Olomouc – Zdeněk Hýsek steps into the Lady pedal and the needle begins to insert thread into the fabric at regular intervals. But. The machine growls strangely. “That’s not good, that’s not good,” he doesn’t seem to a seasoned sewing machine repairman, and begins to lubricate the machine even more with oil. Zdeněk Hýsek has been repairing sewing machines for 32 years, these days he has started with dozens of sewing machines that sail to Haiti in the autumn. There they will learn the craft of a Haitian woman in the newly established sewing workshop of the sisters of the Order of St. Josefa. The workshop is located in Gonaïves in the northwest of the country, where the Archdiocesan Charity Olomouc has been operating for 8 years. It is the Container for Haiti that sews with the help of Czech donors.
You have been repairing machines from a consignment for Haiti for less than four days, how are you doing?
In one day, I have only three hours reserved for sewing machines for Haiti, and I still have a lot of customers to refuse. To sum it up, in about 11 hours I have the top ten machines ready for Haiti. It takes me an hour to repair one machine, if all goes well.
Some donors have also given us centuries of sewing machines, are most of the machines sailing in Haiti antique?
Most of them are ordinary machines that began to be used after the war before the era of electrical machines.
And the ones that have so far gotten under your hand, in what condition are they?
The machines came in better condition than I expected. Mostly I deal with the fact that they were shut down for a long time, no one used them, so they are dusty. After mixing the oil with the dust, it hardened, so I have to thoroughly clean the machine, move it, also treat it, and adjust it. Here and there you need to add something, such as a shuttle, spools, …
Before you started the repair, you also asked for spare parts, so what needs to be added the most?
The most important is the leather belt, which is often worn and broken. Moreover, in the different climatic conditions that prevail in Haiti, it would suffer its own. It is also necessary to equip the machines with spare spools and bottles of oil so that women can lubricate them.
And can a woman in Haiti handle routine maintenance of a sewing machine at all?
It can happen that the operator steps in the opposite direction, so the thread is twisted and the woman must be able to break up the basic mechanisms and pull out the thread. But a clever seamstress can handle it.
How long can these old used machines still serve?
It depends on the climatic conditions and how the Haitians will handle them… But most machines could last for another twenty, maybe even more years. Of course, over time, some components will need to be replaced, who knows what will happen in that time…
In Container, we only wanted to send pedal sewing machines to the Caribbean, because there is a problem with electricity connections in Haiti. But if we omit it, pedal machines are an advantage or, on the contrary, a disadvantage compared to electric ones, in what?
Pedal sewing machines do not have any defects in electrical equipment and this is usually the maintenance and possible repairs easier. It was a good idea to send pedal sewing machines to Haiti.
Thank you for the interview.
Karolína Opatřilová, ACHO