Wednesday, July 16, 2008

all I wanted was to make a baby dress

Have you purchased a sewing machine lately?

As a new bride my mother decided I needed my own sewing machine. She scrounged around and found an Italian brand machine. A Bertinelli, ever heard of it? Nah, neither had I, or any of the repair shops I took it to. It was about 20 years old, but had been reconditioned and was about 88 pounds of sea foam green hardware. The motor sounded much like Mussolini's tank invading France, and it left destruction in it's wake the majority of the time. I look back on that machine as the tool that taught me to swear.

Time went by and we decided to take up with the allies and remove Italian machines from our home. We searched out what my mother and other's had said were good brands, Bernina, Pfaff, Viking...hey Viking, they sound like they could take on any sewing chore and do very well. After doing much research we decided that a Nordic made machine would be great, however the Euro had not yet been created, the iron curtain was still hung, and no matter how we thought it out, we could not afford a "good" machine. We went with a Singer. Yikes. It was a higher education to be sure:

Singer Sewing/Swearing 202. The Sewing/Swearing Technology program provides students with the technical and practical training necessary for work as a seamstress or sailor in a variety of settings, including homes, church, and/or but not limited to submarines, along side drunken sailors, long shore-man or bartenders frequented by the above. Students will examine the sewing machine (over and over and over), material becoming ground up into the feed dogs, thread entanglement and breakage, bobbin tension malfunctions, the use of scissors to extract clothing from the machine and seam ripping on all articles made.

Courses are not necessarily offered in the sequences in which they appear in the catalog. Oh no no no! Students will be thrown for a loop every time they begin to sew! No two projects will ever be the same and multiple application in regard to the same pattern will also turn out different as the machine is possessed by Satan.

Prerequisites for this course are previous work on a Bertinelli Machine, serving 2 years with the merchant marines, or surviving a coup d’├ętat. Testing out is possible if you can go two rounds with...with... heck, my mom! (sorry mom, but yeah, I learned a lot at home!)

30 years have gone by and it's time to buy a new machine. The kids are (relatively) out of the house, we can eat food storage for a month, and save to buy a new (cherubic choruses singing) machine of Nordic heritage!

I thought. Have you seen the price of a new machine? The first store I went into we had to call in paramedics. The sales gal asked me what my budget was. I know I was going to shoot low, I mean really, I know I can't afford even a mid range machine, but all I need is a low end model, so I say (somewhat proudly) $350.00! The poor woman fell over backwards and knocked herself unconscious on a bolt of heavy duty denim.

After the medics took her off, her second came in and politely told me, trying very hard not to laugh, that the LOWEST price machine they sold was $500.00. She could show me a "craft" sewing machine, they come in a cardboard box, third shelf in the scrapbook isle. (swearing is coming back to me) "O.k. well show me what you do have in the bottom of the barrel category. It's been a while."

She takes me over to a "...really nice little machine that has been used as an upgrade. The owner bought it knowing they would return it within 90 days as a trade in... (WAIT! Did she just say "trade in"? as in "I want to trade in my station wagon for a minivan."?) it has only 3 months usage! It retails for $5,000.00 but we are putting out for $1,500.00!" Holy cow, I am dead freaking meat.

When I gasp, she senses my surprise and informs me that to get a "really good quality machine I need to invest, not just buy." I am SO in trouble. She walks me over to -if it were a surf board- would be a long board. "This (she pauses for dramatic effect, arm pointing to the beast) is the Turbo-tastic computerized embroidery/quilting 350! It retails for (please sit down if you aren't already) $25,000.00." (and yes, I am exaggerating a lot in this post, but this price? um, no. THAT WAS THE ACTUAL PRICE!) She waits for a response. I am, frankly, hoping those paramedics haven't left the parking lot because I am feeling my left arm go numb. "You see, you need to invest!" She waits again for me to say something, anything, but I am still trying to get the elephant off my chest. "You can purchase a car, or a sewing machine...." Her voice kind of fades and gets echo-y and at that the room kind of swirls around and begins to turn black.

