Everybody knows the old foot-powered treadle models are considered antiques, but unless you've sat down at a sewing machine lately, you might not realize how far they've come since your high school class in home economics.
"All my sewing machines are computerized," Payson resident Gina Perkes said. Perkes is a 26-year-old mother of three who just took third place in the Sulky Challenge, a national sewing competition sponsored by the decorative thread company of the same name.
But Perkes, who won for an intricate and ornate jacket she crafted without a pattern, said computerized sewing machines of which she owns four don't just run by themselves.
"They have a touch screen that you basically use to choose your stitch and set your adjustments," she said. "The rest you still do with your hands."
Perke's inspiration is her grandmother, Arlene Logan, a professional seamstress who also lives in Payson. Despite being a grandmother, Logan, too, works on computerized machines.
"She's been a seamstress for about 50 years," Perkes said. "She taught me how to sew when I was 13."
That was back in Antelope Valley, Calif., where the family lived before moving to Payson a few years ago. Perkes' father owns Jeff Vaughn Homes, and that's where her husband works.
For Perkes, sewing is partly a hobby and partly a way to express herself.
"People seem to think that sewing saves money," she said. "You don't sew for that reason, because it always ends up being more expensive especially when you factor in the cost of the machine. I do it as an art form. I call it textile artistry."
Even though it's more expensive, Perkes does make some clothes for her 6-year-old daughter.
"I do it for the better quality and for the originality of the item," she said.
Her two boys, 15 months and 3 years old, respectively, are a different story.
"I like to do frilly things, so boys are no fun to sew for," she said.
Besides shopping at fabric stores in the Valley and at Wal-Mart, Perkes buys a lot of her material at The Quilters Outpost.
"They carry a pretty good selection of fabric," she said.
Perkes also makes quilts, many of which end up hanging on the wall like a fine painting. And she picks up a little money on the side, assembling the three layers of quilts.
"I have a long-arm quilting machine. People bring me their pieced quilt tops and I put them together with the batting and back fabric to complete their quilts," she said.
For her third-place finish in the Sulky Challenge, Perkes won $800 worth of sewing products, and her jacket will be on tour all around the country for the next year. She plans to catch up with it in Houston.
"It will be on display at this big international quilt festival there in November, and I'm going to be there," she said.
Perkes said she hopes what she has accomplished will inspire others to sew.
"A lot of people think they can't sew because they don't have time," she said. "Because I have three children, all of my sewing is done late at night from 8 p.m., to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m."
That's how her husband came up with the title for her prize-winning jacket "Another Sleepless Night."
"All the entries have to have a title, and he thought that would be pretty appropriate, especially because I had to stay up real late the last night to get it done," she said.
Perkes said that sewing makes her feel good because she's accomplishing something, and that may be the most important benefit of all.
"My grandmother likes to say, 'Sewing is cheaper than therapy.' It keeps you sane."