13 January 2018

Priming The Creative Well

This past week we’ve been in need of a sewing machine. I own two: my own 1960s Singer electric and my Granny’s Singer hand-cranked complete with beautiful Sphinx decals. Neither work. I went on the Net in search of a modern replacement, read various reviews, and stalled. I wanted something that would continue to work for years and not cost me half a mortgage.

By accident I also came across a DIY “refurbish a vintage Singer” video. It led me to checking the serial number of my Granny’s machine, and discovering that it couldn’t have been my Granny’s, at least not hers from new. It isn’t the 1920s-30s model I’d always supposed, but a January-June 1908 Singer 27, complete with original “coffin” lid.

YouTube is a wonderful invention. Two half days and the machine has been cleaned, oiled, and the stitch tension balanced between the top thread and long-bobbin under-thread, and from sounding like a WW2 bomber with bits falling off it runs quieter than I recall my electric doing. It left me staggered at the workmanship which, in 1908, produced a machine that not only offered stitches of differing lengths able to be worked on material as thin as fine lace and thicker than gaberdine, but also a host of attachments that would make a modern sewing machine blush. And I, with no engineering experience, could bring it back into use with no more than a tiny screwdriver from a set gifted in a Christmas cracker and a small amount of machine oil.

So what has this to do with writing? Here’s a Tweet I use alongside the hashtag #WritingTip

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. Good writers see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any - Orson Scott Card

In 1908, between January and June, 250,000 of these machines were manufactured. It was the first batch of true mass production for Singer. That meant a factory, not a small outbuilding. It meant training people; it meant hand-assembly; it meant selling an expensive machine destined for use by a woman that would free her from laborious hand-stitching and give her the wherewithal to provide an income for herself and her family.

How many story ideas can you see in that? How many story ideas have you hurried past today?

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