Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004
I should have buttoned my lip. (Wait patiently for the point of this title.)

If you are American and your washing machine says flobadob and widdles all over the floor what do you do?

Blame George W Bush, obviously. But after that? John Weidner (daringly skipping the blame-Bush stage) goes to this site and looks up how to repair it. In the comments he compares the pleasure he gets from working his will on a recalcitrant domestic appliance to the triumph a caveman felt when slaying a mastodon. seems to make its money by shipping parts, but attracts customers through the door by offering information. From a Repair Guru, no less. Plenty more use than most gurus.

I am sure there are all sorts of fascinating sociological observations and predictions to be made here.

Here in the UK, EzeeFix and E-spares both offer the parts but not the education - yet.

Google and Ebay do make owning non-standard or obsolete kit less of a problem. Let me tell you an anecdote that doesn't illustrate that at all. I was in the sewing shop yesterday and a lady came in and asked for spares for her decades-old home button-attaching machine - almost certainly the K-Tel Buttonmatic. Ah, K-Tel. Breathe deep, my fortysomething friends, breathe deep and remember when K-Tel and Ronco were mainstays of ITV commercial breaks. As it says in the link, in those innocent days the words "as advertised on TV" carried a glamour of their own.

Anyway, this lady wanted to use her Buttonmatic for some sort of charity garment-making sewathon in which she was to participate. Good idea, when you think about it. It may have taken four decades but eventually an occasion finally has arisen when this so-called timesaving gadget really would save time, if only the right spare parts could be found.

The sewing shop man didn't have them, but "go to the internet," he helpfully advised, "you can order all sorts of funny things there."

"Oh yes, that's true," I said. And winced. Indeed he spoke sooth. In days gone by I would have ordered the non-standard bobbins my sewing machine uses from his shop and got them in mere weeks. Instead I had that very day got a bunch of them direct from the Singer website, ordered two days previously.

Sadly I think that the charity button-fixing lady is going to be out of luck. (Hence the title of this post! You waited patiently. Well done.) Apart from two 70s nostalgia sites the internet is clear of K-Tel Buttonmatics. I have just now tripled the number of times the device is mentioned. Come to think of it, it occurs to me that for that very reason it is highly probable that, assuming she followed advice and looked it up on the internet, she is reading this. Um, hello. Forgive me for using your ingenious and charitable idea as a peg for my meanderings. Unfortunately I have to tell you that although both this and this bear the sacred name "Buttonmatic", the former is an industrial machine designed for clothing manufacturers and the latter a sewing machine foot. It's not nearly as cool as finally using the K-Tel, an anecdote upon which you could dine out for years, but if you do have a sewing machine with a button foot your best bet is probably to lug that along to the charity event.

So there are still markets that internet commerce has not yet reached. A pity. Surely there must be many dozens of people out there yearning for spare parts for the true K-Tel Buttonmatic. Tens of pence are waiting to be made by a young man or woman with vision.