A couple of posts ago I briefly mentioned the curse word ‘buttonholes’ and alluded to a future blog post. Well here it is…..
Meet the sewing machine I learnt to sew on:
It is a 1950’s Elna Supermatic that my mother bought before she was married. Don’t you just love the kitchen green colour?
It has a knee lever to make it sew, and a lever behind the presser foot to lift the foot, which is all a bit confusing once you have spent years using an industrial machine. Those of you who use an industrial know that the knee lever lifts the presser foot, and the foot pedal makes it sew – so we are talking different planets here!
Mum’s Elna comes in a matching green metal carry case, which I have just discovered can conveniently be turned into an extension of the arm for a larger working surface. Mmm – maybe I shouldn’t really store it in the garden shed…..
The burrs in the base plate sum up it’s life history fairly well:
I think that was from when my sister learnt to sew 😉
There is a dinky black bakelite tray that stores under the free arm, that contains all the accessories. There are several presser feet – a zip foot, reversible zip foot, quilting foot, 4mm roll hem foot, a super narrow foot, an I-don’t-know-what-on-earth-this-is-for foot, and a satin stitch embroidery foot.
And a lovely matching oil can:
There are also 5 cams or “Elnadiscs” that go into a revolutionary “Elnagraph Regulating Device” that changes the stitch to either zig-zag, 3 step zig-zag, scallops, wavy line, or feather stitch. And that’s when all these buttons and levers get exciting, because you can alter the stitch length and width to create all sorts of effects. All sorts of effects including buttonholes!
Forget one-touch buttonholes because this machine is from another era altogether – the pre-electronic and even pre-myself era to be precise. Buttonholes on this baby are a mere fourteen-touch process, requiring the concentration, skill and patience of a 1950’s housewife. Two whole pages of the instruction book are dedicated to the process of making a buttonhole, increment by increment, by manually varying the stitch length, stitch width and needle positon for each step! And once that has been satisfactorally accomplished you have to cut the buttonhole manually with a quick-unpick. I remember many a garment being ruined at it’s finishing stage by unruly quick-unpicks!
The tattered Instruction Book is also a real gem, and is refreshingly lacking in thought-speak:
And it sure does pay to read the manual, because I have just discovered that the I-don’t-know-what-on-earth-this-is-for foot is acutally a darning foot! There are probably people today that don’t even know what darning is, but true to it’s era of waste not, want not, this instruction manual dedicates four whole pages to darning, even including your silk stockings:
Not that I have any!
Now you can pick machines up like this for a song – but a basic Swiss made mechanical machine is built to last, and I actually think they are a better bargain than a tinny and cheap modern day electronic machine. Don’t you agree? Do you have any old machines like this that you still love and use?
I think I’m going to send Miss Supermatic in for a service and look after her a bit better from now on. Not only is she of sentimental and historical value, she actually is quite handy for the odd buttonhole…..