Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Advent of a Sewing Machine

Either I’m a giant nerd, or a pioneer at heart. Hopefully both, but these days the thing I am most excited about is my sewing machine! With my mending pile getting out of hand, and lots of ideas for gifts involving sewing, and a desire to be able to repair my clothes in such a way as to make them last, I invested in a sewing machine a couple months ago. When I say invested, what I actually mean is I bought one from a Craigslist posting for $30. I’m very pleased, as it was something of a gamble. I’m not overly familiar with electric sewing machines, having grown up using my parents’ 1910-vintage cast iron treadle machine. But I understand all the parts and how they work, so I was able to make sure that this one was at least functional.

One big piece of simple living is to barter for services or make use of a friend’s skills instead of paying money for something. In this case, my good friend Bonnie, who has worked in a variety of costume shops and therefore knows her way around a sewing machine, helped me get mine in working order. She came over and we tested it out, took apart the entire bobbin casing, tested all the parts, and got it rolling. I maintain that the best way to understand a new city is to get lost in it, and thus the best way to get to know a machine is to take it apart and then put it back together again. We got everything squared away for free (and a cup of tea), as opposed to spending $80, the minimum cost I could find in Portland for getting a sewing machine serviced.

Bonnie guessed that my machine is 1950s vintage or so, and it works fine, with a few foibles. It took me another half hour to adjust the bobbin tension and get everything back to just the right settings when I actually got it out to sew for the first time, but the advantage of it being finicky is that I am feeling very confident in my ability to adjust it and get it fixed on my own now, having had plenty of opportunity to do so. I’ve already completed some Christmas presents (I can’t say what they are as their recipients read this blog) and mended a whole pile of socks. For whatever reason, every single pair of socks I own had become “air conditioned,” as my brother and I called it as kids. So I sat down for half an hour, and now they are all reinforced and warm again, hopefully ready to last a good long while more. The amount of money I spent on my sewing machine has already been made back just in the savings on socks! The savings in time is huge too- after doing all my mending by hand for years, I can already feel the difference.

I actually know very little about sewing. I don’t know how to use a pattern, but I’ve sewed plenty of basic things like bags, and can do anything involving hemming, and basic mending. I hope to learn from friends so I can actually get to a point of sewing some of my own clothes, but for now I am content to catch up on my mending so I am not put in a position to spend money on new clothes. Even when my clothes do wear out, they will go into my rag bag, where they become fabric for patches, napkins, or any number of useful things.

I love the feeling of having produced a clothing or gift item myself, and I like having projects on hand to get done in a few spare minutes. It’s funny that I could feel so useful just from having mended some socks, but I really do. Yesterday I also finished crocheting a gift item, so now it’s time to start another project to have on hand for when I need to kill a few minutes. I also want to learn to knit this winter, as I think it will prove more versatile than crocheting.


Laurel said...

Congrats on getting it all up in working order AND using it. Mine works just fine.... I think... It has been toooooo long since I've used mine.

Heather said...

Yay, sewing machine! Mine is currently for sale here in Glasgow. It's been a well-used friend.
Although how do you reinforce socks on the sewing machine? Joel's been darning all of mine by hand when they need it, and the sewing machine would do wonders, I'm sure. What kind of setting do you use? Do tell.
Yay for knitting. Head over to it's fabulous. And too.