Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sew far, sew good

I bought a sewing machine - yes, that's her, in all her glory. I haven't sat at a sewing machine since my home economics classes twenty years ago. Back then, if I remember correctly, I made a cushion cover. Ironically, the need for cushion covers to hide our eclectic collection of oft-washed-but-still-grubby cushions was what prompted me to buy my first sewing machine ever.

My little sister, who's a skilful dressmaker and designer, told me to buy a Pfaff. Not a Singer. Not a Brother. Not a Janome. A Pfaff. "They're like tanks," she assured me. “They're indestructible.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but any household appliance that comes with the descriptor ‘indestructible’ is immediately to my taste. So I made my way to the local Pfaff dealer, where a charming young lady showed me the wonders of the Pfaff range. Wowee – sewing machines have come a long way since I was last let loose at the pedal. They have a range of fancy stitches and neat little time-saving devices – some even have an on-board computer, like a spaceship. I’m not sure if they’ve been IQ-tested but I’d hazard a guess that they’re at least as smart as a baboon. And they come with a sexy iMac-colour trim: turquoise, cerise, jeans blue, deep purple. They’re the hip sewing machines on the block.

“That’s wonderful,” I said. “But what I want in a sewing machine is basically what a typewriter is to a computer. These models are like top-of-the-range laptops, and I’m looking for the electric typewriter among sewing machines. Simple. Backwards stitches, forwards stitches and maybe a cheeky zigzag. That’s really it.”
She pulled out their cheapest Pfaff model - €380 (about $550).
“It is lovely,” I said, “but I can’t even use a sewing machine so I’d prefer something cheaper to start with. Do you have anything more –” swallow “– economical?”
She scratched her head. “Well, we have a Singer for €150. But it’s not like a Pfaff. It’s not …indestructible.”
Right. And indestructibility obviously doesn’t come cheap. Knowing the wasteland of my finances in the post-Christmas period, I had to admit defeat and trudge back home.

By the time I’d got back home, I'd had a brainwave – Ebay. I’d never bought or sold anything on Ebay before, so I had to click my way through their online tutorial to figure out how on earth the whole thing worked. I found an auction for an older Pfaff model with only minutes to spare so I bid on it. I was outbid. I bid again. A minute to go. I bid again, as did a dozen other people. Refresh. Rebid. Refresh. Rebid. And I lost. Holy cow – people do that for fun?

Wiping the sweat from my brow and waiting for my heart-rate to return to normal, I realized that auctions really just aren’t my thing. No, I don’t like the element of competition or surprise – I don’t work in the cut-throat world of business for a very good reason. So I found an Ebay shop and bought one for €100. Two days later it arrived at my door. It’s precisely what I’m looking for: it sews forwards, backwards and I have a choice of three zig-zag stitches, which was probably a terribly fancy feature when it first came out. The casing is metal, the case is hard plastic, and I suspect that it is, indeed, indestructible. It’s at least 30 years old and, as far as I can tell, is still in perfect nick. The manual has a range of incredibly quaint black and white drawings, showing what the very latest in spiffy fashions was back in the 1970s when this machine was first sold – groovy trousers with appliqué apples and ducks on them, midi skirts with peasant blouses, and saucy mini-skirts for the more daring. My little machine really is a tribute to the old-fashioned German workmanship of the former Federal Republic, when 'Made in Germany' meant it was actually made in Germany, not made in Asia and assembled in a factory in a suburb of Stuttgart.

So now she sits on my desk. I gentle press the pedal and she chug-chugs. Press a little harder and the needle whirrs in a rhythmic chug-chug-chug-chug, leaving a line of perfect, neat little stitches.

Gentle readers, I believe I’ve just fallen in love.

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