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The Pause That Refreshes: Going (and Sewing) Unplugged

At this busy time of year, it can seem harder than ever to find time for reflection, and the expectations imposed by today’s technology can make that quest for a bit of “quiet time” even more elusive.

Do you remember life before the computer?

Each year, for the past few years, my husband and I have packed up the car in late fall and headed up the Northern California coast for a week to refresh and reconnect. Part of our commitment to this annual getaway involves going completely “unplugged”–that is, no laptops, cell phones, or other wired-up gadgets. As I’m sure you can imagine, this is not easy for a techno geek (him) and a writer (me), but we’re determined to use this time to get back to basics. Our destination each year is Mendocino.

With a population of approximately 1000, Mendocino is the small, postcard-pretty coastal village that “stood in” for Cabot Cove, Maine, on the classic TV series, Murder, She Wrote. Established in the 1850s, and rich in Victorian-gingerbread and saltbox-cottage architecture, it’s the only town on the California coast designated as an historical landmark.

Mendocino boasts some wonderful architecture…and some amazing seaside gardens.

Lots of picket fences, too

Our getaway this year was probably the best ever. Instead of hunching over our individual keyboards, we took long walks along the Headlands, perused the art in the many local galleries, enjoyed a daily afternoon coffee date, took loads of photographs, worked a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle…and talked, talked, talked.

My husband and I were married in this spot on the Mendocino Headlands in late November, 2007!

This year, the unplugged experience has had an interesting side effect. (Now we get to the sewing part!) Right before we left town, I took my trusty 1230 Bernina in for its regular tune up, aware that I would face at least an additional week or two sans sewing machine upon my return. Of course, I came home bursting with inspiration and enthusiasm, raring to sew, but lacking that vital “piece”…until I remembered, hidden away in the back of the closet, my circa-1948 Singer Featherweight 221 with all the original accessories.

I probably hadn’t sewn a stitch on that machine in over 10 years, but I was getting desperate. It smelled a little musty coming out of the case, and required a small tweak in the wiring before I could crank it up, but I am here to tell you: sewing on that little workhorse this past week has been one of the most enjoyable sewing experiences I’ve had in a long time. That baby just hums along, and I’m reminded to slow down and savor the feel of the fabric under my fingers. Not exactly “unplugged,” but as close as one can get without pumping a treadle!

The third--and most recent edition--of Nancy Johnson-Srebro's classic book

By my side for easy reference is my 72-page, 1992 first edition copy of Nancy Johnson-Srebro’s classic: Featherweight 221:The Perfect Portable. This little book, now in a much-expanded third edition, includes a wealth of useful and fascinating info (including how to identify the vintage of your machine), and finishes up with the complete, original user’s manual for the 1947 model.

Obviously, I’m not the only one who finds pleasure in stitching on this throwback to an earlier, less frenzied time. There is loads of good stuff to be had “out there” on the Featherweight. This week, I stumbled upon Planet Patchwork, a website that features some interesting reading for the Featherweight aficionado. No doubt, an internet search will reveal many other resources.

Will I welcome home my “souped-up” (that is, computerized) Bernina? You bet! But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the simple pleasures of my “old friend” and–moving forward–treat myself to a leisurely “spin” from time to time.

During this busy holiday season, I hope you, too, find some time to relax and unplug.

Thanks, Jennifer, for covering for me in my absence, and–’til next time–happy sewing!

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