Posted by: Brenda Kula | June 20, 2008

Old Sewing Machines

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I consider these the work horses of our ancestors. The ubiquitous Singer sewing machine.

As a quilter, I always coveted the small, durable feather weights. But they were hard to come by. Finally I found one about a year ago in a sewing machine shop where I went to buy a bobbin.

It was a tad expensive ($350), so I put it on layaway for a few months.

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To me, it has remarkable and lasting beauty. I’m sure it will be around long after I’m gone. But I know my daughters probably won’t understand the important heirloom I consider it to be. That there is no dollar sign I would equate to its worth. To them, it will just be a sewing machine, I’m afraid.

I shall have to remind them that this little dynamo is irreplaceable to me. And should they discard it or put it in a garage sale after I’m gone to the big garden of my dreams, I will most assuredly come back and haunt them for it!

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I know most people will not understand the beauty I find in a basket full of thread either. But it is always there when someone comes to me to sew a button back on or fix a ripped seam.

Do you recall a relative sitting down at an old treadle sewing machine? I do. My great-grandmother. I remember the way she leaned over it, straining to see the thread as she inserted it into the tiny needle hole. The soothing sound of the treadle and the clackety-clack-clack sound of the needle moving up and down through the material. The way the light was mirrored in the lens of her glasses.

Long gone memories, so intricately spun in the past that they’re barely retrievable now. Brought back whenever I stumble upon an old black sewing machine in an antique shop. 

Quilts and old sewing machines are part of my legacy. For to me, there is no better symbol of love than a plain, colorful quilt folded up at the end of the bed. Waiting for someone in need of its timeless and comforting warmth.

Or a dog who can’t have a photo taken without making sure she’s in it!

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Responses

  1. My mother had a beauty and old singer sewing machine, she gave it to my brother,not me … her only daughter!!(That hurt)

    BUT when she died I wanted and got her sewing basket full of thread and odd needles, ribbon bits , old zippers,buttons galore,etc.. I treasure that and I don’t think I can use any of it.
    I want it complete as is

    I also have my paternal grandmother’s 2 sewing baskets, one I had made for her when she turned 75 , she had added many treasures and one she owned since she was a young bride

    All I have of my maternal grandmother is her knitting needles, they are very precious to me.
    I do understand your thoughts on that old sewing machine and your attachments to it.
    Have a good weekend,
    Diane

  2. What memories you bring back for me! As a child, a tw-een, we lived in a rented apartment that had an old treadle Singer. It worked wonderfully. I remember sewing on it, and having such fun! And I love old spools of thread, too, although I have no idea as to why. 🙂

    Wonderful pictures, thank you! And your dear dog, too.
    CA

  3. Hi Brenda,
    Thanks for your sweet comments on my kitchen post today. I am really enjoying walking in there and going “aahhhh”.

    Hugs,
    LeAnn:)

  4. I have my great-grandmother’s Singer sewing machine. It is the only machine she ever had. My great-grandfather had it converted to an electric when he bought it for her (used). It is missing the pedal. I would love to find one to fit it someday.
    I also have my grandmother’s portable machine she bought in 1984 (the receipt was in the case) and I am determined to learn how to use the beast!

  5. I love old sewing machines too. I have a 50-ish Singer. It broke a few years ago and I thought well I guess I should just buy a new one….well I took a look around and decided to just take it in to be fixed and keep it. It works so nice and its sturdy. Not plastic. I will keep it forever too.

  6. Brenda, I can so relate to this! My mom was a seamstress for many years – made everything from wedding gowns to slipcovers. She taught me to sew when I was ten. I made all my clothes except jeans and sweaters, and most of my daughters’ clothes when they were little.

    I’d always wanted an old treadle machine, and years ago found a Singer in perfect condition in it’s original oak cabinet with the original finish, all the attachments that came with it, and even the instruction manual still intact. Everything works and is in perfect condition. I don’t sew much these days, but that old machine is a treasure I’ll never part with. I still love to open it up, dust it off and give it a spin every so often just to make sure it still works. Even my old Viking eventually conked out, but this 100+ year-old machine still works perfectly.

