It’s amazing what you can do with a $20 sewing machine, some remnants, and your imagination. And maybe a little bit of magic.

I’m not a seamstress by any stretch. I don’t really even sew as a hobby or to fix pants (unless we’re talking actual needle-and-thread, in an emergency). My mom, however, is an expert, and even though she doesn’t make a living at it anymore, she still is excellent at all things sewing.

I’ve tried, but my perfectionistic streak doesn’t really extend that far. I sewed a couple skirts in my teenagerhood, and added fabric triangles to the bottom of my jeans for makeshift flared legs, but overall, I just as soon would knit something than sew it.

But lately I’ve been feeling the need to have a sewing machine. I bought one of those old built-into-a-table ones at Goodwill, but it was a bust – there was something wrong with the bobbin casing. Since it was only about $12, I just donated it back without a word.

A few months later, I saw one at Value Village, also with its own desk. At first I didn’t even realize there was a sewing machine in it; the top folds up and over to reveal the leaf and opening where the machine is. I actually tested it before I bought it, on a tissue, and it seemed to work, but I’ve never been able to get it to make even stitches. The bobbin thread always starts bunching up after about an inch. I’m not sure if there’s a part missing or broken, or I just haven’t figured out the precise way to thread it (it’s not like it came with a manual, and even the Internet has its limits when dealing with technology of the 70s). I figured one of these days I’d haul it down to a sewing machine repair shop, but in the meantime, I’ve just been using it as a table.

I seriously considered buying myself a machine for Christmas, but I’ve already spent so much on yarny stuff (both for myself and for gifts) that I felt like I needed to put the brakes on. Besides, the only things I really knew I wanted to make were curtains and maybe a case or two for my knitting needles. Hardly worth a $150 (at least) expense. And anyway, knitting is my first love; sewing would just cut into my yarn time.

Eventually I reached a compromise: I’d find a cheap machine (or a kids’ machine) and see how that worked out. So I went with a $22 Amazon model, figuring if it sucked or didn’t work or I just finally decided sewing was for the birds, I wouldn’t have wasted too much money. It’s a basic (and loud) 2-speed, single-stitch mini machine, but with it, a remnant, and a fat quarter from Hancock Fabrics, I was able to make myself a case for circular needles.

Before I get to that, though, I do have to say a bit about the needle storage I already had. What I’d been using was a necktie. I’d hand-sewn the tail to the front in ever-widening increments, and hung it on the wall. Cheap, useful, but not very cute, and had a tendency to get annoying with needles clanging around. Not only that, but it held all my circular needles: the “starters” I’d bought at A.C. Moore and Jo-Ann, 29″ aluminum ones with a cord just about too short and thick for magic looping, and half of them with the finish worn off the tips (both from tight knitting and being cheapies); the “level-ups,” as  I liked to call them – a $25 set of 40″ bamboo needles I bought off Amazon, with vinyl IV-like tubing for cables that gripped yarn like a sonofabitch; and the ones I actually liked and used, a random assortment of ChiaoGoos, HiyaHiyas, KnitPicks, and Knitters Pride needles, mostly in sock sizes. With a few Knitters Pride interchangeables I’d bought piecemeal thrown in for good measure.

For Christmas, my mom made me two needle cases: a “book” type and a roll-up. However, while she is phenomenal with a sewing machine, she doesn’t knit, so she doesn’t really understand what my storage needs are. The book was okay for my seldom-used Bates aluminum needles and the bamboo set (or what’s left of them), but the roll didn’t work for circulars, because it’s basically a series of tubes. And it wouldn’t work for interchangeables, because there’s no place to store cords, caps, grips, keys, and all the little accessories. It’s hard to explain, so here’s a picture:

hookroll 1

(I’ve put my crochet hooks into it, because it actually seems to work really well for that purpose. )

It’s not totally useless for circulars. Here’s a picture of it with an Addi circ:

hookroll 2

Wasted needle pockets. And it seems like it would either only hold a few needles, or become a huge, jumbled-up mess. I wanted something more like this, with pockets for the cables to be coiled up inside, and the needle tips would point upwards:

Bless her heart, I know she tried. And I really do like what she came up with, even if it doesn’t work for my purposes. And it’s not like it’s totally useless, because now my crochet hooks are organized by size instead of all dumped into a coffee mug. But I will probably never tell her, just like I can never tell my husband’s grandmother that the wedding quilt she made us (by hand!!) has my name spelled wrong on it.

So here’s what I put together, with my cheap-o sewing machine and a little bit of funky fabric. It’s here instead of on Ravelry out of respect for TPTB.

stripey needle roll 1

stripey needle roll 2

stripey needle roll 3

It’s not perfect by any means: the flap isn’t quite wide enough, the ribbon is sewed in inside-out, and in hindsight, I really didn’t need to make dpn pockets and could have just put regular-sized circ pockets there. But it’s kind of a working prototype for what I might want to make in the future. When I buy myself a real, adult sewing machine for my birthday.

Or I might get really ambitious and make something like this:

It’s the Holy Grail of knitting needle storage. Space for circs to hang, interchangeable cords, dpns, hooks, and notions. But for the time being, I’m going with small, portable storage.  I have very little wall/back-of-door space left anyway, and I would kind of prefer my different interchangeable sets to be kept segregated. (I can’t even bear to put my large and small HiyaHiya sets into the same case!) Next up: a hardback book interchangeable case for my Knitters Pride pieces (which I also hope to expand to a full set for my birthday), similar to this but with a little more polish.