Monday, March 2, 2015


This was our wedding gift, sewn with love by my Aunt Betty in 1984. 
I believe that, until her final illness, Aunt Betty sewed every single day of her life. It was her great joy, and everyone in our family has an heirloom to remember her by. When she passed, my Aunt Betty left her vintage 1936 Singer sewing machine to my daughter Katie. I am lucky to be housing the beautiful machine until my daughter has a place in her home for it.

It's more than a little embarrassing, however, that it sat in our home for several years (I've lost track) before I finally got around to opening it up. That's partly because the drawers were so jam-packed with stuff that they wouldn't even close properly.

You know how some of us don't feel comfortable if we run out of certain staples in our pantry (diced tomatoes, flour, sugar, salt), well, I get the impression that Aunt Betty felt that way about her sewing notions. 

Thread in almost every colour of the rainbow, sewing needles in every shape and size, and bits of this and that -- rhinestone brooches, elastic, tailor's chalk.

After dumping it all out onto a large tray, I discovered that most of the thread was so old that it had lost its tensile strength, so I ripped off all the thread and now have a basket of wooden spools that I don't know what to do with. But they are beautiful, so I'll keep them. 

(I'm so much not a pack-rat like my aunt was, eh?)

Aunt Betty's sister, my Aunt Winkie, told me that Betty had, at one point, bought a new, fancy machine but didn't like it. So she stuck with her beautiful old machine, and I can't say I blame her. It is a thing of beauty, even when it's closed up.

When I first opened it, I found that it was in need of a little TLC.

All the steel plates were coated with decades' worth of grime.
But a little spit & polish brought it all back.

The adaptor on the presser foot is for knit fabrics.
And when my son opened it up to lubricate all the gears, we found this adorable little plate. On the back of the machine, where no one would even see it.

Why don't they make technology beautiful anymore? (I blame Ayn Rand.) Coincidentally, this past week, a friend posted this picture of a clothing shop in Notting Hill (yes, that Notting Hill) that lined its window displays with vintage sewing machines.

And it's not even a sewing shop! See more of Bronwyn's pictures on flickr.
On the one hand, it's cool that others appreciate the beauty of these machines as much as I do, but on the other hand, it makes me sad to see these excellent pieces of equipment going unused.

When I took the machine for a spin, I found that it worked like a hot knife through butter. So smooth. The thread tension (for those of you who sew) was absolutely perfect. It was loud, but it did the job flawlessly.

That got me to remembering my mother's old Singer machine and the little gizmo she had that sewed perfect button holes, with rounded ends. So I went to eBay and found one. For $3.99 plus shipping, I now have an attachment that eliminates my least favourite part of dressmaking. (The next most loathsome is putting in zippers; I suck at zippers.)

(Have you noticed that I use a lot of parentheses in my writing? I think it's an indication of ADHD.)

Well the box of gizmos arrived today. It looked like this.

Evidently, Customs decided to just slash through the packaging without a care to what was inside.
Fortunately, the equipment itself is undamaged, but I'm ticked off.

However, since I only paid $3.99 for it, and it still works just fine, it's not worth pursuing any damages. It's a little exercise in Radical Acceptance.

I'm actually looking forward to taking this thing for a practice run.

What about you? Do you have any family heirlooms that you actually use? In particular, do you have an old sewing machine that you use?


  1. Great photos. What a lovely machine. My mom had an old Singer in a wooden cabinet. It had power and could sew anything from dress material to binder canvas. Wooden spools bring back memories. They are collectors items now, I guess.

    1. Love those old machines. I'm sure this one could sew leather if I so desired. It's gear-driven, not belt-driven, so it's tough.

  2. it really is beautiful. I wish I had paid more attention in my Home Economics class so that I could sew things.

    1. I used to sew a lot, everything from bathing suits to ball gowns. But it got so expensive, that I haven't sewn in ages.


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