Sunday, 5 July 2015

Mum's sewing machine finds a new home - and I get beautifully thanked

Sometime in the 1980s Mum was able to buy an Elna sewing machine - actually, I think her brother Des (the uncle who also left me the money to buy Fiona with) must have bought it for her, or at least paid the bill. Anyway, it was a lovely little Swiss-made thing, intended to be portable, and as she was keen on making things to wear, she used this machine all the time. She was then in her sixties. It was rare to visit my parents and not find Mum knitting, crocheting, doing some embroidery - or sewing. Mum made many of her own clothes from patterns.

I envied her skills. I had tried my hand at knitting in the mid-1970s, a girl friend showing me how and getting me started. But enthusiasm waned, and I forgot what to do. A few years back I got a book or two on knitting, but quickly realised that the best way forwards was to know a skilful friend, let them teach me the basics, and then become part of a knitting circle. The same with sewing.

I am not naturally a maker of things. But I would like to do it, for the personal satisfaction if nothing else. But in any case to have something unique at the end, something I'd put a bit of my soul into. All that said, I do need the encouragement and discipline that a group would impose on me. (It's the same principle on which WeightWatchers is based) Solo efforts are very likely to fail. Thus died my Rag Rug Project last year - the material was put aside, then put away entirely, and not even one rug was ever actually started.

I am drawn most to knitting, not sewing. I do sew things, but I do it laboriously by hand. I couldn't see myself ever using a sewing machine and making things with it. And yet I had a decent one to hand - Mum's Elna machine. I kept it handy, but never did more than experimentally switch it on. To tell the truth, I was a bit afraid of it. It had seemed lightning-fast in Mum's hands. I was afraid of sewing my thick clumsy fingers together. And it did zig-zag stitching and more. This was utterly daunting.

Odd to say that, when I could rapidly work out how to use a computer or smartphone, and then pimp it with app installations and other customisation, something Mum would have given up on.

I felt I would be fine with a very old-fashioned wood-and-iron Singer sewing machine, powered by hand. But Mum's faithful old Singer had long gone, and I'd also disposed of another example given to me by a friend. The long and short of it was that in my hands the electric, highly-capable Elna, with all its fancy controls, was never going to get used.

So when, after pilates last Friday, four of us girls adjourned to Maddy's house, and Maddy was talking about how she'd like a proper machine to do sewing with - a machine her daughter Meg would definitely want to use too - I immediately offered Mum's Elna to her. Complete with instructions, and all the accessories. And for no payment.

Back home, I got it out and put it on display in my study, because Maddy was going to come round to see it.

I deliberately hadn't cleaned it up, even though it could do with a wipe. It was just as Mum left it when she died in 2009. I expect it was last used in 2007. It probably needed a light oiling here and there, but most of all some regular use. Maddy would give it that. It would be going to a good home, and I felt certain that Mum would have wished that.

The Elna probably still had a value, and the Internet would have told me what that was. But I didn't want to know. I didn't think it right to make money out of something that had been left to me by Mum, and I certainly didn't want to take money off Maddy, who was on the way to becoming a significant local friend. It was sufficient to place it in a loving new home, as you would a kitten or a puppy.

Well, Maddy came round with her daughter Meg next day and was thrilled to see the Elna. She took it away, itching to try it out. Later on, texts told me that mother and daughter got it working that very afternoon, and they had done some successful experimental sewing. I was really happy at this outcome.

I'd staunchly maintained that I wanted absolutely nothing in return. Of course I had to relent slightly. Oh, all right, I demurred; if she really must, then a bottle of wine sometime? (A bottle was acceptable in lieu of any small payment, after all)

Today my doorbell rang, and there was Maddy with a gift package. It clearly contained a bottle of wine plus some other things. I was knocked over! I thanked her very much. Back indoors, I had a look.

A chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio - ready to drink - with two sewn lavender hearts, and a small envelope containing a message!

The message in the card was:

Dear Lucy
Thank you so much for the sewing machine. Meg and I will have lots of fun with it!
Hope you have a lovely birthday tomorrow.
With love from Maddy XX

Oh, how nice! And all I'd done was offer something that was taking up space in a cupboard. The Elna-sewn hearts smelled gorgeously of lavender, one of my favourite smells. That mention of my birthday referred to my 63rd birthday tomorrow, something I didn't want to make a fuss about. I had discouraged any card or presents, but Maddy had taken this opportunity to get around my ban! Well, I didn't mind one bit.

The little card took its place on my mantelpiece, among other friends' cards I'd received. See if you can spot your own!

As for the hearts, they were put atop each of the engraved brass urns that flank the fireplace:

Maddy and I will meet again next in a few days' time, with other members of the Village Girls' Rat Pack, for drinks in one of the village pubs. I feel accepted and very welcome.


  1. The section of my brain where birthdays should be stored is teflon coated... I gave up on them myself when they started with 6, I was never keen on them before that since in childhood the presents, before I made it clear that they were not welcome, were just a nasty reminder of the huge gap between how I felt and how the rest of the world saw me... Now at least we could enjoy a birthday if we put our minds to it, wish you a happy one.

    Have to be impressed with the way the sides come down on the machine and form a ramp to guide material n and off the sewing bed. My fingers are far too clumsy to make anything intricate but I use one for small repairs and alterations, the old treadle ones certainly did not get you into so much trouble so quickly...

  2. Happy Birthday Lucy! Hope you are having a lovely day.

  3. So soon, pilates draws you into new friendships. You're truly taking your long-postponed place in the local community, Lucy.


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