Seamstress stressed as machine skips a stitch

If you buy a refrigerator or a sewing machine, you should do research and ask as many questions as possible before you decide on your purchase to be sure it’s fit for purpose.

Neville and Colleen Godley of Lakeside paid R9 400 for a new sewing machine from Elna at Cavendish as the one Ms Godley had wasn’t suitable for the home industry she had just started, making leotards for small children.

A few months after she bought it, Ms Godley took it back to Elna to have it adjusted for a “stitch skipping” problem.

“But the problem didn’t go away and it got to the point where she could no longer use it and she took it back at least four times. After the sales assistant tried to fix it, the Elna was sent to the technician who adjusted it and returned it in perfect working order,” Mr Godley said.

“When my wife used the machine for the first time after these so-called adjustments, the same problem was evident, so she went back and the machine was seen by various people including a consultant at Elna’s head office in Bellville, who admitted to us that this particular model had given problems in the past and it is now back in the store. We also spoke to Dan de Vos, chief executive officer of Elna, about a refund or a replacement but he said the machine was perfect and the problem would be solved,” said Mr Godley, who claimed the CEO did not seem to understand the “urgency” of the issue.

Mr Godley said that as his wife is making leotards for children to wear at various championships, she needs a machine in perfect working order to manufacture the garments to a high standard.

The cost of travelling from Lakeside to Cavendish and parking (R10 each time) is also adding up.

Ms Godley spent a lot of time with Kathy, the store manager at Elna Cavendish, who suggested she change the needle, which is used for denim, as it was not meant for the micro-fibre content of the Lycra (velour or broken glass) material.

The Godleys brought the Elna home.

“It is working properly but after making five or six small Lycra costumes, the same stitching problem occurs and the two needles have to be changed and they cost R15 each,” Mr Godley said.

I would have thought the price of the needles was part of the running costs of the business. And Mr De Vos agrees with me.

“Elna Home Products supplies sewing, ironing and cleaning solutions for domestic use, hobbyists and needle artists. Most people realise that a shop in an upmarket shopping centre is not the place to go to for commercial and industrial machines and over the 50 years we have been in business we always have a demo model and a trained assistant can show potential customers, who can also bring any fabric, how they work, try it out for themselves and establish if it is what they need,” Mr De Vos said. “Try before you buy,” is his advice.

Staff are also available to give a free introductory lesson, “and no matter how experienced the seamstress is, it is a new model and there is always something to be learned”.

The cover hem machine, that Ms Godley bought, is a specialised unit, which has been made for about 10 years and is supplied under various other well-known brand names worldwide.

“Technically the cover hem machine is a great invention, although some of our high-end overlock models also do a cover hem stitch. The cover hem stitch is sometimes done on problematic fabric which may result in occasional skipping of stitches. The reasons could be because of the operator, machine settings, needle, thread or fabric,” Mr De Vos said.

The staff is happy to “identify the problem by a process of elimination and the service is free”.

“And now, Mr Godley complains, not about the machine, but about the needle costing R15, this after his wife has for weeks successfully been making leotards with our denim needle.

“Mr Godley should add a rand or two to the price of the leotards to recover this running expense. Or he could change to a different quality fabric to save on slower needle wear. Any seamstress knows that thread and fabric wear out the needle which is designed to be replaced from time to time,” Mr De Vos said.