In my family, two questions were asked about any prospective suitor (only partly in jest.)   Of a man, it was, Can he build wardrobes?    (These were most decidedly going to be necessary in our family.)   And of a woman, can she sew cushions?   For me, learning to sew was clearly imperative.

I cut my teeth on my mother’s sewing machine which was a reliable Singer with numerous discs that you applied to make different stitches.   I think it was largely on account of my ineptitude in handling her original hand turned model (SHE could manage it quite easily) that she exchanged that old faithful for an electric machine.

Later when I had money as a young working woman, I bought myself a state of the art sewing machine by Janome.   The computerised day had dawned.   My machine could be programmed at the touch of a button to do a straight  stitch or a fancy embroidery stitch, to attach a zip or make a buttonhole.   It could also embroider butterflies or penguins, for which purpose I never used it.   I think it cost, in the early seventies, about £500, though I am not certain of this.  In any case, a lot of money.

I brought it with me to my marriage, and it has been a reliable work horse ever since.   I should have kept a record of all the things I made on it.   Firstly, there is the mending: the seams re-sewn, the pockets fixed, the sheets darned.   When my children were small, I made most of their clothes.    I made Elisabeth a grey corduroy jacket, trimmed with red knitting and with a matching red fair isle hat and gloves.   I made Joanna a Mary blue velvet dress trimmed with lace, and  a matching velvet hooded cape trimmed with marabou which ensured that both girls played Mary in the nativity plays.   When Rory was born I made and hand embroidered with poppies a pram cover which John used to hide when we left the pram unattended, in case someone stole it.    I made curtains beyond recall.   I made full length curtains  for our bedroom when we came down here, and a matching cover  for our bed, hand quilted.   I made 2 full sets of sofa covers for 2 three seater sofas with six cushions, piped.   I made the two girls and myself tartan dresses with linen collar and cuffs.   I made myself dresses, trousers, skirts, blouses, evening dresses.   I made pyjamas and night attire  for everybody beyond counting.

In due course the grandchildren arrived.  I made them quilts.   I made party dresses.   I made velvet capes trimmed with fur or feathers.  I made pyjamas and dressing-gowns.    I made aprons, bags…   I made curtains, throws and cushions for my children’s houses.

In all these things, my sewing machine was my faithful and diligent companion for  almost 30 years.   I was quite skilled at keeping it in reasonable  repair.   And t hen, about a year ago, it began to fail.   It would stutter and stick (rather like myself!) over any thickness of material.   Since I’m making bags and quilts, there are plenty of thick sections.    I had it professionally serviced, but even so I seemed to spend more time on fixing it than using it.

The other day however, it kept failing and had to be coaxed into resuming, several times.   It was like a car that couldn’t go uphill.   I realised even as I swore at it, that it was worn out: the engine lacked power.

I thought, a little sadly, that it owed me no money, but its glory days were over.   I advised John of my problems, and before I had packed it away he had researched on the internet and suggested that the best place to replace it was John Lewis.   As we drove (John doesn’t let the grass grow under his  feet), I wrote a list of my requirements.    (Sewing penguins was not among them.)

Faced with an array of machines ranging from £89 – £1000, I was a bit put off, but a lovely John Lewis lady from Barbados – I could hardly concentrate on what she was actually saying from listening to her brown sugar accent and her creative employment of ‘H’s – came and advised me.

So now I am the proud possessor of a new Janome DC 3050, cost £319, so less than my old one though it fulfils all my requirements.  It embroiders hearts and flowers but not penguins.   I’m not quite sure what to do with the old one.  Although I could make it ‘work’, I can’t give it to anyone as its worn out and unreliable.   I think I’ll just send it to the local recycling centre.

I’m not sentimental about stuff.   You use it while it works, and when it’s done you get new stuff.   That old sewing machine however worked hard, it produced a vast array of articles, and it gave me pleasure and satisfaction.   It was well worth that £500.

PS    Clever clogs above who could produce all these fabulous garments still had the ignominious experience of having to return with the long suffering but patient husband to John Lewis because I couldn’t get  the machine to run properly (wrongly threaded.)   The kind saleslady did say that at least one purchaser per week came back in with the same problem.   (I think their diagrams are pretty useless.)   But I suspect she was just kindly telling me this  so I wouldn’t feel as stupid as, clearly, I am!

About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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