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Did I really Do That!

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Sewing has been part of the family ‘ethos’ since the late 1700s, from great-great-great-great-great grandfather Philip with a tailor’s shop in High Holborn – not quite Savile Row tailors as family legend would have it – through great-great-grandparents, Alfred and Eleanor, who were theatrical costumiers, to an aunt who had a thriving clothing factory in South Africa.

It was inevitable that I would want to sew – and, I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t sit at Mum’s old treadle machine. When my first child was born, I bought a playpen – not for her – but for me! It sat neatly around the treadle and I could sew away without fear of her fingers getting caught in the wheel!

Eventually I went ‘electric’ and bought what was then a top of the range machine. I left it in the UK for my youngest daughter when I came to Australia… and bought a little cheapo here.

My oldest daughter is an absolute genius with fabric – and some years ago bought an all-singing-all-dancing embroidery machine. I make no bones about it – I coveted that machine! So I got a small version… which I rapidly outgrew.

Yesterday, I took the plunge and bought a new machine, it should be delivered today. I’m still slightly stunned that I really have spent so much on what is, after all, just a hobby.

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  1. May 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Good evening, Ara,

    Surely all of us who ever had the chance did that? In my case, behind my Mum’s, Gran’s or Great-Aunts’ backs and in the certain knowledge that there was no thread loaded up. I learnt my painful lesson about that the first time. It was great fun treadling the machine up to max and just watching things spinning around,

    In due course, of course, I put such childish things behind me, grew to man’s estate, moved on and discovered how to spell Savile Row properly.

    Smiley thing!

  2. May 28, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Blimey, quite a difference between the two machine, Boadicea!

    I had a Singer treadle just like the one in your picture. I gave it away in a fit of madness about four years ago. I really do regret it, but I have small table top Singer of the same vintage. I rarely used either of them.

    Have you tried it yet? It looks incredibly high tech.

  3. May 28, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Hello Mr Mackie,

    I’m pleased to hear your procedure went well, although not a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

    It wasn’t me, Sir.

    Although I did leave the “s” off machines in my comment #2 on this post!

  4. May 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Boadicea, good evening and my profuse and abject apologies for directing my comment to Ara instead of to you.

    Still right about the Savile Row bit, to be fair.

    Several smiley things and one or two blushing things in addition.

  5. May 28, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    I used to use a treadle Singer at my Aunt’s and an early electric Singer at home, which I eventually inherited. I didn’t use it much in latter years and ended up giving it away and now have a machine I don’t like! Still useful for emergency repairs though. I’d love to splash out on a new machine and then have some serious lessons, but not at this time of the year. An Autumn project perhaps.

    I hope you love it!

  6. Boadicea
    May 28, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Mr Mackie – thanks for the correction and the apology! Fortunately, I had a mother who let me ‘have a go’ at her sewing machine – so there was no need to try it out behind her back. But, I guess she knew that I would do that if she simply said ‘No!’

    Araminta – it certainly is high-tech. I’ve had a very short ‘play’ on it. I’ve spent the last two weeks researching sewing machines – and two came out on top. I downloaded manuals for both machines to see what they could do – and the Pfaff came out well ahead in all counts. I have a feeling it will take some time to master all the features.

    My daughter is almost as excited as I am – she’s also in the market for up-grading – she reckons I can’t have a better sewing machine than she has!

    Pseu – I can’t say I dislike my present machine – it just didn’t do everything that I wanted. Taking serious lessons definitely sounds like an Autumn project!

  7. christinaosborne
    May 28, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    As long as you get your money’s worth!

    Trouble is with these machines unless you are semi professional do you ever do so?

    I see the same with spinning wheels, people lashing out $1200 or more on wheels and then make utterly prosaic thread of no great quality that you could bash out on a third hand $ 50 buck job. Ask them to do anything interesting and they look at you like its the second coming! Interestingly most of their handknits are commercial wool! So heavens knows what they actually do with the stuff they spin.

    What projects are you going to do with your new machine?

  8. Boadicea
    May 28, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    Christina

    In terms of monetary gain – I shall get nothing. I long ago gave up making things for other people – well, other than for my mother – and I don’t charge her!

    In terms of sheer enjoyment – I will probably embroider anything that stands still!

    Seriously, I will enjoy just getting the thing to work. I still make most of my own clothes – and I’ve always found that creating something is a useful antidote to the frustration of research.

    This is, I know, sheer extravagance – it took me a long, long time to try to justify it. I’m, not sure that I have yet. But, it’s for ‘fun’ and life should be about fun sometimes!

