The Union

I’ve wanted a sewing machine for a long time. I was in high school when I first wanted the ability to alter my clothing and make creations of my own. Of course, sewing machines are expensive. But luck was with me. I was at Wal Mart one day, drooling over sewing machines, and an older woman who was upgrading offered me her old machine. For free! I accepted and got it home to my parents house before I had to leave for college.

I didn’t get to do any sewing on that machine though. By the time I came back, it was broken (By someone who hadn’t even asked to use it) and I didn’t have the money to fix it. I have no idea what happened to that machine.

After that, I was in motion and a sewing machine wasn’t something that would fit in a carry-on bag or on the back of my motorcycle. I did make an outfit from neckties and duct tape (Which didn’t make it back home from a rather eventful night) but sewing was put on hold.

Then I moved to Bulgaria. Where I am settling. Where my husband pulls me back from my rabid need to relocate every two years. Where my MIL has a sewing machine and uses it regularly. She would let me use hers, but there is something that keeps me from asking. Much like her garden, my anxiety gets the best of me and I am too afraid of messing something up. So I let the need for a machine marinate in me.

Then I started baby wearing. And let me tell you- carriers are expensive. We’re talking $100-$200, which we never seem to have. So I thought I would try my hand at making one of my own. But for that, I needed a sewing machine.

I went on the Bulgarian version of craigslist and started looking for sewing machines in my area. What I found was an abundance of old treadle machines from the early 1900s. While there were more modern machines, I kept going back to the treadles. They seemed so sturdy. Indestructible. Simple. Elegant. Absolutely gorgeous. I loved the metal bodies, the slim necks, the shiny wheels, the leather belts. I had to have one.

But still, money was tight and even shelling out 50 bgn for an unnecessary item was a bit much. Besides, I had no where to put it and I was unsure if I would be able to treadle. I started watching instructional videos, though, and my desire grew. Then, there was a beautiful machine listed for 15 bgn (Around $8 USD). I thought it must be a misprint. Maybe they meant 150. But, no, we called, and they were really selling it for 15 bgn.

We picked it up and took it home. I was shocked by how heavy it was. It had a thick coating of dust on it and the flywheel squeaked when I pedaled the treadle. But it seemed to work, and it came with all of the accessories- feet, pins, chalk. The perfect baba kit to get going.

I watched more videos. I oiled the machine. I learned how to thread it. I found an instruction booklet. I learned how to adjust the tension and that a thread cone should be dropped. Now the machine runs quietly. The stitches are even. And there is something so charming about it that every time I glance over at it I am thrilled.

My first project was an onbu buckle carrier for Peatuk. It has some issues, but is usable, sturdy, and decent looking. Then I made Thai fisherman pants for myself, which are atrocious. But I blame the fabric more than my sewing skills for that one.

Then, Nikola needed new blue shorts for summer camp. I went to a second hand store to buy some but couldn’t find any. What I did find was an amazing blue tablecloth that would make excellent shorts. So I bought that for 6 bgn, took it home, and got sewing.

Zippers, seam pockets, cargo pockets, buttons, belt loops. This was a much more complicated project. But in the end, I made a decent pair of shorts.

The thrill I get from seeing them take shape- from putting in a line of stitches, bending fabric, and making a 3-D product from 2-D material is beyond satisfying. It tickles something deep within me. Something primal and basic. I just can’t get enough of it.

I know someday I will upgrade my machine. After all, a zig zag stitch would be amazing. But for now, this little Union sits in my office, grinning at me, asking me to come spin her wheels. And I comply.

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