Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A playdate with Myra (aka Learning to sew)

Several months ago I decided I wanted to learn to sew, with a long term goal of making quilts.  After mentioning this to my father-in-law, I was given the sewing machine that belonged to my mother-in-law and I set out to find a cabinet for it.  I found a cabinet with a machine in it on craigslist and made arrangements to go look at it.  The machine wasn't working properly, but I liked the cabinet and made a lowball offer.  The seller accepted, so the machine and cabinet went to my mom's house for short term storage.

Well, it turned out that this machine, a Singer 500 "Rocketeer" was the sewing machine Mom coveted back in the early 1960s.  Mom called me daily with updates on what she had found in the cabinet, how she had cleaned it, what features the machine had and (most importantly) that I had to get the machine fixed.  When I didn't immediately run it to the shop, she started calling her friends to come over to look at it and get their opinions on whether I should take it to the shop ("Yes!" was the unanimous opinion - though that's not really fair, since Mom bribed them with cookies).
One of the items Mom found in the cabinet (and probably my favorite) is the original bill of sale.  A woman named Myra purchased the machine new on May 9, 1962.  It reads:

Machine: $299.50
Cabinet:       67.50
Trade-in:     -60.00
Total:       $307.00

Down payment: $100
Amount owed:    $207
24 payments of $10.12
For a total cost of $342.88

According to the DollarTimes Inflation Calculator, that would be $2,468.15 in 2010 terms.  That was quite an expensive purchase for 1962!

While Mom was poking through the cabinet, I discovered that my other sewing machine (a Singer 301A) is a 3/4 sized machine and won't fit in the cabinet unless I buy a special cradle.  I also read that many quilters like the 301A because it is lightweight and portable, so it can be carried to quilting groups.  So, I gave in to Mom's pressure and took the big machine in to be fixed.

Now Myra (in honor of her first person) is up and running and I am trying to figure out what's what on her.  It would probably make more sense to start on the simpler machine, but I haven't taken that one in for servicing yet (it's been sitting in a closet for a long time, I think).

Myra, in all her space age glory

For my first project, I decided to make a pillowcase for the queen-sized pillow I bought by mistake a few months ago.  The standard pillowcase I've been using didn't cover it completely.  The silly dachshund fabric I purchased to practice on doesn't match our sheets, but this pillow is always under the coverlet anyway, so why not? 

The completed pillowcase

In retrospect, I'm not sure a diagonal print was the best choice for a beginner, especially a beginner that discovered there were no straight pins amongst all the stuff in the sewing cabinet.  But I was determined to sew something, so I just managed with what I had on hand.  I'll worry about perfecting the next one.  :)

Detail of the fabric