Saturday, 5 March 2011


I took out my trusty sewing machine a couple of days ago with the intention of finishing off some cotton pants I cut out before I went to Bali in 2009. I've always enjoyed sewing; the creative part is so readily seen and then being able to wear the 'creation' is fun too.

I learned to sew at school, and although I don't do nearly as much these days, I have sewn many things over the years. I am a stickler for using the correct methods and was mortified when I couldn't remember how to stitch a bound buttonhole. I needed to have a couple of buttonholes for the drawstring to keep the pants up. The internet to the rescue ... but I wish I still had the text book we used at school. I think mine must've fallen to bits because I can't find it anywhere.

For years I used an old Singer sewing machine that had belonged to my grandmother and then passed to my aunt who passed it to me. This machine had a personality and it was a difficult personality! Nevertheless, I loved my Singer and it was useful because where we lived in the Zambezi Valley there was no electricity. When we moved to the farm near Salisbury I borrowed my mother's Singer and that was equally difficult to work with! As a child I used to sit under the table when she was sewing and push the foot switch for her until the dreadful day when I pushed too early and the needle went through her finger nail. I can't remember how she freed herself and the pain must've been excruciating.

My sewing machine now is an Elna Lotus* and it is about 43 years old. I bought it soon after the model was released. There was a demonstration model at the Royal Salisbury Show in (I think) 1968 and I fell in love with it. Of course, in those days, before credit cards and so on, I had to save for it and each month I'd take my £5 to the shop until I had paid off the required £50 or 60. The price included some lessons on the machine and I was eager to learn all about how to use my gorgeous purchase.

For my little girl I stitched dresses for her, pajamas, hats and dungarees. I sewed dresses for my mother and a suit for my sister. I sewed culottes (very fashionable in those days) for myself with a matching lined jacket. Curtains, cushion covers and whatever else was needed could be produced on the Elna Lotus.

*1968 Lotus - a truly innovative concept. The first compact household sewing machine due to its reduced size and weight. The protection flaps replaced the carrying case and formed a sewing table when opened. The accessory case was built into the top of the machine. Selected by the Museum of Modern Art in New York for its "Design Collection".

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