on how I acquired my sewing machines, Part I

April 30, 2010 § 4 Comments

This is the first sewing machine I owned, on my own, separate from my mom, who taught me how to sew. She’s a fearless sewer, herself. She still irons!

The Bernette 65, made for Bernina (but doesn’t have the capacity of a Bernina), worked for me and got me hooked on sewing. I bought it from an authorized Bernina dealer for $300 in 2007 and was always really happy with it. I really wasn’t interested in a huge array of stitches, nor did I want to get into quilting. For a basic, hobby sewer, this machine was great. Back then, I didn’t know anything about sewing machines and needed something that would simply get me sewing. I didn’t want a life of repairs, or headaches with tension, etc.

My first project on my Bernette was the brown with polka dots dress for bilingual baby- a dress that wouldn’t fit her for a year. I learned then that I like 1/4 inch seam allowances and regardless of how many times I remind myself to do the 1/2 or 5/8 inch allowance, I’ll always, always do the smaller 1/4. I also made all those diapers for my sweet boy. I made my first podaegi on it, and still haven’t made an entire pod with any other machine but this one.

You can see it holds sentimental value more than the depreciated value.

Then, I started teaching sewing classes and found that the people coming to class didn’t always bring a working sewing machine. I started loaning out my Bernette and figured I should get another back-up machine for times when student’s machines went kaput in the middle of a seam. (That’s really no fun and I want my classes to inspire people to sew, not to curse at the plastic and metal in front of them.)

I found this Montgomery Ward sewing machine from the 1970s on freecycle and after a full service it was humming along, sewing everything I put under it. I got lucky, I thought. It does have its moments, but you have to treat it like a machine and remind it that humankind had been sewing everything by hand before it came along… and it could be replaced. Harsh, I know. I only treat machines like this. ūüėČ

When I was in the repair shop, I saw this Elna Air Electronic SU 69 and was intrigued. I asked about it and found the used sticker price of $295 to be way more than I had anticipated a used machine to be worth. When it was new, it was the top of its kind. There were few reviews online but the ones I found raved this machine as a keeper. Some even went to say that in the event of a fire, this would be the machine to go back for. I kept searching for the problems with this machine- there are glitches in every model. I joined an Elna heirloom sewing machines yahoo group and found some other sides to this story… but still nothing that swayed me against it, as you can see.

I asked if the guy would accept a trade and started to say goodbye to my Bernette. It took several weeks for me to take my Bernette to the shop, hand it over and begin to pay the difference. The repair shop gave me $100 for my Bernette, so I still have some to pay. I did get some early birthday money which sealed the deal for me.

Since bringing the Elna home, she’s slowly working herself up to being my workhorse. She’s got cams, or fashion disks, to get different stitches, and while I like the variety, I do agree with the following assessment of someone from a vintage Singer yahoo group I joined, who said:

Please keep in mind that a machine¬†that zigzags will never have the nice straight stitch of an early¬†classic Singer… such as the 15-91.¬†A ZZ machine is always trying to zz even when it is set to straight¬†stitch, and will have a slight wobble. Not enough to upset most folks¬†but for those who know the difference……..

The Elna’s straight stitch is nicer than the Bernette, but I really appreciate the Elna’s power and I can only imagine I’ll continue to enjoy the speed. It comes close to the speed of my serger.

Then, one day, I ran into my friend Meg who also sews. She mentioned that she wanted to start a sewing school and that she wanted me to take part. Fun! She had ideas for a summer camp for teenagers (11-13 years old) and I knew I wanted to continue the beginner adult classes. It was perfect.

Knowing that we’d be teaching teenagers, we decided that the first (of many) steps would be to acquire some more old, metal sewing machines- though we’ll take anything that’s working, so that each participant in the summer camp would have a machine, and we’d have extras as back-ups.

Part II coming tomorrow…


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