Why can’t I part with it? Yellowing, with a spool holder thick with layers of glue, it’s still in perfect working order. This little Singer Tradition sewing machine isn’t the byword in Vorsprung Durch Technik. It has a fiddly front-loading bobbin, I’ve never managed to get the needle threader working reliably, and it clatters along well below the top speed of my later machines.
It’s not even my most cherished machine. That accolade resides with the early electronic machine I inherited from my beloved grandma, with the once-working metal toy machine used my mum a close second. I also have two beautiful, decorated handle-wound antique Singers, both in need of a good service (and me a good lesson in how to actually use them).
After several years lying fallow under my desk next to a further two spare machines, it was time for this one to find a new home. But I couldn’t do it.
This was the machine my parents, grandparents, siblings and in-laws had clubbed together to buy me for Christmas over a decade ago. The machine two of my best friends from my NCT commune, Siân and Fiona, had taught me to use. The machine that accidentally changed my career and a fair chunk of my life.
I’ve been sewing since I was 5 but sewing machines terrified me. All those sharp things hammering away, grabbing and tugging at your precious fabric. No thanks. My grandma ended up making most of my GCSE Textiles project because I just couldn’t get my head around the machines (she got an A). So I did everything by hand.
I had time and it was just a hobby. Then another great friend had a knicker-making workshop for her hen do. We only had a couple of hours. There was no avoiding using a machine. I took a deep breath, winced a bit and my tense, clawed toes nudged the pedal. Bbbrrrrzzzz. Done. Elastic in.
I did it! That was so easy! That was so quick! It wasn’t me that had been the problem; I just hadn’t had the right machine! It went straight to the top of my Christmas list. I remember thinking this was going to change everything.
Siân and Fiona taught me everything. How to thread it, rethread it when I snapped the thread again, why I kept snapping the thread in the first place, how to change the feet, the stitch type, stitch length and tension. I could run up outfits for my toddlers while they were at preschool in days; dresses for myself once they were in bed.
Friends asked me to make things, then friends of friends, and before I knew it, I had a viable business. A year later, Siân also started her own sewing business and we continued learning together: new techniques, overlookers, coverstitchers, embroidery machines.
More machines have followed in the eight years since and I’ve realised I’m far too sentimental to sell the one that started it all. I do need the space though, so my yellowing Singer Tradition is now on permanent loan to a the mother of a very good friend, whose daughter is going to teach her to use it. Her daughter, my very good friend, is Siân.