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Why I Should Get Promoted More Often (A Long, Boring Discussion of Sewing Machines)

When I met with my boss yesterday, he offered me a very generous promotion. It means more responsibility and time at the studio, as well as a pay increase and insurance. My first thought was, “OMIGOSH, I can buy more yarn! Maybe I can even buy yarn at Bouclé!  Look, they’re right across the street!”  I did go buy two more pairs of needles that evening, but it was totally legitimate because I can’t knit Wool of the Andes with my Knit Picks Options because they split the yarn. Therefore, I needed to buy some size US 7 Addi Turbos in order to knit my beret. (I have settled on a pattern, by the way. It’s the Gretel beret by Ysolda Teague. Further bulletins as events warrant.)

However, I think I need a new sewing machine. You might be thinking that “need” is a bit strong, because I do have a pretty new Brother machine. The issue is that, while he does perfectly fine with thinner fabrics, and I’m loving the automatic clutch on the bobbin winder, the drop in bobbin, the quilting guide, and some other modern features, he has issues with thicker fabrics. I’m thinking that it’s time to go for an old machine. Enter Craigslist. There are tens of old machines out there for sale just in my city, all pretty reasonably priced.

My dilemma is this: I could buy a 1970s era Sears Kenmore that looks to be the same machine as my parents’ but perhaps a couple of years off. The sewing table that the machine is in actually looks like it’s in better shape than my parents’ is. But that seems silly because my mom has always talked about the fact that I’m going to get their machine eventually, and having two identical machines in the family seems silly. I do love that machine, and I know all of its quirks and foibles, so having a familiar machine has its advantages. And still I hesitate.

Another option would be get something closer to my great grandmother’s machine, which is in storage right now near my parents’ house. I believe that it’s an early 1950s model Singer. It’s in a beautiful cabinet, with drawers, a wide tabletop and working surface, a matching chair, and tons of bobbins and vintage sewing supplies tucked away in it. I believe my great grandfather bought it for Granny, and, if so, he did a good job. It needs some work, and I’ve been meaning to re-wire it. In fact, other than sewing a couple of seams with it when I first took possession of it in high school, I haven’t done any sewing on it. The old, cracked insulation makes me nervous, and I don’t want to get a shock or set something on fire. But, once again, buying another sewing machine like this one seems silly because I already have one of the nicer machines from that era.

My third option would be to go for something much older, like a treadle or hand crank machine. Disadvantages include possible (probable) troubles finding needles, replacement parts, bobbins, etc, and the fact that finding someone to do repairs could be difficult and/or expensive. Advantages include the fact that most machines in this category are tanks and can sew through pretty much anything you can fit under the presser foot. On top of this, maintenance is designed to be done at home. In 1915, not just anyone could hop in the car and drive to their local repair shop 15 minutes away. Also, the lack of electrical business and other complicated features would make repairs simpler. I know how to clean and oil a sewing machine. In fact, I’m pretty good at it, and fixing mechanical things seems to be an inborn talent for me. Plus, aren’t these really old machines just so pretty?

I’m thinking I should just get Granny’s machine out here somehow, but I’ve sent out a bunch of emails to people listing machines on Craigslist and we’ll see if anything truly promising shows up.

Any comments, helpful and otherwise, are welcome.

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