    I’m very interested in what you say about spinning wheels. I’d love to try my hand at spinning, but have never been tempted to purchase a wheel since I’m not at all sure what I would do with the yarn!

  9. christinaosborne
    May 29, 2012 at 12:24 am

    With the price of decent clothing I would have thought it would have paid for itself pretty quickly!
    Are you able to buy good fabric in Australia? The stuff available here in the USA is of disgusting quality. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing any garment made of it! (My excuse for no longer sewing much!!!)
    I do make curtains still but then apart from joining the widths of fabric and applying the header that is all hand sewing anyway! I hate machine made curtains they never hang properly especially after cleaning or washing, I’m just too fussy.
    I have seen some good looking silks for sale on the internet and have been nearly tempted.

    All the stuff I spin I import from a girl in Yorkshire I have known for 25 years, she manufactures and dyes all her own wool and silk, first class stuff and would you believe even with the shipping it works out half the price of absolute tosh here that I wouldn’t use to stuff cushions!! Plus she will custom blend for me.
    Dreadful dragging everything across the pond but there you are!

    I’m sure you will find that machine deals with knit fabrics far better than your old one, my sister has about 5/6 machines but then she uses them professionally, but I was always very impressed with these flexible seams and the magical overlockers.

    I wonder if there is any mechanism with yours to use it for needle felting? That’s fun.
    Trouble is with embroidery is that you always have to iron it for it to look much good. I have so many embroidered linen cloths but it is a terrible job laundering them, tend to keep them for ‘high days, holidays and bonfire nights’ so to speak!

    Not a lot of point spinning unless you knit, The only other use is weaving where you use the fibre as singles rather than plying them together. Most people do not take to it, if you are ever tempted, join a club where you can get access to a wheel or rent one until you decide you like it.
    I keep two, one rather expensive and the other an old wreck that I particularly like as it will turn extremely slowly, an advantage for some classes of work. I also lend it out for people to have a go, it’s so damned old they can’t damage it!

  10. Boadicea
    May 29, 2012 at 1:27 am

    There’s a pretty good range of fabrics here – at quite reasonable prices. It’s certainly far better value than the cost of fabrics in the UK. I wandered around John Lewis in Oxford Street last year – where I’d always been impressed by the range. I was bitterly disappointed and thought our cheap fabric retailer had a better range and at far better prices. I’m not sure that I would still be making clothes in the UK other than for ‘special occasions’.

    I tried to go ‘iron-free’ at one time – just can’t do it. I really hate clothes and other stuff that looks crumpled like last week’s newspaper.

    I think it will deal with knit and fine fabrics far better – at least I sincerely hope so!

    I never really took to knitting – unless the pattern was so simple that I could read at the same time. And I suspect that weaving would be too long a process for me.

  11. May 29, 2012 at 5:02 am

    My mother has an old Singer sewing machine, even though she never uses it.
    She knits a lot more, something which I never managed to learn.
    As with all things, it’s not how much money one earns with it or even how much one uses it.
    It’s just a matter of how much one likes doing it. The reward of enjoyment, especially when
    it’s a hobby, is most important.

  12. Janus
    May 29, 2012 at 7:38 am

    My grandmother had a machine like your ‘old’ one and at some point it was converted to electricity for use by my aunt, with a drive belt where the handle used to be.

  13. May 29, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Hello Boadicea,

    Nice photos. The first one wouldn’t have looked out of place on a cover of Astounding Tales.

    My mum and gran were both machinists. My gran hated the work. She worked on a “piece” line (hope I’ve spelt that the correct way) and none of the women would do much talking. The more you sewed the more money you made.

  14. Boadicea
    May 29, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I took possession of the machine this afternoon. I’ve only managed a couple of hours ‘play’ – but so far I am very impressed! It’s all fairly intuitive – and already I’ve found a couple of features that I’ve often wanted. Hurray!

    It certainly is a far cry from the old Singer treadle!

  15. Four-eyed English Genius
    May 29, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Mrs FEEG has a very similar treadle Singer sewing machine to this one, although it has a few extra pin drawers and so on around it and the machine itself folds down into the table. It was inherited from her Grandmother. She now has a modern Toyota machine for her dressmaking, etc. activities.

    Being an unrepentant hoarder, she has kept the old Singer, folded down, and now uses it as a telephone table!

  16. christinaosborne
    May 29, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    I have a ditto FEEG, it stands in the kitchen holding up my spice rack. It has been folded down for so long, 8 years now. It holds the phone too.

    Glad i’ts up to expectations Bo.

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