I've sewn on many, many sewing machines. Many! I've had top of the line and clunkers. But this girl, she is an old workhorse and is a dream for quilt piecing. Meet Mabel. She is my Supermatic Elna sewing machine.
She came with my apartment. The old owner died and her son didn't care for her so left her behind... lucky me! Lucky Mabel. Because a sewing machine needs to be loved, you know? The old owner loved her, I am sure... she even left behind the original receipt (which my husband threw away???!!! - oh you wanted "THAT"). But no matter... Now, I forget the exact date, but I do have a postcard that says her Elna is due for service and it is dated May 27, 1966.
Here is a photo of the brochure for this brand new, top of the line sewing machine from back then... it is actually a brochure for 4 different models - a basic, a zig zag (oh, wow!), an automatic (which did have a fair amount of stitch selections) and the Supermatic (mine, oh joy!).
You can see the price written on the cover for the Supermatic was 7770 Schillings, which for the sake of VERY easy math would be about $770 US$ - in 1966. And if you run that through a relative value converter - this machine would be just over $5,000 (in 2009 - the on-line calculator doesn't go up to 2010). I just love the relative value calculator because I can't tell you how many times I hear people say... I remember when X cost YZ or something like that - well run that amount through a relative value calculator and you might find that things cost way more in those "good old days" than today. SOME things, not all things... I am just saying. Because I don't know anyone who would plunk down over $5K for this very basic (by today's standard) sewing machine. OK, so I would never pay $5K for a sewing machine anyway, but don't tell Mabel! She has lots of good points!
Here you can see that she has cams for the decorative stitches. But, even more important and exciting for me... do you see those 3 little red dots (they are really holes) on the top and 2 on the bottom? Those are oiling holes. Mabel likes oil. Every day! And she is easy to oil - just put one drop in each of those top holes before sewing and you are good to go. The bottom holes don't go through oil as quickly as the top. And when you open the bobbin case - there are 2 more red dots for oiling. Brilliant, I tell you! I have sewn on so many machines where you have to unscrew the entire bottom to even think about starting the oiling process.
Now I know you aren't supposed to oil the new, computerized machines, but that does make me wonder exactly how they do work? Oh - maybe that is why you are supposed to pay $85 per year for an "annual" service - more often if you actually sew on the thing. Because Mabel - well, if I go away for a year or so (she is my European machine), well - she just won't budge - not even a tiny bit, until she has a good oiling! To make it easier to get the oil in the exact correct spot - I have this handy, dandy metal oil tip... it cost 5 Euro and so far has been the only "servicing" she has needed. Plus, Mabel is not picky about thread. She will sew on ANY thread. No problems. Every time I change the bobbin I just run a little brush around the inside of the bobbin casing, add a drop of oil in 2 spots down there and she is good to go!
Here is a sampling of her stitches - I didn't do these - the old owner did. For the life I me, I can not figure out how to do button holes on this machine, but you can see by the sample that it is possible. For JUST buttonholes, I have a borrowed machine that I use. The borrowed machine doesn't sew nearly as smoothly, but it is so much less frustrating for buttonholes, so there you go.
The foot pedal is great - nice and big! There is a ledge at the heel to keep your foot in place and this thing does not slide around on the floor.
She came in this cabinet which is very handy. That is my thread catcher on the left there - I got it from the Dollar Store in Canada and put it in my suitcase! The machine can drop down into the cabinet if you want to use it as a table top (I don't, but I do put the machine down when I go away for long periods of time. The knee hole flips down so you do have a bigger area to put the foot pedal away.
A view of my sewing corner. Even though we live in a multi-level apartment building, yes, we do have a stove in our apartment - it was the law to have alternative sources of heat after WWII when the place was built. Which is why old European apartment buildings have a ton of chimneys on the roof! So, that is our coal stove should we ever loose power, which is highly unlikely. We have basement storage and there is coal down there. I am allergic to dust so we only have throw rugs and I don't usually keep things under the table. We have a seperate dining table so I get that table all to myself! No sewing projects today because my son is borrowing my outlet strip for his train transformer. Hummm. Oh - and there is that 2nd borrowed machine - I have to put button holes on a PJ top for my son.
The inside of Mabel's cabinet was full of various odds & ends... and this one is just precious! Look! The old owner must have sewn alot to have a bodice pattern piece custom made! It is very well made too with very small wooden pegs holding the pieces together and everything well smoothed and rounded. Now, sometimes I will cut favorite patterns from those vinyl tableclothes you can get for a few dollars on clearance (like my son's PJs), but I have never seen a pattern piece custom made from wood!
So, that is a peek into my sewing corner. I know that making a sewing machine purchase is a big investment. They weren't cheap in 1966 either. Actually, I think they were even more expensive. But the good thing about an older machine (or at least a basic model) is that you don't have to go running to the shop every other month for service. I have a very fancy Janome (2 actually) and on the big one - tempermental! And that big Janome - only is happy with expensive thread. And I never even knew that SOME spools of Gutterman thread was made in Mexico until that Janome totally rejected new thread I had purchased - took me awhile to figure that one out, but every spool made in Mexico - that picky machine spit out! I'm just saying... if you are willing to pay that much money for a sewing machine... it should work. And it should work for many, many years. Like Mabel. She is a good machine!
After reading this post- I had to come back to add (because I didn't add my point, duh!) ... sometimes the brochures look so enticing for those new, expensive machines. And that seems to be all that the sales people want to sell too. But a new, basic machine (but don't skimp on quality - Mabel is certainly basic by todays standards, but she is very well made!) might work better. And if you can find an older used machine (sometimes, like Mabel - they are even free) you probably will get many years of good use out of it.