Russia each have different uses or structures. In order to fix these machines, I have to examine each type by myself and gain experience without any books”, said Chien.

Practice makes perfect. With his wealth of experience and understanding of sewing machine models, Chien’s skills are trusted and confirmed by numerous customers.

 Sewing machine repair is a trade that requires diligence and meticulousness. Photo: Nha bao & Cong luan

Chien believes that sewing machine repair requires not only mental agility and intelligence but also patience and meticulousness as well.

So far, however, the business is not as booming as it used to be. Many owners of broken sewing machines tend to buy new ones - instead of taking them to repair shops as they used to do.

Chien believed that the machines have artistic value and many customers are willing to pay high prices to buy them for display. It's the reason why Chien does not sell new models of sewing machines but sticks to the trade until now.

TAG: Hanoi Culture; Hanoi Tourism
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