Friends, when it comes to buying vintage sewing machines, I am not what you would call a novice. In fact, I have even written a series of articles for Vogue Patterns Magazine specifically about purchasing used sewing machines on sites like eBay and Craigslist -- what questions to ask, what to beware of, and so forth.
But as the song says, "I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it." (Please click Play now and listen carefully; that's me crying in the second version, btw.)
The story is unpleasant so I will make it brief: a few Sunday nights ago (Sunday night being the worst time to buy a vintage sewing machine on eBay since it's the site's most popular time) I bought a newly-listed Elna Lotus as a Buy it Now -- a terrible idea nearly all of the time, since you'll (almost) always be paying more than you would in an auction.
There was only one not-particularly sharp photo of the machine and I didn't ask for another (I know, I know...). It looked OK to me.
The description was brief: the machine was in excellent condition (remember that word, excellent -- it's key) and worked perfectly. Well, yesterday I received the machine (from Canada -- I know, I know...). It was not in excellent condition; in fact, it was in -- at most -- fair condition, some might even say poor.
Among the problems: a cracked (albeit functional) tension dial, whose settings ring had come off in shipping.
Countless scrapes and scratches both inside and out, along with sloppy paint touch-ups:
No side panel "snap" to hold the side panel closed.
Finally, the settings ring on the stitch length dial was missing entirely.
The good news? The machine sewed. As we say in sunny Spoleto, Ci mancherebbe altro!
Readers, if I saw this machine at the Chelsea flea market I might buy it for $50, maybe even $60. I had paid -- gulp -- $250.
Thankfully -- and rightfully -- the seller has agreed to take the machine back and pay for return shipping. You simply cannot say that a machine with these kinds of visible flaws is in excellent condition. It makes you wonder what the seller was thinking.
But I learned my lesson and I hope you'll learn from my mistake, friends.
A) I knew I was making an impulse purchase, yet I made it anyway. (Marry in haste...)
B) I could have asked for more photos but I was afraid someone else would snag the machine out from under me in the meantime -- a big no-no since, as I repeatedly tell others, there will always be another machine of the same model to bid on at a later time, especially a sewing machine like the Elna Lotus. It's prized but not rare.
C) Please come come up with C on your own and leave it in the comments.
They say we teach best what we most need to learn. So true, friends, so true.
In closing, perhaps you're wondering if I am on the hunt for an Elna Lotus in better condition. I'm not sure, frankly. It's definitely a well-designed and powerful machine -- though as someone used to Featherweights, I found it rather loud -- but I think I'll wait for one to show up closer to home. I think I need Caveat emptor tattooed on my right arm.
In other news, I joined Pinterest! (Reader Jacqui, my new best friend, sent me an invite.) Please cheer me up and follow me there if you're pinterested.
Have a great weekend, everybody and remember: no Sunday night eBay auctions!