Rogene "Jeannie" McPherson, Country Notebook
Not like it used to be
By Rogene "Jeannie" McPherson
For Christmas 2022, my kids gave me a new and improved lithium power pack for my battery-powered outdoor equipment. The first battery, bought about ten years ago, was still working like expected until I left it in a bucket that soon collected rain water. Not smart, but pretty typical of the senior moments I experience these days. It’s not like it used to be when it comes to my memory.
Another Christmas many years ago, I received a Singer Touch and Sew (TS) sewing machine, considered one of the best available, circa 1965. I don’t know what that machine cost, but I am sure it was more than my parents could afford. Maybe my Dad had a bumper corn crop or sold young steers receiving a significant market price. I still have this machine.
I’ll put this into perspective as to my history with sewing machines. At first I was afraid to use TS as it was much more complicated than my Grandmother’s treadle sewing machine. Using a treadle requires a good deal of coordination and practice to sew with accuracy, but was how I learned to sew.
My grandmother’s treadle was manufactured by a company called The Free in about 1916. I know because it was a wedding gift from my grandfather. Treadles are not electrically powered but instead use foot power and are typically sold with a beautiful wood cabinet. More than hundred years later, my grandmother’s treadle sits grandly in my home office as a lovely piece of furniture.
Eventually TS and I became fairly proficient, making my prom dress my junior year. From then on, my wardrobe was of my own creation. It wasn’t always perfectly made, but I could afford more clothes by sewing my own. We didn’t rely on foreign workers for our clothing needs as we do now. Sad but true it is now less expensive to buy ready-made clothes than the cost of fabric, thread, zippers, and other items needed.
When I went to college, TS went with me as well as back home on the milk train when I returned for my first Christmas break. My TS went wherever and whenever I thought I would have time to sew.
While in college, I took several design and clothing construction classes in an effort to improve my skills. The assignment was to make a woolen, lined winter coat. My parents’ investment was a good decision. When my children came along, it seemed there just wasn't enough time for sewing.
When I retired and had time to sew again, I felt TS deserved a professional tune-up and a new fly-wheel replacement. Not bad for more than 50 years of sewing, but I knew if more work was needed eventually it might be hard to find replacement parts
Thus, I decided to give TS a rest and purchased a Singer 4411 model advertised as heavy duty because of the type of sewing I was routinely doing
Just like TS, I put on a lot of miles on the 4411 machine while sitting at my kitchen table, But, right before Christmas when I was finishing gifts for my grandchildren, the usual click and clack suddenly stopped and the bobbin locked. After a couple of hours of removing screws, I finally had it running again….for about an hour. Having to do this numerous times, my patience quickly diminished and I pulled out TS from storage to finish sewing in time for Christmas Day.
The 4411 had performed well for about eighteen months. To repair the machine, it would cost the price of a brand new 4411 model. This was one of those “duh” moments when I told myself I would be silly to repair the 4411 machine. Like so many products today, economy sewing machines are designed to last months rather than years and are priced to be replaced.
To buy a quality sewing machine like TS would cost hundreds. Common sense tells me to use my TS for the basics, purchase another 4411 for heavy duty sewing and continue to play the game of disposable sewing machine.
Like I say, it’s not like it used to be.