My little girl is called Dara, she is four years old. This Christmas she has some spending money and to my absolute delight she wanted to buy a toy sewing machine she had seen in The Works in Harrogate. The whole family had gone up there to take some Wychbury work to The Stalls, the fab shop run by Natasha Harris. Natasha stocks amazing work including many of our fave Yorkshire Artists and we were thrilled when she also agreed to stock us.
Dara discovered the sewing machine while we were rooting around in the Dr Who annuals for Aidan, my six year old and was immediately taken with the fact that it is like mummy's but PINK! So, shaky though my faith the quality of a toy that costs £6.99 was, I liked her style and went with the purchase. From what I gather, all toy sewing machines are without a bottom thread and sew in a chain stitch. If they work and you secure the thread at either end it is perfectly possible to sew small items together and certainly embroider patterns. My mum had a gorgeous red Vulcan sewing machine that she passed on to me and I have had it, unused on display in my various houses for as long as I can remember. If distant memory serves, the Vulcan sewed in a neat chain that automatically pulled the fabric round so that you could do little to resist sewing in a very pleasing spiral!
Anyway, back to the charming pink plastic machine. I inserted the 4xAA batteries as instructed and was (perhaps predictably) disappointed that they didn't in fact power the tiny pedal OR any motor that may have existed, but instead poured all their 4xAA energy into playing 'Twinkle Twinkle' very slowly and very endlessly! Never mind I think, I'm sure it will work manually - alas, the chain stitch wouldn't catch and unravelled every time.
I must admit I wasn't entirely devastated by this discovery as I had been secretly hoping for an excuse to clean up my Mum's old machine and see if I could get it to work. A load of WD40 and a new clamp from ebay, painstakingly filed down to fit and it works! Dara is thrilled to bits to be using her Nanny's toy sewing machine and so am I. I still use an electric Singer sewing machine that belonged to my Grandmother from time to time and the thought of the endless stitching running from one generation of my family to the next is nothing but wonderful to me!
It is nearly time for me to buy a new machine and I am a little sad to think that anything I will choose to buy nowadays will almost certainly not stand the test of time like the ones our ancestors used. Fellow stitchers will no doubt all agree that sewing machines are like pets, they either become one of the family - or they don't. Some we bond enough with to forgive any malfunction, oil regularly and get repaired when they break, other we smack with our hands, swear at them and grumble at the endless torment they put us through until we can afford to replace them!
What I will remember when I buy my new machine is that it doesn't matter if a sewing machine plays 'Twinkle Twinkle' or can make a stitch in the shape of an chain of crocodiles. If it makes your shoulders tense up the minute you sit down in front of it and there's no way you would ever pass it on to your daughter then it's not worth knowing!