I think I have written about my good old dependable Bernina sewing machine that I purchased in the 70's. I earned the money for it sewing for friends and neighbors when I was in high school. The machine is my pride and joy and has moved with me so many times. The amount of hours I have sewn on it has got to be in the thousands.
Last Sunday, we were scared out of bed by the sound of our fire alarm going off at 5:15 a.m. Our farmhouse came with a professional (like a school or hospital) fire alarm system. When it goes off, it can be heard from far away much less it will scare the bejesus out of you if you are in the house. Lights flash and the sound is monumental. It is also quite sensitive and I frequently set it off with my cooking prowess.
But last Sunday, I was so glad that we had this thing. Mark and I ran all over the house trying to figure out why the alarm was going off. By the time we got down to the basement to turn it off, I discovered that my 1975 Bernina was smoking. And I mean smoking. It was so hot I couldn't touch it and smoke was pouring out of every orifice. I ran to grab some potholders and took it outside in the snow.
The problem was taken care of and we were left with smoke and nasty smell and no sewing machine.
By this time, the fire company was on the way. It was too late to stop them. An hour later, due to incredibly icy roads and no sand on them, they arrived. I don't want to think about what would have happened if we didn't have our fire/smoke alarm. We were so lucky to discover the source of the smoke and possible fire and to remove the machine and table.
The fire chief and two firemen came. The Chief was an electrician so he was able to show me the electrical source of the fire in the motor of the machine.
He said I should have been unplugging the machine all the time and that I should have used an extension cord with a 3 prong outlet (the cord that came with my machine only had 2 prongs). All good advice that I will heed in the future. I have had this machine since the 70's and it has remained plugged in whenever it was set up on my sewing table.
I researched on-line to see if anyone else has had their Bernina motor catch on fire. I didn't find anything so think it is important that I add this here. (Vintage Berninas have problems with their foot pedals catching fire and I replaced mine with a safe pedal years ago.) From what I read, any of the older sewing machines of any brand do not have On and Off Power buttons so they are always on if plugged into electricity. I did not realize this.
I sew a lot and really depend on my machine for my business and for general mending and household sewing. I knew I wanted the same exact machine I had (a Bernina 830 Record) - it has mostly all metal parts and is a real workhorse. Luckily I found one on Ebay. It has arrived and the new machine is as sturdy as the old one. It came with a recent service record, a thermal safe foot pedal and a 3 prong plug for the wall. I will keep my old Bernina for parts and now I will ALWAYS unplug my machine when I am not using it. Lesson learned.
Thank goodness for the fire alarm. Thank you to the little tiny fire department of Leyden for bringing the truck and to Tina, the policewoman, for getting the road crew to sand the icy road so the fire truck could get here. We were just lucky that we were able to put out the machine and table quickly and that we had the fire/smoke alarm to wake us and that it was working and tied into the central station. It made me think about all those cellar holes that are around our town and so many New England towns that used to have houses on top of them. Farmhouses in the old days were frequently lost to fire before there were fire companies and trucks and fire/smoke alarms. People just had to let them burn and around here, many did not rebuild.
I hope this post helps someone else who owns and sews on an old machine and might not realize the potential of the fire hazard.