The Box of Awesome

I’d been huffing and puffing around town on my trusty bike, picking a package up from the Royal Mail depot and then buying enough food to get us through the week.  On my way home, I thought I’d just stop in to one of the local charity shops on the off-chance they had something on our vague list of things to be purchased as cheaply as possible.

And then I un-thought: fuck it, I’m tired, I took two wrong turns on the way to the depot (never a pleasant experience because you pay for it with every extra pedal-turn), I am carrying a rucksack full of heavy food, and I just want to go home.

The inner don’t-be-so-lazy voice, which is the reason I don’t know when to quit, sounded in my subconscious.

This time, I was rewarded.  I saw something in the charity shop that made me pedal home as fast as I was able (not very fast) and practically force K-man out of the door that very instant to go and buy it.  It’s my birthday in a while, but sometimes you’ve just got to have your present now.

The Box of Awesome.

Finds like these don’t stick around very long, especially now that vintage staying at home government spending cuts have become fashionable again.  They fly off the shop floor particularly quickly when are as cheap as tea and sandwiches for two.  K-man threatened to wrap it up and save it for my birthday, but the patented Death Stare caused him to reconsider.

You’re looking at a Singer 185k in perfect working order.  Even the light-bulb is working.  It’s true to say they don’t make ’em like they used to: it is solid metal and it weighs (guess) 12kg.  Someone looked after this machine the same way I looked after my first Walkman.

Best of all, it came complete with its original instruction booklet, and a little box full of things that look like dental torture clamps but that I’m pretty sure do all kinds of flash with fabric.  After five minutes of exhaustive research, I determined that I have a binder foot, and a zipper foot, and a bundle of other things.  The instruction book says copyright 1958.

The last time I sewed anything using a machine, it was 1993 and I was making a pair of hideous ill-fitting dungarees so that I could go to school on non-uniform day and absorb the uncontrolled hysterics meted out by fellow pupils.  I learned from that mistake and shunned the sewing machine ever after.  Until now.

Lately, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve thought ‘If only I had a sewing machine, I could make something out of that in a few minutes’.  I’ve become oddly obsessed with waste-reduction, and my hair shirt has been worn regularly as I bemoan throwaway society.

I had resisted the urge to buy a sewing machine, not only because of the residual scars of the dungaree experience but also because it seemed that I might as well become a shareholder in Patriarchy Ltd.  Is K-man ever going to make or mend anything?  Of course not.  It all seemed a little too Little House.  And I say that as a woman who openly admits to enjoying The Waltons.

Then I let go of my teenage self and decided that since I know I’m not buying into the Big P, it’s fine.  Everyone else can think what they like.  I’m thrilled to be getting started.  Clearly, I have lots to learn.  The instruction-manual offers rudimentary guidance but I need some proper literature on this sewing lark before I get too tense and a piece of needle pings off and impales my eyeball.

Maybe now I can fulfill my somewhat surprising heretofore unexpressed lifetime ambition to sew a quilt.  A quilt, for Lard’s sake.

Is suburbia getting to me?  Am I getting into suburbia?   Whatever.  My first attempt at constructing something useful is going to be a bag for the clothes-pegs, made from a skirt I bought a year ago from a charity shop and never wore.  That shouldn’t be too challenging, right?

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9 Responses to “The Box of Awesome”


  1. 1 linda November 11, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    i’ve always been in awe of those who can sew and have always been too lazy to learn. i’d just take all my alterations to a store or give to my mom. i’ve recently been inspired by this blog: http://www.newdressaday.com this girl spends a dollar on an ill-fitting dress and totally revamps w/ her handy sewing machine.

    thanks for sharing this post :). it provided a little nudge for me to “borrow” my mom’s sewing machine next time i’m in my hometown.

    p.s. hi from a fellow nablopomoer

  2. 2 Jenn @ Juggling Life November 11, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I rarely take my sewing machine out, but some day I will again. It’s very satisfying to create something from fabric–I am sure you are going to enjoy the heck out of it.

  3. 3 sue b November 12, 2010 at 1:03 am

    I have a Singer that belonged to my grandmother. It still works perfectly. The company continues to make parts for it, although all I’ve needed was a new belt when the old one got worn. I have the original attachments including something extremely complicated which will make a pleated ruffle and attach it at the same time. Nice to know I could do that if the fancy ever strikes.

  4. 4 cardinal November 12, 2010 at 2:18 am

    I love my sewing machine. I only make pillow/costume/duvet cover/straight seam kinds of things, but it makes me very happy. Another way to embrace it despite the patriarchy: K-man won’t try to co-opt it. It’s all yours.

  5. 5 cora November 12, 2010 at 5:41 am

    must be something in the air. I’ve been contemplating to buy a sewing machine (even though I once sewed my thumb to a dress I tried to make, which was fun…). Still working up the courage.

  6. 6 Mrs. G. November 12, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Think of curtains, tablecloths, duvets…good find!

    • 7 nic November 12, 2010 at 11:56 am

      I am totally starting with straight lines. Well, I’ll try anyway. The thought of making my own things really appeals. Duvet-covers! For sure. I talked to my mother, who used to (of necessity) make lots of stuff on the machine. She went off into a wistful reminiscence about it and then sang the praises of her new, modern, machine with auto-tension and 157 different stitch-types.

      @cora: See, this is what I’m afraid of. I’m slightly scared of the machine, but I successfully threaded it up last night and sewed two pieces of fabric together… it’s a start!

      @linda: welcome! The newdressaday.com site is amazing, I’ve been perusing it for a while now. I wish I had 1/10th of Marissa’s talent.

  7. 8 Naomi B. November 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Covet! They do not make them like that anymore. I have a very basic plastic machine that can do a straight stitch and a zig-zag stitch. I am mostly content with it as that is all I have the time for anyways- now if I had the space where I didn’t have to pack everything away everytime I got the machine out I would want more, do more, try more. I am definitely off to check out newdressaday.com.

  8. 9 bramble November 12, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I am still sewing with a 1966 Singer model and it sews like a tank! Great find! I have always loved to sew so…if you have any q’s, fire away! PS..nothing wrong with being creative, resourceful and enjoying the time spent doing it.


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