I woke up (in a cold sweat) with her standing over my (presumably dead) body. "S'mee? S'mee? Oh perhaps I have overwhelmed you. (ya think?) Oh dear, (she begins to giggle) you were serious about wanting a bottom of the line!" She walks me over to a rolling chair and sets me down to look at what she has never touched. Seriously, it had cobwebs between it and the other 3 machines on that desk. There were cobwebs and I think I heard eerie organ music in the background, it was a dark and scary place, the kind of place you just know something bad is going to happen.

"This (she is suddenly channeling Ben Stine) is the WhyBotherSewingAtAll 200. It sews. This model here (moving over one machine) is the Sure,IfYouWantEveryoneToLaughYouOutOf TheSewingGuild 180, it also sews, but it has reverse too. It starts at $550.00, but it's on sale, today until (what time is it now? 12:35) 1:00 for $399.00. This next one, the I'mSoEmbarrassedToEvenBeSittingByIt 450xl3 is also on sale, regularly $800.00, for $499.00. It sews, go backwards, and also makes zigzag stitches. (she begins this speech with those soothing, melodic tones one uses while trying to coax someone off a ledge) Now you see S'mee? Do you see why you need to invest? Why these machines here, well they just sew a straight stitch, maybe a button hole, but those over there, well, all you have to do is throw folded material at the machine and (in a strict German accent) command them to "make a toddler dress, size 4!"- and it's done! No cutting, no sitting at the machine, just done!"

I go through this process with four other sewing centers. Ladies and gentlemen, I have some career advise: Forget being an astronaut. Put down that dream of being a brain surgeon. Don't even think about being a rock star. The real money on this planet is in sewing machines!

I am still in the market for a machine I can afford. (please, for the love of Pete, stop laughing!) I have a few more places to explore before I finally commit to just killing myself. I'll let you know how it goes. Mussolini? Hitler? heck, if they knew how to do it right they would have just forced their enemies to try and buy a sewing machine.

add to sk*rt


Alison Wonderland said...

Yet another reason for me not to sew.

ERIN said...

hahaha. great post. i use the lowly and cheap brother sewing machine. it was less than $200 at costco. i haven't had any problems with it.
growing up my mom had a singer. it must have been the same model as yours. i remember lots of swearing being involved! i HATED using that thing.

The Jensen Family said...

I love reading your post. You always put a smile on my face. I too have the swearing singer!!! I think if a sewing machine can cost thousands, it should pick your material, cut it, prep it, sew it, wash it and iron it. Without you touching a thing. Good Luck in finding a machine. I know Costco sells some for under $500.

Jared said...

All I know is that real women use a needle, some thread and nothing more! Not even a thimble. Just a big calloused thumb! My pioneer ancestors would be ashamed of you. ;)

tracy m said...

Oh, S'mee, I know! As a reformed Singer user, I totally understand. Your post was hillarious- those sewing machine ladies are horridly peer-pressure-y.

Find your nearest local vacuum and sewing shop. Go in, tell them what you want, and get a reconditioned one. If they don't have something right for you now, they'll call you when they get one...

I got both a Pfaff and a Bernina that way- and both we are paltry fractions of what they cost new. I've had my used Pfaff for over ten years, and other than needing a new lightbulb, it still rocks. The Bernina is a few years newer, but it came with all the bells and whistles. It's like buying a car after the lease-holder has turned it in- still basically a new car, with only a few miles on it, and someone else has eaten the depreciation.

Thanks for making me laugh!

chronicler said...

Oh my goodness s'mee. I think I peed myself twice! Now I have to do laundry again!

You, dear sister, have got it pegged. The only place I swear, and by that I mean I say "I swear", is at the sewing machine. And I have one of those over priced babies from Nordic land! Who would have thought that the home arts included training for the merchant marines? Good luck on your quest. Forget sewing you need to write!

S'mee said...

Oh my. Thanks for the encouragement everyone (except Jared!).
Allison, I may just join you.
Erin, holy cow! Who knew anyone in your family would swear? lol
Jensen Family, I'll add Costco to my list! Thanks for the head's up!
You also Tracy, great idea with the reconditioned ones, that's how I got my Kitchen Aide!
Sis,you're to funny!

And Jared. wow. I have no response to that! ; >

SalGal said...

So happy to see that another fantastic woman learned to cuss at her mother's knee! Although, I'm fairly sure it was my grandmother who invented the required vocabulary for longshoremen...

