Farming and sewing an uncommon combination

Holding one of his partially finished pieces, Russell James is happy to share his hobby and expertise with others.

Holding one of his partially finished pieces, Russell James is happy to share his hobby and expertise with others.

Almost everyone has a hobby. For some, it could be golf, bridge or books. For others, it’s something a bit more unusual. Take Russell James for example. Until recently, he spent much of his time turning old sewing machines into something unexpected … decorative tractors.

The former farmer took up sewing machine repair in retirement, but didn’t stop there. He found a way to meld his two passions.

“I got the idea out of a farm show magazine,” Russell said. “I entered two of them at the fair and got a blue ribbon. I came across a dealer with a lot of old machines that didn’t know what to do with them all, so I kind of got started from there.”

Russell may have been known to some as “the sewing machine tractor guy,” he was known to many more as “the king of sewing machine repair.”

“I got started in the 1980s. I needed a side business after I stopped farming, and my wife suggested I start doing sewing machine repair. I didn’t know how to fix a sewing machine any more than I knew how to fly an airplane, but a man from the college came and taught a class. I was the only male there. It was so odd, I made the local paper,” Russell said.

Russell caught on quickly. Soon, he was in hot demand, with customers from all over bringing their machines to him.

“I only charged $10 and told them if it didn’t work, they could bring it back,” said Russell.He has worked on machines from Pennsylvania, Colorado,

He has worked on machines from Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa and Missouri.“I even had a guy from Texas call me once. He must have

“I even had a guy from Texas call me once. He must have found my name on the Internet. The furthest north I sent a machine was Alaska,” said Russell. “Once, my grandson was in Arizona, and met someone on the street. They asked him where he was from, and he said Kansas City but his granddad lived in Clay Center. He asked him, ‘Is he the one that works on sewing machines?’ It’s a small world.”

It is a small world, indeed, and we’re glad to have Russell as part of ours.

“It’s been an interesting life. It’s educational, and I met people from everywhere.”

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