So I know I said the thing about the not hoarding any more machines. Sigh. But then I saw a machine like this, a Bernina 740 favorit, on ebay for super cheap listed by someone who seemed very grandmothery and knowledgeable and loving to her machines and could not, for the life of me, resist buying such a rare and well cared for piece. (image source) I realllly shouldn’t be spending more money on something I don’t need (I can hear the lifepartner now: ANOTHER sewing machine??!?) but I look at these as something like investments, in that I can love them and use them and learn with them but pass them on to other hands if I choose to some day and they probably will still be worth something after my heavy usage. Vintage sewing machines certainly don’t seem to be devaluing, especially high end models; reading sewing blogs from 5 years ago discussing the pricing makes this pretty obvious. And if I can actually apply skills I’ve taught myself to repair them, so much the better for the potential return on my “investments,” should it ever be possible to pry one from my clutches.
Berninas are held in high esteem by people all over the interwebz, but I’ve never tried one. I was drooling over a few Record 530, 630 and 730 models for a few months, but the Husqvarnas I’ve been trying vainly to fix really turned me off on anything with plastic innards and tight, enclosed motor free arm body styles. The beautiful thing about the Favorit models is that they are a) flatbed, meaning I can access the lower mechanical parts easily for cleaning and oiling, and b) at least some of them have an externally mounted motor, making for easier belt replacements if needed and even motor replacement if it came to that. The ebay description claimed an all metal construction, so I’m hoping that’s correct, as at least the 730 Record models have plastic parts (cam gear, etc) that do eventually wear out. c) It’s 60slicious. That cream and avocado color scheme. That font. Those curving lines. Why are contemporary sewing machine designs so inattentive to sheer visual pleasure?? This is fun to look at.
Another beautiful thing? Evidently these are possible to rig up to huge industrial motors. Like so:
I have seen 740 Favorit and 730 Industrie models, but am not sure what the difference is in the construction. The motors for the industrie ones are enormous and mounted below the machine, and I’m not sure how the sizes compare. But I will enjoy investigating!
So of course I had to seek out a manual, and was happy to find that Bernina has a page devoted to out of print manuals. (bernina manuals) The translation is clumsy, but it’s kind of part of the charm. The manual for the 740 is (here).
The ol’ girl should be arriving around Christmas time, which means I’ll be enjoying this new baby over some spiked eggnog. Can’t wait!
This, friends, is my weekend sewing project. Having wonky shoulders (broadish, forward) and an utter hatred of garments restrictive of my arm movements, here’s hoping the raglan sleeve will prove to be my friend. So much to love in this design–simple but fitted, with the optional elegant touches of the French cuffs and scarf collar, versatile in terms of wardrobe. I’m hopeful.
For any pattern drafters on the hunt for inspiration, a look at the actual pieces:
I’ve also been wanting to make a pair of pants. I think this blouse, in a light blue broadcloth to start, and maybe in some ivory satin should it go well enough to dip into the higher end of the fabric stash, would look amazing with some high waisted Katherine Hepburn style pants or closer fitted cigarette pants. My pants making has been dreadfully limited, though, and I’m highly perturbed by the problem of the prominent camel toe I see sometimes on sewing blogs. Being an extremely self conscious type mocked for odd things in grade school I simply cannot deal with the camel toe. Not at all. So I fell down a rabbit hole tonight reading all about adjustment possibilities to avoid the dreaded thing. More on that when I get some practice in. Also, discovered the possibility that I might have a swayfront issue (like a swayback, I suppose, but a pelvic tilt in the opposite direction that might make an excess of fabric in the front). It seems to be an elusive adjustment to track down a tutorial for, so one of my goals for the weekend is to dig around some of my vintage pattern drafting books for more information.
I have a new sewing machine in my life, which I’ve only just oiled and begun to learn. It’s a Necchi Esperia that my grandma found at a resale shop and hurried me in to see. As if either of us actually thought I’d get out of there empty handed! My grandma has quite the eye–she just surprised me with a Pfaff 130 a few weeks ago. She’s amazing. She’s also the person who taught me how to sew my first wild drunken looking seam on her Touch and Sew. She has a way of being able to thread vintage machines by feel when I’ve been staring at the thread diagram for five minutes and still can’t get it right. Did I mention she’s amazing?
I was trying to limit my obsessing to slant shank Singers, but after the Pfaff and the Necchi, it’s all over. I want every metal bodied Necchi I see. The 50s design period of sewing machines (and patterns and just about every other damn thing in manufacture) seem to be my favorite design era of all the major sewing manufacturers. What can I say? I’m a mid century modern girl.
I had no idea Sophia Loren was the Necchi spokesmodel for a time, either, but somehow, it makes me want to shove my A-cups in a pushup bra and little black dress and sew it up in proper glam fashion.
So the Esperia is a straight stitch only machine. It’s a simple bodied, olive colored machine, and so far it seems to be in really good condition. It was in a cabinet and seems to have been cared for well. I read that the Necchis, due to the tight fit of the well designed, quiet running parts, need more oil than many other machines. Fine by me. The smell of sewing machine oil gives me a deep seated sensory satisfaction that borders on perverse. I had to shake my head and laugh at the manual–it is a snapshot of the cultural prejudices of the time. It congratulates the Madam on her recent purchase and advises her not to use olive oil on her new machine (!) because it gums up the parts. I can imagine that line being spoken condescendingly by some sleazy salesman on Mad Men.
It seems that finding supplementary material for this particular machine, or any Necchi, for that matter, is more difficult than information on some of the Singers I’ve been dragging home. But I found a link that has a few manuals and other ephemera here. (Bless you, sir or madam, for sharing!) There are free pdfs of a BU Mira and BU Nova manual, as well as a service manual.
This isn’t mine (borrowed from an ebay listing) but looks like the very same model. Mine came with Greist parts and a buttonholer, which is a bit confusing. I would assume they’re not original, but who knows–I’ve seen listings for Greist accessories labeled Necchi/Elna Sewing Circle, so maybe there was some collaborating I’m not aware of.