And you have officially crushed my dreams of ever learning to sew. EVER.

Thank you. I hope that thought rests heavily on your conscience should I end up with granddaughters since this baby bank has been decommissioned after producing 3 boys.

Megan said...

Ha, Ha!
In my experience, Brothers and Whites are super good. My first machine was a Brother from Wal-mart of all places. . .about a hundred bucks. It didn't do any fancy stitches but it does everything you need it to do for regular everyday sewing. Then a couple of years later, I bought a White from the viking store inside of JoAnns just because I wanted a machine that did fancy stitches for baby blankets and such. I think it cost about $250. To tell you the truth, I think i still prefer the Brother over the White. The White skips stitches every once in a while and breaks way more needles than the Brother, which drives me absolutely insane! If i were you, I would find one with just the basics (Walmart or cost-co -- Make sure it's returnable in case it has a mind of it's own) I suggest getting one with the pull out bobbin holder. (I think that is what it is called) They are soooo much easier to work with! Any who, good luck with your search!

S'mee said...

Salgal, Maybe your gramma and my mom were best friends. Either way, I accept full responsibility for your lack of sewing. Go in peace!

Megan,Thanks, I am accepting all kinds of advise! And what a pres. meeting this morning we were talking about new presidencies in the stake...YOUR MOM IS BACK IN TOWN? Who knew? I am SO happy to hear that! Fabulous news. When I read on your blog you had moved in with them for a while I thought *you* moved to the state that shall not be named! SO glad to hear that didn't happen either!

Man! I need to get out more!

Sally said...

I recommend Craig's list or ebay. If you still want to sew, that is. And why would you? But to each her own.

S'mee said...

Another perfect idea Sally! Thanks!

nicolette said...

OMG, you’re hilarious! Love your story and I think indeed that you’re a talented writer!
I have to visit more often to learn wonderful new words to me...)!

I’ve had a Singer Swearer too and a very old Pfaff and I was recently talked into buying a Janome, at a sewing-machine store like yours... I felt overwhelmed and thought I really needed the thing. Well, I love it now, but it sure was an investment. I prefer to buy European stuff over Eastern Asian.. though, most European stuff is also made in China these days.

The Nordic sewing-machines are great, but the service in Holland is very, very bad!

Beth said...

Hi S'mee--I believe that a sure-fire way to know you are being taken for a ride is when a salesperson assures you that you will not be satisfied with a sewing machine that does not offer at least 26 different stitches. More than one woman said this to me with a straight face when I was shopping for my machine. I bought a Bernina Bernette--one of those light-weight machines that I'm told are strictly for use as a "little machine to take to classes" (translation: not a real sewing machine). In the three years I've had it, I have made many lovely quilts and have used only three different stitches. And I love that it is light-weight; it's much easier to haul it off the dining room table when company comes.

S'mee said...

Nicolette! Welcome! I have heard of Janome, but haven't been able to track down a dealer... you give me more info!!! : )
Beth! Welcome to you also! oy! These sales folks are really something! More good info!

Thanks to you both!

Rynell said...

This made me laugh! I don't sew much, but I so sew a couple of projects a year. I use a 1970's Bernina 830. It is still a nice machine. My mom used it for 30 plus years and then gave it to me when she upgraded to one of those super duper expensive machines. But I prefer the one I have to hers. Seriously. I know you can still pick up a machine like mine on ebay. They are sweet little machines. You do need to have them cleaned and conditioned yearly (about a $50 cost). Good luck!

S'mee said...

Rynell, I am seriously considering talking mom into giving me her Bernina. I'm not sure she'll go for it, but yeah, she has a beaut! This is driving me nutso!

meggiecat said...

Oh, my gosh! I spewed coffee through my nose! You are hilarious. I had the same experience when I was young and ended up running into Sears. That old Kenmore still works but I wish I had not felt so battered that day; I may have made a better choice but I knew nothing back then.

S'mee said...

Meggiecat! Thanks, you made my day. Now, you wanna come with me while I *still* shop? oy, there should be some statute of limitations on shoppers' torture!

Evelyn said...

Ha! S'mee, very very funny. I found you via Soulemama. Thanks for lighting up my day!