An antique and brocante market came to town the other day and just like the circus, we all flocked to it but with a healthy squirt of hand sanitiser and a well fitting mask. Social distancing was a bit of a challenge as people were excited, and browsing the endless items on display meant that the person behind you crept closer and closer! Sometimes, I just had to leave the stall and come back when it was quieter. No doubt, items that I liked would have been bought but that’s the way it goes.
While browsing around, I spotted a tiny ‘Grain’ sewing machine. It was so small that the box it was housed in could rest on my hands. I recently saw something similar on TV and thought it was a coincidence to see a specimen in real life. I had always wanted a small hand operated sewing machine for sewing leather, as I could control every single stitch, so I asked the seller for more information about it.
‘It’s not a toy, you know!’, he said.
Obviously, when I started asking the right questions, he knew I was serious. I was so intrigued that I asked him for the best price and soon we ‘elbowed’ on it (bearing in mind that hand shaking is still frowned upon). When I left the market gleaming and with the sewing machine in one hand, I realised I forgot to ask him about threading the machine!
Anyway, when I brought it back home, I researched the make of this sewing machine online and actually found the original manual. This not only helped in threading the machine but actually to diagnose if the parts are all there for operation. I then did what I usually do with old mechanical machines, stripped it apart, gave it a good clean, realigned some parts and fed it lots of oil and grease. I then threaded the machine and played around with it to get my bearings right.
Mastering it was quite easy, so easy a child could use it. But it’s not a toy and the chain stitch produced is immaculate. Cranking the handle to operate the machine was effortless so to fully test this machine out, I decided to make a mask.
I tested with a piece of scrap fabric and when the tension was correct, I proceeded to crank the handle to stitch together a mask. I still have to get used to the tension as the stitch can get tangled up but when everything goes right, the result is immaculate chain stitching that holds the seams together very well.
Just in case you were wondering why the mask is so stiff, I ironed on some fusing as the filter layer and also to make the mask a bit studier. I realised that the masks I made previously were very soft and when I breathed in, the fabric would be sucked into my nose/mouth. Very annoying when I am already adapting my breathing to the mask.
The chain stitch is very mesmerising and I catch myself looking at the mechanism producing these stitches. It’s amazing how simple but effective this machine is.
When I showed a picture of this machine to my friend, he told me that a chain stitch would be great for stretch fabrics but I guess my ultimate test will be to sew something in leather. As long as I have the correct needle, I think this may work. Until then, I’m going to sew straight lines just to see the chain stitch being formed. I now know why it was being called a ‘toy’ because you just want to play with it the whole day.