So this is a sentimental story about a man and his sewing machine.
It's an old machine, a 1973 Kenmore, back when they made 'em out of metal and therefore fairly indestructable. It isn't great, and it certainly isn't fancy, but I wouldn't be surprised if I'm able to use it for the rest of my life.
I was in graduate school when I learned to quilt, so there was really no possibility of buying something as extravagant as a sewing machine. I planned on, for the foreseeable future, doing my designing and cutting at home, then pieceing everything together as quickly as possible on my mom's machine at Christmas and Summer breaks.
While this was happening, my older brother was buying his house in Ashland, Oregon. It was one of those "as is" home sales, meaning that he also ended up buying lots of miscellaneous crap stored in the basement. Amongst that crap was the old Kenmore.
"What should I do with this sewing machine?" he asked my mom.
"You know, your brother would really love that as a Christmas present," she told him.
"Really?" he asked.
And that's how I got my sewing machine. He gave my sister a circular saw. It was the best Christmas ever.
Why I Love My Sewing Machine
1. It's old enough to be cool. Keepin' it real!
2. It does everything a sewing machine needs to do: it makes a straight stitch, on very rare occasions a zig-zag stitch, and a couple times a decade a buttonhole. All you need.
3. It took a while, but I found a walking foot for it. (That's a gizmo that grabs the fabric from both top and bottom, instead of just the bottom, to feed fabric under the needle.)
4. Also, although I can't "lower the feed dogs" (never mind), I can still do free motion quilting with a "darning plate." I like having a "darning plate". How many guys do YOU know who have a "darning plate"?
5. That metal indestructibility thing is O.K.!
6. And, not to get all after-school special on you, but hey! My brother gave it to me!
Why I Will Get Another One Next Year
Next fall, I will send the last student loan check into the black hole. Then, by way of celebration, I'm gonna get me a new machine. Here's why.
1. The actual sewing surface on the Kenmore is only about three inches by eight inches, which is waaaaay too small for quilting.
(although things got much, much better when I got a custom "Clutter Gutter," which is an awesome supplemental sewing surface made for exactly this purpose by a woman here in Portland. I can't recommend it highly enough.)
2. It doesn't have a very wide "throat." The opening on the right side of the needle is average at best. When you are working on a full-size quilt, you have to ram a lot of twisted up fabric and batting through that space, so you don't want it to be small. A big throat is the main thing I'll be looking for in a new machine.
3. A few modern gizmos are cool. Getting the top and bottom threads at the same level of tension is a technicality that's important, and a real pain in the butt on an older machine. On lots of new machines, that's super easy. Also, you can set most of them so they always stop with the needle down. That's important, because it gives you more control when you're stitching around a corner.
4. The old machine is, well, old. It needs to be repaired every few years.
5. It's a HUGE pain to oil. Really. It takes, like, a half hour.
6. If I had two machines, I could host a little craft night sort of dealie. Or maybe take a student. That sort of thing.
Audience Participation Time
So that's the story with my machine. What's YOUR machine like?
[Last Year in SotC: I was working on my machine quilting skills, and my practice pieces were looking pretty cool. I'm not doing anything very intricate right now. But, I'm actually machine quilting real quilts, instead of just practicing, so that's a big improvement.]