The Sewing Machine

Last Friday, I made a tight circle in the parking lots around the quilt shop. We are lucky to have a bustling little downtown area, but that sometimes means parking a block or two away from where you are headed. Usually, I don’t mind the walk, but on Friday I was taking my sewing machine in to have it fixed. It’s a portable sewing machine with a handle on the top. I had been meaning to take it in for months because in a couple weeks I’m going to Cape Cod for a quilting weekend with a friend. I don’t quilt, but it's a chance for my quilting friend Deb and I get to spend a weekend together catching up. Deb and her family were our neighbors when we first moved to Boston. She welcomed us the first day in our house with food and a list of nearby shops. We became immediate, close friends. After she moved to the south shore, we had frequent virtual coffees, but as our real life with kids became busier and busier, our virtual phone-coffees became fewer and fewer.

So, if I’m going to bluff my way into the weekend as a quilter, I need a sewing machine that works. I think the last time I used it was on Liam’s Halloween costume a few years ago; however, now I can’t get the bobbin threaded and the needle bends whenever I try to use the machine.

After circling for a few minutes with no luck, I pulled into a 30-minute parking spot that was reserved for another downtown business. I knew this would be a quick drop-off. It was still a 50-yard walk toting the sewing machine, but given I work out with a Marine twice a week, I figured I could do it.

I hauled the machine through the parking lot, across the street, through another parking lot and down the stairs to the basement quilt shop. I heaved the machine onto a counter in the center of the store and waited for help.

Another customer came in a few minutes after me. To no one in particular, she asked, “What is going on in here? There’s a thread winding through the store and out the door!” Lo and behold, that thread led to the bent needle in my sewing machine. The sight gave everyone a good laugh. Perplexed with pink cheeks, I pulled the thread from my machine and followed it back through the store to the entrance. The fine white fiber seemed to be illuminated against the black steps up to the parking lot. I got to the top of the stairs and saw it continuing across the parking lot toward the sidewalk. I left the wadded thread on a curb in the parking lot next to the quilt shop. I didn’t want to lose my place in line; I would pick up the rest of it when I left.

Back in the shop, I learned that if my sewing machine went to the repair man – although he’s very good at what he does, I wouldn’t get it back for six to eight weeks. I had two weeks. “Well, a few months ago, the owner of the store said she would take a look at it to see if it might be something simple to fix.”

The lady at the counter checked with the owner who was in a meeting, and she remembered me. She was in a meeting but would be free in about 20 minutes. Despite not being a quilter, there is nothing so enticing as the fabrics and creative possibilities lying in-wait within a quilt shop. I know this sport would be dangerous for me. If I gave in to the pull, I wouldn’t be a quilter. I would be a fabric buyer. Still I have a few embroidered pieces that needed to be framed, so I had a look around and managed to come up with a few small pieces of Halloween fabric to frame my needlework; I would spend the weekend sewing simple straight lines.

As promised, 20 minutes the owner came over and had a look at my machine. “Well, first I see that the foot you have in is not an all-purpose foot. See this narrow opening in the foot? It’s not meant for zig-zag stitching and that’s what your machine is set on, so that’s why your needle bent.” It was so obvious. And her voice was so patient. And so loud. I could almost hear the older ladies gray-haired heads shaking back and forth with a "tsk-tsk" sound. She gave the machine a once over and tweaked dials and buttons as she went, explaining what each did. She was so kind, my eyes started tearing up. My grandma had quilted. Had I lived closer to her as an adult, I might have had this lesson from her years ago. With the same level of patience in her voice.

“Let’s see if it works,” she suggested. “Do you have a spool of thread?”

“Well, I did, but I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere over by the Public Safety Building.” Fifty yards away. Where I parked the van. Where the spool must have fallen off. Where the thread marks my guilty trail. With every footstep on the stairs, I looked up to see if it was a police officer that had followed the Gretel-trail to hand me an in-person ticket.

She found a spool and tested the machine. “I think it will work for you. The tension may be a little off, but you can play with that.”

I wanted to give her a hug but instead made-do with a "thank-you"; then I lugged the machine to the van, dragging the string of thread back with me across the street.

Happy Hump Day.