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Mercury Rising

So, here we are again, with Mercury causing trouble. The planet going Retrograde is being blamed for all kinds of breakdowns and communications, meanwhile, our thermometers have been rising too with a small heatwave last week. It makes a change from floods, I suppose, at least if you don’t count the personal ones I have been experiencing in my own little sweatshop (or the conservatory and my workroom, as it is known.) Either way, it is exploding head time.

My biggest Mercury “blow-out” was my (very) expensive Brother sewing machine seizing up in the middle of a job. Now I have about 7 other sewing machines, as follows:

  • 2 vintage hand-crank Singers and a treadle Singer – all carefully restored by me and in full working order, but largely kept out of love (and in case of a power cut);
  • an industrial Brother DB2 – again restored by me and so fast that I rarely use it because it scares the pants off me;
  • an old 1960s? Bernina 600 – solidly built, whisper quiet, easy to maintain (my default backup machine)
  • A Babylock overlocker – very expensive, not technically a sewing machine in the usual sense, but it does a chain stitch so can be used as such in emergencies;
  • A blind hemmer (only useful for…er…blind hemming)
  • I won’t count the big Brother Embroidery machine because that only does embroidery, not sewing.
So what’s the problem, you may wonder. I’m not exactly lacking options, surely I could just use one of the others? Well, not exactly – the job I was doing required the attachment of elastic, lots of elastic, which ideally needs an elastic zigzag stitch. Assuming you are unfamiliar with the this, it’s the one that looks like this
as opposed to just going back and forth, one stitch in each direction. (Look at any item of clothing you have with elastic stitched in and you’ll see what I mean). My Bernina does the latter, but not the former and the other machines only do a straight stitch, which is all I need 90% of the time.
What to do? I had the machine in bits and peered, poked and oiled, but could not see what the problem was at all and I couldn’t finish the job without this functionality. A Facebook friend kindly offered me a loan of a machine (can’t people be wonderful when you are in trouble :)), but it just so happened that I was off to visit my Mum a couple of days later and since she no longer uses her machine, I was able to borrow it.

I have fond (and sometimes frustrating) memories of this machine – a 1959 Singer 620k2 – I learned to sew on it…<cough>…years ago.

There is, however, something reassuringly solid and dependable about old machines that the modern plasticky ones lack. Essentially, if you have a problem with one of these, it’s mechanical, so fixable, rather than electronic, which probably means you’re stuffed.

It hadn’t been used in a long while and needed a bit lot of TLC – a good clean, lots of oil and some tuning (it was looping and skipping stitches quite badly), but it runs beautifully now.

In its day, it was a top-of-the-range machine and the black disc you can see on the front is one of 24 cams that enable you, in combination with the levers on top, to do all kinds of fancy stitches that would put a modern model to shame. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the box of cams (and I don’t really need them at present), but I’ll have another look around for them next time I visit. My Mum used to do amazing freehand embroidered monograms and things on it, but I must admit that I rarely used much more than the straight stitch to run up seams.

On the whole though, Mercury has not been as unkind to me as to others though. I was speaking at the TABI Tarot Conference at the weekend and one of the other speakers, Theresa Reed, literally failed to get off the ground at all. After three successive failures to take off so she could fly over to the UK, time ran out, she had to call it a day and just deliver her talk over Skype (though even this was not without a few challenges, I understand). Read more about her experiences here.

For my part, I am pleased to report that the journey both ways was trouble-free and pleasant and the technology didn’t let me down – I went prepared with my USB key containing my slides both in Open Office presentation format and in PDF, just in case (as well as a printed paper copy just-in-just-in case). In went the USB key, up came the presentation and I was ready to rock before the preceding speaker had cleared her stuff away. Smooth! 🙂 I hope that people enjoyed my talk on the history of playing and Tarot cards (subsequent feedback suggested they did) and I managed to awaken a few inner card sharks. It was gratifying to see a group assembled and playing the game that I had taught them the following morning between breakfast and the first session 😀




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30 July 2012

3 Comments to “Mercury Rising”

  1. I am suffering my own Mercury Rx moments too – made a long and HUGELY entertaining comment *cough, cough* and my computer just died on me. These macs aren’t all they are cracked up to be…

    You look fab with all your long haired blonde gorgeousness!!! And well done on having some old machines – they’ll never let you down.


  2. Where do you store it all ?? 🙂

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