When we first moved to Thailand, we relied heavily on the moving sales of other expats and the market near our house to get established since we came over with just a suitcase and backpack each. We also had no car, so anytime there was a sale within walking distance, we were on it. This is how we ended up buying a random assortment of kitchen and home goods from an interesting Russian couple down the street. Tory walked home with a bag of miscellaneous kitchen utensils (including a freaky vintage can opener that we still use if we have to) while I slowly drove the scooter back loaded with two end tables and yes, a sewing machine!
I haven’t been without a sewing machine since – ever. Growing up, my mom taught me how to slim down ill-fitting t-shirts and pants for my lanky body. Freshman year of college, I took along a tiny plastic sewing machine for my dorm room that didn’t have real tension but it still did the trick. Then I got a heavy old sewing machine that was built in a desk that Tory helped me carry home from a garage sale and spray paint neon green. When I moved to Minnesota and couldn’t take it with me, Tory’s mom gave me the family machine until we left for Thailand.
So when this lady was selling a sewing machine for under $60, I was pretty excited. Though she said it worked I don’t think she actually used it. For my birthday a few months later, Tory had it tuned up and it became major player in our little homestead efforts to recycle and reuse.
With a sewing machine, you can:
- Shop secondhand. When you can alter things to fit, the second hand market becomes wide open. As long as it’s too big, it’s still an option.
- Adapt to size changes. I’ve been slimming down some of the huge clothes I wore during pregnancy and needed post-partum. With a slowly but consistently changing body, I feel like it’s a constant renegotiation of what fits well and a sewing machine has made the transition much less consumptive.
- Fix things. Thailand is hard on clothes. They get sweaty more often, need to be washed more often, and constant sun-drying wears them out quicker. For worn out seams or unraveling hems, it’s a quick fix and has saved lots of things from wearing out around here.
- Do much more than clothing repair. Tory made TRX straps for working out, a soccer net, sized down a dog collar, I swapped out a broken buckle, and we collaborated on a swing/jumper for Camille that she still loves.
- Decorate your home. Curtains, pillow covers, table runners, wall hangings, all made simple by a sewing machine.
- Help out other people. I tailored a shirt from our nanny that she now wears really often. She brought over a shirt that fit well and one that didn’t and I copied the fit of the first.
- Make baby clothes. They need such little amounts of fabric, these tiny people. I’ve made gifts for friends, added flair to Camille’s clothing, and made her dresses, shirts and pants from old clothes of mine. My favorite recycling project has been to make pants for her out of sweater sleeves.
I was sewing trim onto a shirt for Cam when I heard a big twang and the needle stopped moving immediately. I knew something major had gone wrong and I decided to bring the machine to a sewing shop nearby and hope they could have someone look at it. So I scootered it down there and and a sweet young woman took me across the street to a shop run by an older sage of a lady who said she’d have a mechanic come look at it. He opened it up and found a snapped belt. A few emails later, I was surprisingly able to order the part from Singer Thailand and after a bank transfer of only 190 baht, let’s hope the part arrives!
My mending pile is growing daily and constantly reminding me what an asset it is to have a great sewing machine around.