Two years ago when I was learning to sew, my husband bought me a manual Bernina 1008, the same machine the schools were using just before they kicked sewing off the curriculum for good. The 1008 was intended to replace my first machine, a three week old Bernette 65, a cute little electronic that was fun to use but seemed to lack oomph. My husband was willing to fork over an extra 400 bucks for the 1008 because he collects Swiss Army knives and he was impressed by the “solid, dependable, workhorse” review on Consumer Reports. I’m sure that if Ralph Nader morphed into a sewing machine, he would be the barebones 1008 –crunching granola in a twenty-year old suit, earnest and humorless and eager to spoil another presidential race.
As soon as we traded in my cute little Bernette and I brought my 1008 home, I knew I’d made an egregious mistake. Gone was the needle threader and all my beloved pushbuttons. In their place was a collection of strange mechanical levers set in a homely hunk of cold, hard metal. The two-handed contortions required to sew a reverse stitch were beyond me. Of course, I could master the six-step buttonhole – I just had to sit there and practice it 2,000 times.
True, the stitch quality was good, and the machine seemed to have some power. But every time I used that 1008, I felt deprived. I knew millions of women were out there happily stitching away on sleek computerized models, turning out flawless keyhole button holes with pushbutton ease. Yet here I was struggling with the heavy hand crank, and manually threading my needles with a magnifier. Surely, I’d been cast back to the Stone Age with nothing but an awl and a mammoth hide.
I racked my brain -- there must be something I could do. With I Love Lucy as my mentor I set about an information campaign to turn my husband against my new machine. “Did you know the 1008 wasn’t assembled in a Swiss factory but somewhere in Asia?,” I innocently asked. “And the solid-metal body refers only to the machine’s exterior. Many of the inside parts are actually made of….,” I paused for emphasis, “flimsy…. plastic.” Of course, whenever there was a problem, no matter how trivial -- like a burned out light bulb or a broken needle -- I eagerly brought it to my husband’s attention, careful to hide my glee. And then there were all those handbag projects that my “workhorse” just couldn’t handle.
Somehow, after a few months the message finally sank in. My husband no longer felt the 1008 was a miracle of Swiss engineering -- but a lemon like Ralph Nader’s Corvair. And I began to search for the perfect computerized sewing machine, confident I would have it by Christmas.