  7. Hi Brenda,
    What a beautiful sewing machine. I still remember my grandma using an old one and having to re-thread it and how it sounded 😉

    By the way, Sunday at 4:00 panini and Dr. Pepper. I should have known you were a Dr. Pepper girl (that was my Dad’s favorite). Just let me know what your order is sweets.
    xo~Tracie

  8. I don’t have any old sewing machine memories but I sure liked reading this post. Such wonderful sentiments & I loved your comment about going to the garden of your dreams.
    Such nice memories for you when you see an old treadle machine, Hugs, DebraK

  9. I love my old singer handcranked machine. I use it frequently. The electric machine is in the attic and the handcranked is front and center in my sewing corner. I never thought about anyone else having a thread basket. I have an oriental wedding basket full of my grandmothers thread. I have a little bit of here with me every day.

  10. very nice! My father-in-law tried to give me my mother-in-laws old vintage sewing machine after she died. I think it belonged to her great grandmother. We had just gotten home from the funeral… and I wasn’t thinking about sewing machines…So, I think I said, “thanks, but no thanks!” Looking back… I realize what a mistake it was. I wonder if I can still get my hands on it. 🙂 He hasn’t touched a thing in almost 4 years! xoxo, Joanna

  11. I love that. My mom has a few of those. I think she has a hard time passing them up when she finds them at flea markets!

  12. I have my great grandmother’s singer. I love it and I’ll give it to Annie when it’s time. She inherited my love for antiques. I’ll have to share the inside of it sometime on the blog.

  13. Btw, congrats on your award YOU deserve it 🙂

    hugs,
    rue

  14. Brenda, here is a link to a young man’s post about trying to sew. He is having problems. You might be interested in his post. His mom loaned him an old machine. His thread keeps breaking. I read through the comments – there are about 20. First he has trouble threading the needle. Then he thinks maybe the problem is with the bobbin. (He calls it “the bottom thread”.) He would like to sew, but can’t get the machine working correctly. His blog is called Daily Fusion; he is a member of Blotanical. I don’t know if it is something you would be interested in reading or not, but I did think of him when I read your lovely post that brought back memories to me. I enjoyed it very much.
    Daily Fusion CLICK HERE
    Hope this link works. Well, it didn’t. Seems this blog does not accept HTML in the comments. Oh well, guess it’s the thought that counts.

  15. Brenda, here is a link to a young man’s post about trying to sew. He is having problems. You might be interested in his post. His mom loaned him an old machine. His thread keeps breaking. I read through the comments – there are about 20. First he has trouble threading the needle. Then he thinks maybe the problem is with the bobbin. (He calls it “the bottom thread”.) He would like to sew, but can’t get the machine working correctly. His blog is called Daily Fusion; he is a member of Blotanical. I don’t know if it is something you would be interested in reading or not, but I did think of him when I read your lovely post that brought back memories to me. I enjoyed it very much.
    Daily Fusion CLICK HERE
    Hope this link works. Well, it didn’t. Seems this blog does not accept HTML in the comments. Oh well, guess it’s the thought that counts.

  16. Brenda, here is a link to a young man’s post about trying to sew. He is having problems. You might be interested in his post. His mom loaned him an old machine. His thread keeps breaking. I read through the comments – there are about 20. First he has trouble threading the needle. Then he thinks maybe the problem is with the bobbin. (He calls it “the bottom thread”.) He would like to sew, but can’t get the machine working correctly. His blog is called Daily Fusion; he is a member of Blotanical. I don’t know if it is something you would be interested in reading or not, but I did think of him when I read your lovely post that brought back memories to me. I enjoyed it very much.
    Daily Fusion CLICK HERE
    Hope this link works. Well, it didn’t. Seems this blog does not accept HTML in the comments. Oh well, guess it’s the thought that counts.

  17. Oh, funny, my Yorkie thinks every photo is of her too!


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