Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Story of My Sewing Machine

Kind of a bad photo. Sorry!

I bought my sewing machine at a thrift shop in Traverse City, MI, around 2004, when I lived there. I've always loved thrift shops, and this one is especially awesome, since it benefits the Women's Resource Center.

It was kind of an impulse buy and kind of not. My clothes, bedsheets and I had just endured 2 years of bad washing machines during graduate school, so I had a few things that I loved that really just needed a little mending. If I recall, this Singer 328k cost about $25 (maybe less?), which was cheaper than buying 3 new sets of sheets and less emotional than saying goodbye to my favorite skirt. I kind of hope that everyone else has those few really special clothes that they love to wear and mourn when they, well, wear out!

At the time, I told my dad about buying a sewing machine and he said, "Lara, you must be careful to stay on your budget." He has no memory of this, but the singsong way he said "budget" cracked me up, so I remember. 

I couldn't get the tension knob to work correctly, so I did have it tuned up. The repair guy said that if I took care of it, it would last another 40 years, since it's all metal gears and a rubber belt, inside. 

I checked books out of the library on mending and proceeded to mend my sheets so well that I still use those sets. I also checked out books on garment construction and was promptly scared off by things like interfacing. For some reason, choosing/ using interfacing scared me to death. My friend who sews tried to tell me that not EVERY project has Scary Interfacing, but I didn't believe her. 

So, for the past 11 years, I've moved this machine with me to three houses and only used it for mending. About 4 months ago, I was talking with an editor at work and she told me that you can sew t-shirts and other knit fabrics on a regular sewing machine without a serger. I said, really? Even my loud little antique machine? She said, of course! The last time sewing knitwear was really popular, about 30 years ago, no one had sergers at home. We all just did it with a small zigzag stitch. 

...and I saw the awesome dress Annie Modesitt made herself as a copy of a dress she already had. (I can't find it on her blog, maybe I just saw it on Facebook?) So, now I knew that it was possible to make my favorite kinds of clothes and also make new versions of my favorite clothes? These are skills that I really want to have. 

Next thing you know, I was signing up for sewing classes like this one on Craftsy and it was off to the races! I really enjoy the feeling of learning something new to me. I call my little old Singer Madame Chanteuse, because that's French and I'm apparently obsessed with all things French. She was made in Scotland in 1965. If you have one and don't have a manual, you can download it for free here

I keep finding new and exciting ways to make her not work properly (presser foot not down, needle in backwards, needle not in all the way, foot not screwed on tight enough, threaded wrong, sloppy bobbin, wrong needle, another wrong needle, presser foot pressure too low, presser foot pressure too high, messing too much with the bobbin tension, no thread on the bobbin, not oiled/cleaned so that she squeaks like the Tin Man). 

So far, she has always forgiven me. Eventually.

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