So I’m not sure if this counts as enabling or enablement. But the other day, after a month and a half of subtle (and not so subtle) hints being dropped on both sides, my Stylish sister-in-law finally pulled out my mother-in-law’s old sewing machine, a Janome Memory Craft 6000 (c. 1986) for us to play with.
Now, as background here, my mother-in-law has assured us for years that, while her machine was the pinnacle of its breed back when it was new, it no longer worked well. In particular, the bobbin thread tangles. And a year or two ago, when we were visiting home, Stylish and I had poked gingerly at it (rather like poking a tiger in a cage, I think), and gotten absolutely nowhere. It’s a computerized machine with a drop-in bobbin and a sideways-lying spool for the thread—completely beyond my experience.
Well, whatever dark stars were in ascendance before, apparently the other day the planets were in conjunction in the constellation Janome, because the machine worked. Initially, (after painfully perusing the manual to make sure we had it threaded just right), I was just happy it was forming stitches, but the feed dogs (although moving) didn’t seem to be feeding the fabric. We pushed the buttons for a few more different settings, read some arcane incantations from the manual, and all of a sudden they started working. (And yes, there is a feed-dog-dropping mechanism but it wasn’t engaged and we didn’t start messing with it until after they’d started working)
The first few decorative stitches I tried were less than perfect, but the more of a workout we gave the machine, the better it behaved, and by the time I had finished stitching out series of letters and kitschy little penguins and alligators over pretty much every scrap of cloth Stylish could locate around her house (it turns out normal people don’t just have stuff like that lying around), it was humming along happily, even when I mashed five or six layers of denim under the foot to see what it would do.
Now, there are people who love modern computerized machines for their wide range of functions. And there are people who love vintage machines for their sturdy reliability (I’ve long considered myself one of the latter). But I don’t know that there’s anyone who loves elderly computerized machines. (As with 80s patterns, I’m not sure it’s quite appropriate to apply the term “vintage” just yet.) That being said, Stylish and I had an almost unseemly amount of fun. Or rather, I had a ton of fun and she sat and looked on in bemused wonder (I’m going with wonder. Horror might have been a possibility). We swapped out feet (it has a wide array, all of which live in their own neat little slots in the top of the machine, almost none of which I recognized), played with the disgusting variety of programmed stitches, and I even managed to program it to make a keyhole buttonhole. And while I know there may well be no hope for it when the circuits do decide to finally go, they haven’t gone yet, so why not enjoy it while it lasts? I should mention, there was nary a hint of bobbin-tangling either.
I thanked the sewing gods, repeatedly, for the small miracle that my mother-in-law actually kept the manuals to this machine (unlike for my, formerly her, serger) because we would’ve been flailing helplessly without them. For example, they revealed that to engage the manual control of the stitch length and width dials, you have to push them down like a button, first, lighting up a light, and then you can adjust as you see fit. Otherwise, it’s pre-programed, baby.
Also, it always finishes with the needle in the “needle up” position. And then there’s a button to hit right on the harp arm if you want the needle down (say to pivot around a corner). I had heard of these things, but always scoffed at their usefulness. Especially since my hand automatically goes out to adjust the handwheel to make sure the needle’s in the right place, regardless. But, if you were lacking such reflexes, I can see how it would be kinda awesome. One of those things you could get used to. I am thinking I had better not sew too much with this machine…
Our first “project” (once I had finished messing around with fancy stitches) was to sew little covers for Stylish’s two little Christmas-themed couch pillows, so she doesn’t have to look at Frosty and Santa in July. I stitched the first one while Stylish watched, and then made her do the second one (although I stitched them both shut, which involved the zipper foot and a fair bit of swearing.)
In fact, we were sufficiently pleased with ourselves that by the time we had to go actually do grown-up responsible things, we set ourselves to clearing out the lone under-utilized space in Stylish’s (not large) house, unearthing her Papa’s old treadle* for a sewing table, and setting up a teeny little sewing space. It’s not fully functional yet—she has an ironing board (I think left by the previous homeowner) but no iron—but it’s something. And she spent a good chunk of the evening sorting through all the patterns on my phone app, and making a list of her favourites.
I’m still not sure if I’m spreading the sewing bug or just getting suckered into Sewing For Others, but I had a lot of fun, Stylish had at least a little fun, and I’m not sure but I think the Memory Craft had fun, too.
*Papa was, in fact, Stylish and Osiris’s great-grandfather, who lived to be 94 and used the treadle, a handsome old Singer, for stitching harness and various other manly things. It probably deserves its own post, so I won’t talk too much about it here.