93 not out

Before Christmas Mr Snail decided that he’d like to learn to sew his own clothes. It all started when a kit arrived with the pattern and all the bits and bobs required to make a pair of boxer shorts. I’d ordered it because I fancied having a go and the pattern looked good (and had got good reviews). I opened the parcel and there was a little box, with the fateful words “A beginner’s sewing kit…” on the outside. “Ooh,” said Mr Snail “could I make these?”. Well, I really couldn’t say no, because a quick glance at the pattern suggested that they were quite straightforward.

Practice

The main issue was that Mr Snail had never used a sewing machine before, but he was convinced that it couldn’t be very different from playing race cars on his PS4 (which has foot pedals and a steering wheel). I did point out that if he makes a mistake in a video game, no one gets hurt, but that sewing your own finger is extremely painful. Nevertheless, he was sure that he would be fine… and so I gave him some scraps and let him play with my Bernina. Apparently, it turns out, a sewing machine is a lot more scary than a video game and nowhere near as enjoyable. So, we had a rethink…

Fortunately, my family owns a Singer 99K… we’ve had it from new (1927ish) and at least three generations of us have learned to sew using it. So, Sister of Snail dropped it off and, after some oiling and fiddling, we got it running ok (although it wasn’t as smooth as last time I used it, about 25 years ago). It really is much more difficult to sew your own finger with this machine, as you have to put all the effort in yourself, so Mr Snail was much happier.

I guided him through the cutting and construction, and he was able to make his own boxer shorts. A rather impressive first project in my opinion.

Anyway, I was a bit unhappy with the way the machine was running, so we decided to get it serviced. I was pretty sure that the tension spring needed replacing and the presence of an experienced Singer servicing/repair shop just down the road from the flat in Reading seemed like an opportunity too good to miss. On its return, this lovely old machine is running like a dream and Mr Snail has been able to complete a second project using it (which I’m sure he’ll blog about soon).

I’m so happy that our 93-year-old machine is still going strong, and still being used to produce garments. My mum says she thinks it was originally bought by my great auntie Dolly, who was a dancer and used it to make her costumes. I just wish I had some pictures of her wearing some of the things she made. Let’s hope it’s still going strong in another 93 years.

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24 Comments

  1. Ann Pole

     /  February 21, 2020

    Just as long as he doesn’t mode them for us!!!! I’m well impressed Mr Snail.
    Steve has 2 1/2 sewing machines, and has worked in a shirt making factory. He can testify that sewing a button to your finger does, indeed, hurt quite a lot. Then he passed out and bled all over his boss.

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  2. That is awesome. I love vintage machines. They will last forever if treated well. So far, my oldest are from the 50s or 60s, but I’ve been on the lookout for something like your Singer or a treadle machine to fix up.

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  3. Wow! on both counts. Well done all round!!

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  4. that’s great i wish many of our genders would try something that isn’t traditionally a role they usually take…and the man at your house, has taken to it well…

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    • I know quite a few men who sew, but generally not clothes… which is odd, because lots of designers are male and tailoring for men is traditionally a male job. Very strange. Anyway, I think Mr Snail is rather proud of his achievements and certainly wants to do more.

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  5. My goodness me, this post has put a big grin on my face- well done! Machine going strong and a sewing Mr Snail.

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  6. Mr. Tialys has an industrial sewing machine he uses for sewing bags, sofa cushions etc. It scares me to death. He’s also a dab hand (or foot) with a treadle machine, something I’ve never got the hang of. I’ve nipped over to Mr. Snail’s blog to have a look at the result of his first forays into sewing and he’s done a good job – especially with the modelling 🤣

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    • I think he’s very pleased with what he’s managed – I certainly am. I think after a bit more practice I’ll let him try out my old electric Singer, as it’s a rather more sedate machine than my Bernina.

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  7. Just don’t let him near an overlocker yet…. twin needles combined with four threads and a flashing blade moving at three times the speed of sound would put him off the task forever! Those boxers are perfectly businesslike and up to the task of modestly enclosing Mr Snail, so bravo! I’m glad to note that he has had to revise his opinion of the complexity of operating a ‘woman’s machine’. We should ensure that all boys are similarly enlightened, eh?

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    • He’s terrified of the overlocker and wants nothing to do with it. I used it to finish the edges on his latest project and he was very happy that I didn’t make him do it himself.

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      • Just tell him it’s a bandsaw for girls… Fast, noisy, vicious, efficient, but not terminal if you keep your fingers out of the way!

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  8. Love everything about this 🙂

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  9. Woo-hoo for Mr. Snail, Aunt Dolly, and that sewing machine! Sure wish I could see some photos of your aunt’s costumes.

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  10. I’m impressed. Both with the sewer and the carefully curated machine. I may make some pajama shorts for myself this spring. I made what look like harem pants in the fall for pajamas and have been happy with them. But it does take patience and attention to detail.

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  11. Wow ..Well done Mr Snail…I wish I still had my mum’s old Singer I have happy memories of that machine…A shame you have no pictures of your aunts costumes that would have been fun 🙂

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  12. My hubby asked me to teach him how to loom knit a hat. Supposedly if he waited for me to make home one he would be waiting forever.

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  13. Mr Snail is now keen to make other things… I think we’ll be trying face masks this week!

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