Tuesday 31 August 2010

Doing The Donkey Work

One morning last week at about 7.45am, the doorbell rang. I ran downstairs and opened the front door in my nightie [I just had to type that line, for the sheer silliness of it!]

The courier had two large boxes for me to sign for


Two of my sewing machines had been up to Bambers for a service while we had been on holiday. I opened the boxes and checked them out.


The overlocker had a couple of ribbons of fabric neatly stitched, and there was a wonderful test piece in the embroidery machine to show it was working well. Now what am I going to do with this? I shall have to find a good use for this patch somewhere!


All was well for a few days till I came to change the threads in the overlocker. At this point everything went pear-shaped. The machine would not stitch properly. I rethreaded again, and tried again…

In the end I gave up in despair – how could it have gone all wrong so quickly after the service? Next morning at 9.01 am I telephoned them

bambers logo

A pleasant voice answered, and I explained my problem. The gentleman talked me through the steps I needed to take to correct the problem [entirely my fault, I admit – but an error I will not make again] I thanked him for sharing his skill and knowledge, and his patience with me “I’ve been working on machines for most of my eighty years” he replied.[Is he Grandfather Bamber? I wondered]

Then he said “Can I ask you, my dear, have you got a donkey?” “A donkey? Err, no, why?” Then he explained that a donkey is the name given to a scrap of fabric left in a sewing machine when it is not in use. He said that too many people with overlockers waste yards of thread running off lengths of chain at the beginning/end of projects. “And then you cut them off and drop them on the floor and the dog eats them, so you end up with big vets bills too, as well as throwing away money on unusable thread”


“What you should do is have a donkey – a bit of scrap fabric a few inches square. When you finish your sewing, sew onto that. And leave it in the machine, with the needles through the fabric and the presser foot down.” He further explained this not only saved on waste thread, but also helped maintain tension, and would absorb any oil that might seep out during non-use. When you start sewing again, run a few stitches on the donkey before getting back to the main project. “People who make wedding dresses and other fancy garments don’t want to come in on a Monday and find that as they start stitching, they get oil on the white satin, do they?” I agreed they didn’t!

“We always know which machines come in for service from amateurs and which from professionals” he said “The professionals always send theirs back with a donkey!”

Well that’s that decided then – next time my machine goes back to Bambers…


No needlewoman likes to make an ass of herself, does she?


  1. Hahahaha - that last statement is just too cute!! Quilters call those little scraps of fabric 'leaders and enders' and often have a project of small pieces that's on-going so they can start and finish piecing with one of those - again to save on thread. I change colors so often, it doesn't always work for me, but a really good idea.

  2. HAHA! Oh Angela, this is too much! Very funny!
    He's pretty quick for one his age too. But it all makes sense. Such good advice, and now I know why there is always fabric in my sewing machine when I get it back! You can bet, mine's going to the repair shop with a donkey in it next time too!
    I think I would take that piece of fabric and frame it, and hang it on the wall by the sewing machine! As a reminder...but then again, I don't think you will ever forget this, I know I won't!!! :-) Thanks for sharing and saving us fellow needlewomen from making asses of ourselves!

  3. Thank you for the information(and giggle)!
    I am going to get myself a donkey!

  4. I must confess that my amateur vocabulary gave up shortly after I picked myself up from the bit about TWO of your sewing machineS... (How many do you have?)

  5. Believe it or not, that's what my grandmother used to do on her sewing machine and I never asked her why. Now I know. :)


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