New but old

When I was 16 my mum and dad bought me a sewing machine – a relatively simple Singer, which did straight stitches, zig-zag, buttonholes and about six other fancier stitches. I used it to make skirts, coats, curtains, toys, ballgowns and even the most amazing fully boned purple satin dress to wear for a friend’s wedding. It has been serviced regularly over the years, but in 2018 it became clear that it was struggling and no longer up to the jobs I wanted it to perform – most notably zig-zag stitches in jersey fabric. I dithered about getting a new one because I really didn’t want anything too complicated or that relied on electronics, and so I made do.

IMGP6346

A mechanical marvel

However, back in the summer we were discussing sewing machines at Knit Night and one of the ladies mentioned her old Bernina 830 and what fabulous machines they are. She explained that secondhand models were greatly sought after and worth looking out for, but, even so, relatively easy to find because they were so well built and so long-lived. I searched ebay and finally found what I wanted in a location where I could go and collect it. And so, on my way back from the Crochet Sanctuary weekend, I picked up my new (old) machine. Indeed, it is actually older than my Singer. The lady selling it told me it had belonged to her late mother, who bought it new… and for which there was the original paperwork. Not only that, but she had the original cabinet for it that she also offered me, and for which I made a donation to a charity she selected. The cabinet is brilliant, with a platform that allows the machine to drop down inside at the flick of a lever.

IMGP6349

Complete with cabinet

Having had the same machine for 35 years, it has taken me a while to get used to a different set-up. Nevertheless, it has turned out to be a great purchase. The first thing I made with it was Sam’s t-shirt, but I’ve progressed on to more complex thingsĀ and am finding it a joy to use. It has needed no more than a quick clean and the application of oil to get it working smoothly. I haven’t tried sewing jersey fabric yet, but my current project involves lots of layers of fabric/interfacing and it’s turning out to be a breeze, so fingers crossed for future projects.

I’m so pleased to have avoided buying a brand new machine, and the lady I bought it off seemed delighted that it was going to a home where it would once again be cherished. Hurrah for well made tools that can last more than one lifetime.

Sometimes I even inspire myself!

I spent last Sunday afternoon making a cotton shopping bag so that I could photograph the steps involved and post the instructions here on my blog. I wasn’t in desperate need of another bag (although they always come in useful), but I really wanted to show how simple they are to make. In order to do this, I had to get my sewing machine out and set it up . Once it was there and ready to use I began thinking that it would be a shame to put it away without giving it a bit of a work out… and anyway, I was suddenly feeling enthusiastic about sewing again.

I have recently noticed that my night attire is starting to fall to bits… this may be linked to trips out to deal with chickens early in the morning – wellies, a nighty and a shawl, what could be more glamorous? Or to the fact that I haven’t bought any new night clothes for quite a lot of years. So, I thought, what better use to put my sewing machine to? Now don’t get over-excited about negliges or baby doll pyjamas, I was thinking practical and warm!

All set to go - fair trade organic cotton and two patterns

All set to go – fair trade organic cotton and two patterns

I love the fact, these days, that I can have an idea like this and immediately search for patterns and fabric without moving from my chair. I am not a big fan of trailing round the shops, I much prefer sitting at home with a cup of tea and a dog at my feet. In addition, we live in quite a rural area, so a trip to any place that can provide a good selection of shops for fabric and sewing patterns would require a whole day out and lots of fuel. Plus, the internet gives me so much choice… something I really wantedin this case because I decided to seek out ethical cotton (preferably organic as I want to minimise the number of potentially toxic chemicals next to my skin), and I don’t think Swansea is well stocked with fair trade fabric shops.

But the internet is a wonderful place. I managed to find a couple of sewing patterns that appealed to me from a shop that allowed me to view the details of the materials I would need, then to search for suitable fabric. After a bit of hunting around I came across Fair Trade Fabric, who

source cotton fabrics that help to improve the lives of poor and marginalised producers, from those who grow the cotton, to those who dye and weave it. The cotton is grown organically and produced to minimise the impact on the local environment so both people and planet are protected

What a great find! Lots of lovely cottons sold by the metre or in fat quarters. I chose two lovely designs to try out and placed an order. And by the magic of the Royal Mail, two days ago* both patterns and fabric arrived and so I’m all set to get going… I just need to stop dogs trampling across the paper patterns whilst I’m cutting out. Oh, and work out whether there is some sort of ethical interfacing…

-oOo-

* I got distracted yesterday because of my lovely shawl pin arriving, so this post got bumped by a day!!

… and sewing too…

Although sowing (actual and metaphorical) is an important part of being sustainable, I think that sewing is too…

I was mulling this over yesterday as I repaired the curtain (drape for my US friends) that covers our front door. I say ‘repaired’ but perhaps ‘reassembled’ might be more accurate

If only this was all she did with the mail!

If you don’t have terriers, you may not be aware of their propensity to eat the mail as if comes through the front door (yes, we have letter slots in our doors here in the UK, not those box things on posts that seem to be the norm in the US). Maxwell does not participate in this activity, but Samantha makes up for his lack by being particularly exuberant. This means that if the curtain is open, the mail is grabbed and shredded if no one is around, or simply grabbed if someone it there to yell at her. If, however, the curtain is closed, she grabs the mail through the fabric. This means that the weight of a fairly hefty terrier is taken by the curtain on a regular basis. The result being that the curtain fabric had become progressively detached from the rufflette tape (that’s the stuff that you draw up to make gathers at the top of a curtain).

The curtain is made from a very heavy fabric, selected for its insulating properties and its ability to take the weight of a dog. The thread used to stitch the components together, however, turned out to be less robust. I bought the curtain from a company who sell fabric made only from natural fibres, so it was a surprise to discover that it had been stitched together using nylon thread. The problem with nylon is that it’s slippy, so once it starts to come apart it tends not to stop. But, with my trusty sewing machine (a 16th birthday present, so it’s lasted well) I was able to reattach the tape and lining to the curtain. Each seam now has three rows of stitches, so I think that it should stay in one piece for some time.

A skill like sewing is, in my opinion, greatly undervalued. Too often these days sewing seems to be considered either too old-fashioned to bother with or to be a frivolous hobby… fit only for creating fancy items. I was taught to sew by my mother, my grandmother and an old family friend, but we also had classes at school. These days, media studies and computing seem to be deemed more useful… shame. Wouldn’t it be great if all our kids grew up learning how to create and mend real, not just virtual, things? I learnt to make clothes as well as to do embroidery, needlepoint, darning… you name it.

The ability to repair an item like a curtain provides a way to save money, but is also a valuable addition to our sustainability toolbox… in the same way that Mr Snail-of-happiness can repair electrical items such as my radio. You will often hear exponents of things green talk about the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle, but I think that we should add a fourth: repair. And, in our house at least, this is what we are trying to do… sewing the seams of sustainability, perhaps!

%d bloggers like this: