Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Old School" of Necessity and Choice!

Today, I entered a giveaway. I usually don’t, either because the giveaway is not something that especially appeals to me, or the chance of winning seems pretty slim. But today, I entered Heather Bailey’s three year anniversary contest.

I would love to win some of her fabric, but that is not why I entered. She asked, “What was your first sewing project?” Usually, I am a little vague on when things happened (or where, with whom, etc) and I consult my ‘life-ipedia’, Dearest Sister, for confirmation.

But the answer to Heather’s question came immediately to mind! This was my first sewing project!

The year was 1965, I believe, and DS was busy sewing up a storm in the kitchen/sewing room. (My mother always felt that sewing was an equal priority to eating!) The 4-H fair, style show, etc was coming up and DS went on to win a purple ribbon for her efforts. (You can read that story here). I believe Mama may have been the 4-H sewing leader. My memory is of lots of people sewing up a storm in our house.

But not me. I was not old enough to be in 4-H. I was a bit bent (chapped, frustrated, left out, resentful, etc.) about it, so I went upstairs to the attic. My mother had a treadle sewing machine that was in the attic and I decided that I would use it to make a patch-work apron. (Why an apron? I guess I sat through enough 4-H meetings to know that everybody made aprons when they started sewing.)

I don’t recall where I found the fabric but there were always sewing scraps in the house. Some of the fabrics I recognize as leftovers from clothes that I wore, others were probably from things Mama made for herself or others. So, until the bobbin ran out, (winding a bobbin was a skill that came later!) I sewed up a storm by myself on the Singer Treadle.

How do I know it was a Singer? All my mother’s sewing machines were Singers! Growing up, I really didn’t think there was any other brand of sewing machine.

The end result was pretty wonky, and really, wool is not the best fabric for an apron, but it was my first sewing project.

My most recent sewing project was also on a Singer treadle machine. I bought this machine about six years ago.

Ms A was home for her college break and we were all stoked up for a day of estate sales, but Saturday came with a winter storm that dumped about 8 or 10 inches of snow. We were undaunted, but disappointed since we found sale after sale closed due to the weather. Finally, we found a sale that was open.

To our delight, the buying public had stayed home, for the most part, and there were treasures and they were bargains! As I recall, we found mid-century melamine dinner wear with glass tumblers to match and beautiful handmade quilts. And this machine. It was marked $120, but everything was a third off. I admired it, but passed, thinking that The Mister would surely ask, "Where are you going to put that?" and I really couldn't think of an answer. After we had paid for our purchases and loaded them in the car, I went back and offered $60 and bought the machine.

For a long time, it lived in the garage and when we moved to the desert, it came with us and took up a position in the new garage, covered with a tarp from dust and elements.

I have had a couple of sewing machines over the years. They were hand-me-downs from my sisters who were upgrading. The last one was a machine that Deeply Missed Sister traded S&H green stamps for. It never kept the tension without lots of intervention and when we moved, it was donated to charity.

Two years ago, I told The Mister that I would like a sewing machine for Christmas. Since he always takes me at my word, there was a new machine under the tree. It was a Brother and before I opened it, I did a little research on-line and found consumer satisfaction with it was mixed. I decided to see if the treadle machine might suit my rudimentary sewing needs and I returned the new one.

The Mister brought the Singer in the house, and I cleaned and oiled it and tightened the belt and it runs smooth a can be!

I emailed the serial number to the good folks at Singer, and found that it was made March 31, 1891 in Kilbowie Scotland.

I purchased additional bobbins and a spare shuttle on ebay and made an ‘oiler’ from some wool felt. I bought a reproduction manual from the Singer Company, but found another resource in this book that I already had.

It was printed in 1922...

... but there hadn't been many changes in the previous 31 years, so it was very helpful!

My sisters are all much more accomplished seamstresses than I am. I have never put in a zipper, or a buttonhole. Why would I need to when Wisest Sister was so much better at it than I? Or when there are elastic waists and ribbed necklines? I sewed for Ms A when she was a baby (babies don’t mind elastic waists and ribbed necklines…), but most of my sewing has been craft related.

A straight stitch is really all I need. And this machine makes a lovely straight stitch!


Martha said...

What a great story, and I love it that you've kept that apron all these years. Your Singer is beautiful and I also love the cabinet. My mother owned two sewing machines in her life -- both Singers, of course.

Anonymous said...

What a great story! I remember that you always felt you were the same age as DS, but swimming lessons, 4H and some other organizations were immovable about age requirements. Now, of course, it doesn't matter, does it?? Love, WS

Iron Needles said...

I remember HAVING to sew, while you got to do all sorts of fun things with the kidz in the 'hood.

Also, re: WS comment. It matters not one whit who is older! At least not to me.

Allie said...

Amazing story! I love your apron, such determination. I adore your sewing machine - just think, if you lose power, you can still sew! I need one now too, lol!

Lynne said...

This was just a lovely story! I can picture you running up the attic stairs in a big huff, ready to show everyone you could sew too. So cool that you kept the apron all these years.

And that Singer! Wow, just gorgeous to look at and mind boggling that it still works great (with a little help from you that is).

If it makes you feel any better, I can sew even less than you. ;) We brought home my mom's sewing machine after her death (Can't remember what brand it is) but I'm not sure I even know how to thread the bobbin and all that anymore.