I’ve recently become a little bit obsessed with sewing. This has sparked a new hobby and forged a not insignificant hole in my bank balance. Sewing has also introduced me to a whole new community of people, and resurrected a long forgotten family heirloom. I’ll get round to doing a blow by blow on some of my creations in a later post, but for today, lets focus on sewing and sewing machines…
The sewing world is a slightly eccentric but endlessly charming place of (mostly) female solidarity, when you venture into a sewing shop, the staff are a fountain of knowledge and without fail take the time to discuss what you need, why you need it and are always happy to bestow the wisdom of generations. When I’ve been stuck on a technical aspect with a project and YouTube has failed me, the women in my local fabric shop have had all the answers.
One of the things I love about sewing is the linage of it, of this tradition teaching the next generation to sew, using old machines, and discovering vintage patterns. My Mum taught me to knit and sew as a child, she always made everything by hand which, I confess I never had the patience for.
The “future of sewing”
My sewing machine was a bit of a family heirloom, purchased by my Great Aunt in 1977, the Singer FUTURA 1000 was one of the first digitally programmed machines, and state-of-the-art in its day. It had been handed down to my Mum, who is an expert hand sewer but never got on with machines, and so it came to me.
I did stumble across this absolute classic advert for the machine from back in day, it is a cinematic masterpiece.
Seriously you need to watch this advert from 1977… It’s incredible.
My Aunt Teresa taught me how to the machine as a teen, and my career as a fashion design got off to a flying start – with this spectacular ill-fitting, gold glittery, reversible denim, bucket hat with insane topstiching and a ginger kitten applique – Versace eat your heart out!
15 years later…
I decided it was time to give sewing another go, so purchased the Tilly and the Buttons Miette sewing pattern – for beginners. The pattern is great, all of hers are – simple, easy to follow steps and the silhouettes are all very flattering.
90% of the way through my first apron-skirt-creation the machine started making crazed whirring noises and the needle was vibrating wildly from side to side. I took it to the local repair man, in the hope he could save the old gal, but he told me that unfortunately after 41 years my machine had sewed her last stitch. Apparently it fell in the venn diagram of machines where it was too old to have decent savable electrics, but not old enough to be simple and mechanical to fix.
In honour of this defunct machine, I wanted to take a moment to share with you an extract from the 1977 instruction manual which is, quite frankly a fantastic bit of copywriting.
You are about the sew on the most advanced sewing machine in the world. Your FUTURA Sewing Machine Model 1000 makes sewing so simple, so foolproof – and so much fun! – you will be astounded…
Your FUTURA Sewing Machine contains an electronic “brain”. A storehouse of sewing knowledge, it automatically programmes your machine to sew one of twenty five different stitch patterns – including two types of buttonholes… And that is only the beginning! You will quickly discover how simple it is to do any sewing operation you desire on your FUTURA Sewing Machine.
Welcome… to the future world of sewing!
And so my machine went to the great scrap heap in the sky.
Turning over a new sleeve
And so after a week of Googling I settled on the Janome 4400 as the worthy replacement. Now it’s not as flashy as the Singer, (it can only sew twenty stiches and one type of button hole) so although it may not be ‘the future world of sewing’, it was my sewing future – and DEAR LORD it was a million times easier to use! Technology has come a long way in 40 years, plus Bruce seems to like it!
The pride of completing your first wearable garment is incredible. And yes the finishing of my seams was a bit shoddy, and the hem wasn’t particularly even. But it looked half was decent and wearing it makes you feel like a million dollars. Plus, you never get over the joy of this exchange…
“Thanks, I made it myself”