Wednesday, April 4, 2012


It all started with a horoscope.

I posted the whole thing in case you want to read yours :)

Do you believe in that sort of thing?  I don't, but my mom will call me everyone once in a while and read it from the newspaper when my horoscope is spot on.  Whenever you get one of those uncannily true horoscopes, it makes you wonder.  Of course, then you get a perfectly generic one the next day.  Are our personalities really determined by planets, stars and movements of the earth?  Who knows.   I've heard of crazier things.   Not that I'm going to start calling up Miss Cleo for life's difficult decisions or anything.

Anyway, this was mine the other day.

My mom pointed out that besides both of my grandmothers sewing their entire lives, both of my great-grandmothers were known as excellent seamstresses.

I got a little sentimental and I am definitely not one to get that way.  In fact, I've been accused of being totally unsentimental to a fault.   I felt just a little twinge of nostalgia.  Are my great-grandmothers really smiling at me from beyond?   Kind of a cool presumption, if you ask me.   That my love of sewing has somehow been passed down to me through generations.  Can be traced back to my roots.

I do realize that most people's grandmothers and great-grandmothers sewed.  Pretty much everyone knew something about sewing in the past.  It was a skill that mothers taught their daughters out of necessity.  I feel like it's only been in the last couple of decades that people don't know anything about how to use a sewing machine or even stitch on a lost button.

I can't tell you how many people say that when they realize that I sew.
You made that? I can't even sew on a button.

Which is usually followed by--
 Do you know how to hem pants?

If I had a dollar....

And you know they probably do know how to sew on a button.

Anyway, it's interesting to think about how sewing has changed over the last hundred years or so, specifically sewing machines.

I started thinking about how different the sewing machine my great-grandmother used was from what I use today.  Even different from what my grandmother used. 

As I was mulling over all of this, J came home and told me he spotted a neat, old sewing machine at a thrift store.  We frequent a few local thrift stores on an almost weekly basis.  We like to check in and see if they have any nifty furniture.  Although, at this point, our house is getting pretty full.  We started looking around because we needed furniture...

We went there to check it out together.  It was pretty beat up.  The veneers are peeling up at all the corners.  The decals are almost worn off.  The leather treadle belt was cut in three places.  It's definitely not in any kind of collectible condition.  But something said take me home

So we did.

 J said he would explain how to fix the peeling veneers.  He made sure to stress the fact that I would be fixing it, not him.  I smiled and nodded. 

We bought it on Saturday morning.  We put it in the living room.  Fiddled a bit with the broken belt.   I noticed J pushing down on the peeling veneers, eyeing them up and down.  I knew if I just waited a little bit longer....

I went and took a nap.  When I woke up, J had a whole veneer-fixing set up going on in the living room.  Clamps, scrap wood, glue, lighting....

He was hunched over, working on it.  Doing what he does best.

J works with wood all day long.  His day job is designing new products for a hardwood flooring company.  He works with paints and stains all day.  He mixes and matches color.  He can identify wood by it's grain.  He can do anything when it comes to fixing and restoring something made out of wood.

And he's Type A.

This is his horoscope from the same day.

I know his family will get a kick out of that. 

I tease because he's completely Type A while I'm the other type, whatever that is.

We're not planning on totally restoring it or anything.  Just fixing the most obvious damage.  I like the old cracked veneers anyway.

So, we are now the proud owners of a 1926 Singer model 66-4 treadle sewing machine.  It's actually the same model Peter wrote about but without the fancy decals.  He had the collectible model.  We have the model that's known as the one with the "boring dress."

The wheels turn smoothly.  The pedal works.  The needle goes up and down without a hitch.  And I noticed that the bobbin is full of new thread and there is a modern needle in it. Someone has used it recently.  I've already ordered a new leather belt.


And even if it doesn't get used (which I'm hoping it does), it makes a pretty entryway table.

It's a nice reminder of that smile from beyond.


  1. I love this post. Probably because I am a Cancer and looking at that very same horoscope " am drawn to those who are trying to go beyond themselves to accomplish, learn or share something. You belong in this group."

    1. Well, that must be why you are such a lovely sewist and blogger!

  2. Oh, just love this post! I should use my grandmother's old Singer next time I visit her... it's so pretty and it sews like a dream. And YES if I had a dollar for every time I've been asked about hemming pants... I'd have enough dollars to buy some new pants.

    1. What is it about old Singers? They were workhorses.

  3. What a great find! Score!

    I tell people that it costs about $9 to get their pants hemmed by an expert tailor on any corner in NYC. Every drycleaner has a tailor. It's cheap and they do good work...if I did it for you, your pants would probably get lost in my scrap bucket!

    1. I always tell people that I'm an amateur and they should ask a professional to do it. Of course I say it nicely. I'll do it for close friends, but that's it. I hate hemming!

  4. beautiful post!!

    i half expected you to say J found your great grandmother's named inscribed on some inside joint only he would have taken the care to look at in his fixing...

  5. What a lovely machine, great find! X

  6. I don't know which I love more, the find or the way you wrote about it---great score, and great post!

    We have several ancestral treadles kicking around---one that belonged to my husband's great-grandfather, and I know my one grandmother has her mother's and probably her mother-in-law's as well tucked away somewhere. Someday when I have a forever house I will ferret out one of them.

    That's awesome that it's in working order---the new belt should not be a big deal at all. I can't wait to see what you make with it. :)

    1. Thanks!

      I'm a little worried about getting the belt on right. I found a download of a manual for a model 66, so I'll have to read up.

  7. Beautiful story and a beautiful post. How could you not take that Singer home? It is a work of art.

    1. The ironwork on the cabinet really is beautiful. I like it just as a piece of furniture.

  8. Whatt a lovely and well- written post! And a lovely old sewing machine. I bet it´s going to work good as new once it gets a new belt!

  9. Ooooh! It's so pretty. I love the way you make these kinds of posts.

  10. Ha ha! I like this post! How inspired. And me too, I'm an aquarian is nice to think about my ancestors smiling at me from above....

  11. This is exactly the same model as my grandparents were using! My grandfather sewed rabbit hats on it! This is a good sewing machine to sew jeans, leather, and other fabric that modern machines can't chew!

  12. What a beautiful sewing machine!! And a lovely story to go with it :) You are right it does make an absolutely gorgeous table, but I am sure you will get it up and running in no time.
    Horoscopes are funny aren't they? I like them because sometimes they give me permission to feel less than fabulous, and not feel bad about it. This one here is telling me I need to rest. Ahh, yes, thank you!

  13. That´s a beautiful sewing machine (and piece of furniture)! I sewed on a threadle machine when I was in my teens. It´s nice that it runs quietly and without electricity :).

  14. I have a similar treadle and I love it. I've only sewn on it once, when my modern machine was in the shop, but I just love having it in my house for that connection with the past. And I am completely unsentimental as well.

  15. If you're going to have a piece of antique might as well be a sewing machine! And well-worn must mean well-loved, non?

  16. Love this post. And I can totally see J doing that. I know how he feels as a type A myself! :)

  17. A great post and great photographs. I found a 15-91 in a thrift store today with the bentwood case,and am debating whether to rescue it or not. After reading this I want it.

  18. Can I just add that I love this post? Kind of strikes a chord in me with how I feel regarding an "inherited" love of sewing and creating things by hand.

    ps, Also- the never ending hope that if I wait it out, my spouse will take the reigns on certain projects.