The Accidental Collector

How many sewing machines does a normal person have?  Because I have six (seven, if you include the overlocker I’m unlikely to use at any point).  Seven seems a little more than average to me.

Seven seems a bit like a collection.

The weird thing is, I have no idea how it happened.

A couple of years ago, my sewing machine collection numbered precisely zero.  I didn’t sew, therefore I had no need of a sewing machine, no matter how adorably retro those old treadle machines were.  Knitting and crocheting neatly filled any need I had to be creative.  Whenever people asked if I sewed as well, I always explained that my innate laziness and supreme procrastination skills stood in the way of doing anything as useful as sewing.

Then my mother-in-law offered me her mother’s sewing machine.

“Thanks,” I replied, “but I’m not really into sewing.”

That should have been the end of it.  I don’t sew; I knit.  End of story.  Yet, somehow, the mere offer of a free sewing machine started something growing in my mind.  Before long, I was thinking that perhaps I should accept the offer.  I used to sew back in school – maybe it was high time I got back into it.  What was the harm of saying yes and adopting a sewing machine into my life?

I should have known.  There was a hint when we visited the Maryborough Sewing Machine Museum ages back, when it was still housed in an old, three storey flour mill.  Each floor was literally packed full of every type of sewing machine you could imagine.

“How long did it take you to collect all of this?” I asked one of the owners.

“A couple of years,” was her reply.  I thought she was joking.  She was not.

It should have been a warning to me: adopt a sewing machine at your peril.  It’s as though they can’t bear to be on their own.

I started with the 1970s Singer from my grandmother-in-law.  It didn’t have all of its accessories at the time (I have them now), so we ended up heading to Spotlight and buying a new machine with all of its requisite bits, which came as part of a combination deal with an overlocker.

Three machines.

Then the Chef’s aunt offered me her treadle machine: a 201K from 1950.  At some point, I was also re-united with the Husqvarna my parents gave me one Christmas when I was still at school.

Five machines.

Eventually, I out-grew my Singer and started thinking about investing in a more sturdy machine, which is how I brought home a thirty-year-old Bernina earlier this year.

Six machines.

This clearly wasn’t enough, because then I found out that my parents still had the machine I learnt to sew on (a much sought-after machine known as the Elna ‘Grasshopper’) and I hinted with absolutely no subtlety that I could look after it if they didn’t want it any more.

Seven machines.

Old and Older

Most of the machines are hidden away in their cases or boxes, but the above two are allowed to see the light of day.  That’s my 201K in the background and my new-old Bernina in the foreground.

This all leaves me with two over-riding questions: 1. What am I actually meant to do with seven sewing machines? and 2. What if I can’t stop collecting them?

17 thoughts on “The Accidental Collector

  1. You could offer sewing groups? To teens at risk, for instance, to help them connect to their inner creative spirit in a positive way. That way your (possibly growing) collection could help transform lives. You could do a bit of sleuthing to discover which machine does what in the best way, so you have one for straight stitching, another for zippers and so on.

    1. There are so many possibilities, really. It does seem a shame to have most of them sitting out of sight – especially the Elna. It’s such an adorable machine. It was great for learning on, too, because it’s operated by a knee lever, so I didn’t have to worry about trying to reach a foot pedal until my legs had grown long enough.

  2. Oh my gosh I never knew about the sewing machine museum in Maryborough! Another reaon to go there! And your collection…7?!!! Impressive! I only have 1 sewing machine, 1 overlocker,plus my little toy sewing machine I had as a kid. What to do with 7 machines? Run your own craft group/ quilting group maybe???

    1. The museum has closed down, alas, due to some issues with fire safety and the landlord refusing to fix it. I believe they now run a travelling museum and you can sometimes find them at markets or antiques events. It’s such a shame you can’t go to the museum any more – it was a stunning collection!

      Perhaps I should start a vintage sewing group…

  3. I thought seven was a little over the top even though I do use one machine extensively. However, I just counted mine … seven full size and three toys … and some miniatures which really don’t count because they don’t actually sew.

    1. It’s a bit alarming, isn’t it? One minute, you think everything’s fine; the next, you discover you have an inordinate amount of sewing machines about the place. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one!

  4. I see no problems with being a sewing machine collector. I have two, my big janome and a 1950’s singer, and an overlocker. It was worse when I was staying at mums place, my two, mums original machine, one she bought when I was dancing and another one we got for like 80% off. So two people five machines and an overlocker.

    I would lover a bernina, one is on my one day list.

    1. They’re all good for different things, too. If I ever need fancy stitches, I’ll just get the Husqvarna up and running again. And if I ever run out of electricity, I’ll just need to fix the band on my treadle machine so I can keep sewing regardless.

      I’m so glad I bought the Bernina! Even though it’s thirty years old, it wasn’t cheap, but it’s a lovely machine. I honestly can’t believe the difference between that and my recently-retired (and quite new) Singer. If you ever get the chance to buy one, take it!

  5. What a delightful “problem” to have. I learned to sew on my mom’s Bernina. My first machine was a Sears Kenmore. When I stopped sewing decades ago, I gave the old Kenmore away and thought that was that. Through all the years however, I craved the craft and vowed one day to return to it. Well, decades later, I’m beginning again, and doing so on my new Bernina! So congrats to you for keeping your Bernina out for use, you’ll be pleased with it, no doubt.

    1. I thought it was all over for me, too, when I lent my Husqarna back to my mum. But no. This sewing bug never seems to lose hold of us.

      The Bernina is great! I chose it because everything I read suggested they were great, reliable machines but a part of me wondered if I was hyping it up too much in my mind. Could it really be much better than my quite-OK Singer?

      Yes.

      Yes, it could. I’m still amazed at how noticeable the difference is between the two. It was an expensive buy for a second hand machine but it was worth it.

  6. Oh dear, Katie what have you done? Collecting is a definite storage challenge and the Chef will never ever give up his man cave! I thought seven was excessive but having counted all mine I realise I too have more than I thought. Just because I only see two doesn’t mean there aren’t more. I have 5 plus one out on loan plus an overlocker so currently we are even steven. Never would have thought! Still I don’t consider myself a collecter, just a sewer with different tools for different needs!

    1. That’s the thing: when they’re hidden away in cupboards, you can easily forget you have an entire hoard of sewing machines! I like your way of thinking about it, though. Each machine for a purpose of its own. 😀

  7. Oooh, we have the same Bernina! I love how mine sings when I sew, she’s my fav, although I do have an overlocker to keep her company. 🙂 I’m glad I don’t have any more, as I need all the space for my fabric and yarn 😉 but one day I’d love to own an antique foot treadle machine for display because ~ prettyyy!! 🙂 ❤

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    1. Bernina twins! I honestly can’t see myself using any of my other machines, which is possibly wasteful, but I like having my own little sewing machine museum. The only exception would be my 201K, because I’d love to try sewing with a treadle. Until I can find a replacement treadle cord, it serves its purpose as a beautiful display piece in my sewing area.

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