Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Ballad of the Broken Sewing Machine

I am crafty.  I don't mean that in a Pinky and the Brain attempt to take over the world type of thing, I mean I like making crafts.  Depending on the day, my obsession changes but it's definitely an obsession and I can get super addicted to various projects.

I love knitting.  There's something therapeutic in the repetition of it, and it makes me feel productive even when I'm sitting in front of the TV.  However, when it's 90 degrees outside (like this week's humidity fest), I can't really bring myself to sit with a pile of wool on my lap.  So, at least for the summer, probably not going to do a whole lot of knitting.

However, since Firas is out of town for the next two months, I really wanted a project to keep my mind occupied.  (Yes, John, I realize I should probably be doing more math instead of making things, but hasn't the math phd made me crazy enough as it is?)  My brilliant plan was to get back into sewing, so I decided to make a dress.  The fabulously wonderful Karen O'Connell jumped on board, so we went shopping and got fabric and patterns and everything, so we were ready to go.

I have a sewing machine, but let me give you the history.  My mom and I made many a renaissance costume when I was little, so I know my way around a sewing machine.  Hers is a fabulous workhorse which I have never seen break despite torturing it with all kinds of thick fabrics (my denim purse idea may have broken a few more needles than I should admit, but not the machine itself).  I think she got it sometime in the mid 70's, so this machine has been running like a champ for about 40 years.  That's what I want.

About a year ago at Christmas, I got a hankering for sewing again.  I think the original plan was to make curtains for my living room.  I asked my parents for a sewing machine like my mom's, and they got me a pretty standard model Singer.  Despite being called the "heavy duty" model, the machine was crap.  In all fairness, I may have just gotten a lemon, but this thing caused one giant headache.  Somehow, the bobbin would never work right, so I would end up with thread vomit all over the back of anything I stitched together.  Vomit may be the wrong word, but it turned into this clumpy mess that wasted an amazing amount of thread while it did nothing in terms of attaching the two pieces of cloth together.
Sewing machine #1
After much arguing with JoAnn Fabrics over whether I was allowed to return aforementioned machine, I managed to get my parents their money back and went in search of a different solution.  As far as I can tell, all new sewing machines are crap.  Total crap.  All of the innards have been replaced with plastic parts, and they seem to be more expensive anyway because you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a sewing machine with a built in computer.  Now, do not get me wrong: I LOVE computers.  Anyone who knows me knows I have a nerdgasm over all things electronic, but in my opinion, computers are not necessary in a sewing machine unless you want to do some weird kind of embroidery.  I don't! I just want to be able to go forward and back, is that so much to ask?

This seems intensely unnecessary.
Having scoured the internet for a good sewing machine and coming up depressingly empty handed, I stumbled on a lucky break: BestFriendJordan's mom apparently had about 5 sewing machines in her basement that were inherited from various relatives and she was more than happy to part with one.

I was in heaven!  A 50ish year old machine that ran like a dream and was, I assumed, indestructible.  Sadly, I was wrong.  The fabulous Karen and I were working on our dresses on a Sunday afternoon when the machine started making funny noises.  Since it was still sewing ok, we carried on with the assumption that I would take it to the shop the next day as it seems that you can't get sewing machine repair or Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday.  Silly Bible belt.  Of course, the machine got steadily worse until I bent 4 needles in a row.  (Bending needles repeatedly usually means something's wrong with your machine's innards.  Darn.)

Sewing Machine #2, currently fulfilling its life's purpose of being an unnecessarily gigantic paperweight.
Having very little patience and being incapable of waiting a day to see what the maintenance guy said, Karen, RoommateJordan, and I took my machine apart to see if there was a simple fix.  In case you were wondering, when it comes to sewing machines, it's seldom an easy fix.  This why sewing machine repair guys can have that job title.  Turns out one of the (plastic!!!!) gears had been stripped, which caused all of the problem.  So this should be easy, right?  Just replace the gear and it will be fine!  Wrong.... I took it to the repair man and apparently this is a $250 fix.  So I left the shop with my totaled sewing machine and went home to cry.
Halley being awesome as usual, and Karen in her almost entirely hand-stitched dress. I am in complete awe of this because I have no patience for hand-stitching.
Yup, that's it.  I don't have a happy ending to this yet.  I've been drooling over an antique model these guys have in their shop, but if I'm going to drop $500 on something, it better have a good graphics card.  I guess I should just return to scouring the internet for some old lady trying to get rid of her old machine who hasn't realized yet how much it's worth.  If you know of some lady with the predicament of having a spare sewing machine, please point her in my direction!

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