Featured Volunteer: Kat Bordonaro

Meet Kat Bordonaro, a passionate advocate for sustainability and an invaluable volunteer at the Tool Library. Originally joining to assist with inventory management, Kat’s journey took an unforeseen turn during the pandemic.

What motivated you to become a volunteer at the Tool Library, and how has the experience been?

I started as a Tool Library volunteer to help with inventory, actually! I had been a member and borrowed tools a few times before, but I didn’t expect at the time that I’d wind up behind the counter myself.

How has being a volunteer impacted your perspective on consumption, waste and sustainability?

I came to the Tool Library already with a strong sense of reducing waste and building sustainable practices — it’s why I have a degree in Environmental Studies! There’s definitely a need to not just talk the talk but walk the walk, too; a better world is possible, but we have to build it together.

Where did your sewing machine “fixer” knowledge come from?

I learned how to repair sewing machines as a result of the pandemic — loads of people were dragging out sewing machines that hadn’t been touched in 20, 30, 40 years (or more) with the intent to sew masks, and found out the hard way that sewing machines need to be serviced like any other machine! So, I helped at a local shop for a year as they tackled the increase in demand. Now I keep my repair skills sharp by helping folks at Dare to Repair events. Sewing machines were built to last, and it’s always a treat to help someone bring a family heirloom back to life.

Are there any common challenges or recurring issues you often encounter while repairing sewing machines?

Sewing machines are precision machines — think of how small the individual stitches are. Because of that, it can be pretty easy to make a mistake that throws everything out of alignment. Fortunately, all sewing machines are alike, too; they operate on the same mechanical principles to make stitches, so figuring out what to check is the same across any model from any time period.

No matter the issue, I always switch out the sewing needle in the machine with a fresh one. You’d be surprised to find out how many times an issue is caused by a needle being installed incorrectly. With a new needle, I can then check the all-important timing of the machine — making sure the needle is at a certain point in its up-and-down movement for the upper thread to be caught by the hook that races around the bobbin, which is what ultimately forms each stitch.

Are you a sewist yourself? If so, what’s your favorite thing to sew?

Believe it or not, I don’t sew much myself! On the rare occasions I do, I usually prefer to hand sew — either because it’s a small repair job, or I’m working on a plushie or other three-dimensional project.

What advice would you give to someone interested in learning how to sew?

For anyone looking to use a sewing machine for their next project, do what you should do with any home appliance — read the user manual! If you no longer have the original manual, you’re likely to find it online, or even better, find a video of someone taking you through all the basic (and sometimes advanced) steps of how to use your machine.

What’s your favorite tool?

My favorite tool is actually a sharp pair of bypass hand pruners. I love to garden and find pruning to be really satisfying!