My grandmother was a sewing whiz but had an old black Singer sewing machine inherited from her mother with lovely decorative gold scrollwork that was a classic of its kind. She could have had a modern one but said she couldn’t part with it; and besides it did everything she needed. Of course. She did embroidery by hand and hand-stitched her seams so she didn’t need zigzagging. The thing went back and forth, had adjustable stitch sizes, and could do a button hole with a special attachment. What more could you want. The nice thing was you didn’t need a manual and a Ph.D.

My mom first got a hard plastic upgrade in high school. It was a big advancement with special settings for knits and stretch fabrics and the early stages of computerization. You could program it to do various types of basic decorative embroidery, for example. Very cool and less Victorian.

Not good enough for me, said my husband who decided to give me something for my birthday he would want to own. Only state-of-the-art high-tech to the max would do. (It didn’t matter that I am an average seamstress at best.) He did his research and read sewing machine reviews online, asked around, set a budget, and brought home a giant box. We are talking about the Brother SE400. Now I have complete computerization. Home and craft projects, here we come!

I can’t count the number of patterns and stitches available. I will never remember them, so I will stick with 10 or 12 favorites. It’s all digitized and amazing. They should give a Girl Scout badge just for this one machine. I didn’t feel worthy of it at first and started with an apron festooned with streams of flowers. I made a few more for Christmas gifts. Then I started to explore.

I love the ergonomic design. Sewing machines are basically the same as always, but they do look more intimidating. They have worked hard to make them more functional. They also try to make than easy for novices so they will enjoy all the bells and whistles without quitting. I really should make some baby clothes for relatives and friends. People still like the old-fashioned details this kind of machine can create. It’s sad that handwork has bitten the dust, but women just don’t have the time, and the machine does it so well.

A week later, I took out my grandmother’s christening gown. It has been sitting in a drawer for years, and before that in my mother’s sewing room. It has the most exquisite crochet work you can imagine along the hem and sleeves. The bodice is all embroidered in ecru against fine white cotton. It’s stunning and I decided to recreate this look.

The Brother SE400 doesn’t disappoint. It has everything including an old-time grandma-like stitch and a simulated crochet one. Making the dress was the easy part. I experimented on some old sheets, and when I felt secure, I graduated to the real thing. It was really very pretty. I would never had the dexterity or patience to do it on my own. It was a good facsimile and ready to box and wrap for the next occasion.