Sunday, 26 October 2008

Sewing the seeds of a new future

As my friend Mike often reminds me, everybody on the planet is already making the transition to a world without oil; it’s just that most people don’t realise it. For someone like me who enjoys tracking process, the signs are plentiful. Gardeners’ World and Gardeners’ Question time are all about vegetables and allotments: Mussleburgh leeks are the new Viburnums.

And this spring, even before credit started to get crunchy, Argos announced that sales of sewing machines had gone up by half over the previous year and Woolies reported a similar trend, with sales growing by 258% in the same period. Dirk bought a hand sewing machine today for £20 from the Lewes Flea Market. Tis a wonder to behold, a sturdy, cast-iron Singer, with swirly, gilded decorations and a wooden compartment revealing special parts such as feet for hemming, braiding and ruffling. The musty manual explains how to set up the bobbin and maintain the machine. Tucked in the pages is a prescient advert from a pre-mechanised domestic world: ‘Do you know that little Singer motor? One screw attaches it to your machine. Cuts out fatigue! Makes sewing a pleasure! Better work done in half the time!’
Perhaps Singer today should be advertising manual add-ons. In a post-oil world most of our domestic motorised tools will no longer run on electricity. We’ll probably be generating some electricity renewably for essential things like tractors, transport and lighting, but most tools are likely to evolve to manual. I imagine a combination of the new – solar powered food preservers and laptop chargers, pressure cookers, motor bikes with trailers. And a (version of) the old – which includes Singer hand sewing machines, whetstones, hoes, larders, hammers and tidemills.
Dirk has been using a manual sewing machine for many years, but his old one broke recently when it fell out of its carrying box. He uses his hand Singer for creating his instrument cases out of leather and canvas, making basic clothes, fancy dress and even a duvet cover once when we got hold of some organic cotton. Although musicians like him are always in demand, regardless of the state of the economy, Dirk would be quite happy to be a tailor in a post-growth world.

1 comment:

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

When I was a child our family had one of these. As Mum used to make just about everything we wore that she did not knit on the machine (it was never in its box) my Dad purchased one of those add-on motors.

We have, and still use, an identical machine to yours, that has been passed down the families, with the add on motor. It must be at least 50 years old and is still in perfect working order. No, 'they don't make them like that now'.

Thank you for the memory and I trust yours will last as long!