Friday, June 15, 2012

Thrift Store Traipsings, Bern

This is (or was) my sewing machine - plastic fantastic does not even begin to describe it. Cute in a peculiar way, but felt - and behaved - more like a toy than anything one could do serious work on. Definitely the Olivetti MS-25 of sewing machines, when what I needed was a Studio 44, if you know what I mean.

Given the space constraints at home, I had in mind something small and portable as a replacement sewing machine, and the Bern stores did not disappoint, turning up at least three Elna Grasshoppers. This one seemed to have a rather antiquated plug, and I wasn't sure whether we could get it working. The thing about buying from a thrift store is there isn't much chance of trying out your (electrical) purchase. Typewriters are much less complicated that way.

This seemed to have a more modern plug, but then I started asking myself questions about the knee bar (most later sewing machines have a foot pedal). How did that work? Would I hate it? I didn't want to carry this all the way to Geneva and realize I didn't care for it. Besides, at $50, it wasn't all that inexpensive - a fair price, I'm sure, but I felt that after a tiring day of thrift store hopping, it had to be a really good deal to justify the effort of carrying it all the way back (while they are small, the all-metal construction and case results in a pretty hefty machine). Anyway, I have seen Grasshoppers in the Geneva market and I was confident that if I really wanted one, it would turn up closer to home eventually.

So we left Bern without a sewing machine, but I was satisfied with my sightings. There was a Bernina somewhere on this shelf (bottom right, large green suitcase):

And for a very reasonable price of $30. But by then I didn't feel like dragging it out and examining it, as a newbie to sewing machines I wasn't sure what I would be looking for (and how to test it thoroughly, assuming the store would let me), and if I had thought the Elna was heavy, this was much bulkier. Also, my goal was to avoid a space hog and this seemed much too large.

But, what do we have here, next to the sewing machines? Lots of typewriters! Indeed, I have noticed many thrift stores keep them close together. There wasn't anything on the shelves that I felt like photographing closely; all of them are fairly common: Hermes Ambassador, plastic Hermes 3000, Hermes Standard 4, a couple of electrics. Also a Lettera 35 just out of the frame, I think.

We found this in another part of the same store, and I thought it was definitely worth photographing: this was my first time finding a Studio 46 in the wild! I had not realized how much like a Lettera 35 its case is, and that the body of the typewriter is all-metal. Peculiar styling, though, and not really to my taste (sorry, Ton), although I can appreciate the lovely blue color.

On the other end of the Olivetti spectrum, the same store also offered a Studio 42 for the highly optimistic price of $100. Especially considering that the paintwork on this was in the worst condition of possibly any typewriter I have ever come across. A closer look:

Yikes.

A quick run-down of the other sightings: I thought it was fun how this thrift store had nicely integrated typewriters into their office furniture display.

The first typewriter is a Hermes standard, and there was also a wedge-shaped Brother electric, a plastic Hermes 3000 (techno typeface), and an Adler Primus:


Another desk displayed an Orga Privat:


And a Remington Noiseless Standard:


In another store we sighted this fluorescent orange electric Facit:


And that was it for the Bern sightings. I didn't purchase any machines, but the nice thing about sewing is that one can always find useful odds and ends in any thrift store, so my trip wasn't wasted - I came home with a few lengths of fabric to play with.

18 comments:

  1. I must say I really enjoyed your last post. Would you be do kind to share the address of the above store? I'm very interested in purchasing a typewriter as a gift.

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  2. That olivetti is beautiful. Strikes me as needing a date with some sandpaper and a can of paint. Yeah!

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  3. So you went for a custom domain! I'm glad, this shows that you're intending to keep on blogging. :)

    Those old Hermes standards are intriguing to me because they are impossible to find in the US. I agree with Scott that the Olivetti is ripe for redoing -- either repainting or silversurferizing.

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    1. Yes, I plan to stick around a while longer :) But beware, this move from genevatypewriters to retrotech comes with lots and lots of sewing machine pr0n mixed in with the usual typewriters...

      Love the idea of silversurferizing the Olivetti, but I would want to pay much less than they were asking in anticipation of all that work!

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  4. Adwoa, astonishing sightings as usual.
    I have to say, the Olivetti Studio 46 looks to be in pristine condition. Just curious, how much was the price tag for it? Yeah, it is a matter of taste. I, for one, am not a fan of the Corona 4 or SC Clipper, in the looks department at least.

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    1. Ton, I thought of you the instant we opened up that Studio 46 box - indeed, it was in immaculate condition and looked to have been barely used. There wasn't a price tag on it, but judging from the average price of typewriters in that store, it would not have been more than $30, probably a bit less (I once picked up a Hermes 3000 in the same store for $5.)

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  5. In addition to over 30 typewriters, about 1/2 pre 1040 and 1/2 post 1960, I also have 13 sewing machines. Four are modern work all day machines, and four are Singer Featherweights. I don't know if you can find Singer Featherweight sewing machines in Switzerland, but if you can just grab them! They are beautiful,small, lightweight, and they work like a dream.

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    1. Which machines do you have? I am finding that there is a serious dearth of vintage sewing machine eye candy online (besides scrolling through auction sites and classifieds listings), and I wish there were as many blogs dedicated to them as there are for typewriters! I am always happy to look at photos; there are some very nice designs out there, like the '50s Singers (320, 401, etc.)

      Anyway, yes, I have read great things about the Featherweights and cannot wait to find one (at a reasonable price!) here. I have come across five so far in the last month (one at a market, four online), but didn't bring any of those home for various reasons... the hunt continues; I'd love a 222 :).

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  6. I wouldn't think sewing machines that foreign to type writer collectors as, as you probably know, the first Remington's were made in the care of Remington's sewing machine division.

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    1. I did not know that Martin, thanks for chiming in! I have much to learn about sewing machines, and I am only now beginning to identify (and roughly date) the ones I see in our local flea market.

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  7. That Studio 46 & old Hermes look fantastic. I've never seen either for sale since I have been gathering typewriters.

    I'm very happy you are not quitting blogging. Sewing machines are neat also. I do not think they are as mechanically complicated as a typewriter.

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  8. I have around 20 machines, a bunch of Berninas and several Swiss Elnas. I can't garment sew but use them for freehand machine embroidery. Thanks for the photos! Richard K/Texas

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  9. Wow I hope I can find a Studio 42 on my type hunts. Nice post, and can't wait to see the machine. Also I didn't use much of the leather coat if you want to go the opposite way from silver surfering.

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  10. Adwoa, perhaps you can be a founding member of the Sew-O-Sphere as well as the Typosphere - just add sewing machines to your blogging here and provide the international linkup from Geneva for those lurking sewing machine fanatics :D

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  11. I just bought the Orga Privat, an interesting typewriter because quite unique construction.

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  12. Congratulations on your new domain!
    These are some nice spottings. I am quite surprised by that blue Ambassador - I've never seen one of these before, and the colour doesn't make that much sense for a "serious" business typewriter in my opinion. Any idea if it was repainted? Oh, and that poor, poor Studio 42 - I can not imagine what happened to it!

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    1. The Ambassador was the usual light green color - I suppose a combination of poor lighting in the shop and an average point-and-shoot camera doesn't render the color all that well in this photo.

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  13. me again: fitting ad for the ELNA sewing machine: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shordzi/7392959710

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