I am pleased to announce the arrival on Saturday of Ethel, a bouncing baby 96K10 Singer industrial machine. Weighing in at far to much to be comfortably moved, Ethel joins baby sister 66K in the stable of ancient singer machines that I have been accumulating. As far as impulse buys go, I think this one is a winner.
I’ve been wanting an industrial machine for a while now, but could never justify the expense. It seems I’ve been hanging around with too many accountants, because “I want” is no longer enough to tilt the cost-benefit analysis in favour of a purchase. But then I found a gumtree listing, and suddenly my way was clear.
The 96K and it’s slightly smaller version, the 95K, have been the workhorses of the industry for a long time. I have heard that there are still factories in India and China that use these machines, if only because of their reliability. Parts are still available fairly readily as a result. They do exactly what an industrial plain stitch machine is supposed to do – they sew simple stitches very quickly, for hours on end without breaking down. Ethel herself – don’t ask where the name came from. I don’t usually name my machines, but for some reason she is Ethel, just as my dress form is the latest in a long line of Esmeraldas to be used by my family – rolled off the factory floor in 1922, one of over 15,000 made that year. That she still works is nothing short of fantastic, when you think about how much use and abuse she has no doubt suffered through in that time. It would be fascinating to work out where she has been – fascinating for me, anyway – and to compare her life with the much more straight forward existence of the 66K.
Sure, Ethel needs a bit of a facelift. She has been living in a shed for the past few years and, after all, she is around 90 years old. Her workbench has been destroyed beyond recognition, there are no drawers to speak of, and she is missing almost all of her original accessories. But she runs, miraculously, and she can be given a good going over to return her to her former glory – not least of which will involve sourcing a new work top for her. And I’m quite happy to do it. A little spending, a little time and she will be perfect. She may even look as good as one of her much more expensive cousins that I found on ebay.
But until I finish giving Ethel a thorough going over, she is living in my parents’ garage, waiting much more patiently than I am. I have also been waiting for the Melbourne heat wave to end so I could get back down into my bunker without losing a few kilograms in fluids. Jockeys could use it as a sauna at the moment. On Saturday night, I got sick of waiting and overhauled the 66K. She too has seen a lot of wear and tear over the years, as evidenced by her worn out decals. She runs like a dream now, though, provided I can keep my treadling up to speed. I then spent a happy evening sewing in front of the airconditioning. Yep, I’m such a sewing nerd…