See this beautiful work of art? It’s mine! It’s all mine! Sit down and grab a cup of tea or whatever you prefer – I have a story to tell. It goes back to 1906 when my grandmother was born… My grandmother was a professional seamstress; people would come to her and ask for a suit, dress, etc. to be made and without using so much as a paper pattern, she would take their measurements, work with them regarding fabric and style and voila! The most beautiful articles of clothing you’ve ever seen would come from her sewing machine.
She and my mom owned a hat shop in the 1940’s on Main Street. One day, a tall gentleman stopped in the store to buy a hat for his mom – for mother’s day – and this handsome man took one look at the single, beautiful young woman working in there and the rest is history. They had a whole slew of kids, including me. Later in life, they owned a fabric store and I spent hours and hours and hours in there.
My grandmother owned 2 sewing machines; a Singer featherweight, and one of those heavy steel ones that would break a toe if you accidentally dropped it (that never happened but I’m sure it would’ve broken a toe). An excellent seamstress in her own right, my mom sewed many of our clothes growing up. I remember thinking how cool it was that my mom sewed well enough that people didn’t even recognize that my clothes weren’t store bought and I loved the fact that I always had one a one-of-a-kind dress, blouse, jacket, etc.
I told this to a friend years later who recalled her mom also sewed many of her clothes but it was because of their family’s financial situation and she was always embarrassed to wear homemade clothes. When I think back to that conversation, I still want to give her a hug and remind her just how very much her mom loved her, that she was able to stretch the clothing budget farther by making it herself.
Friends, I received a disheartening call about my workhorse sewing machine yesterday. The guy who’s had it for a couple of weeks called to say the part came in, and my machine still won’t run. And worse – he doesn’t know why which means he doesn’t know how to fix it. Upon more research online, the message suggests there has been an electronic failure which might mean that I’ll have to pick it up from him and spend even more time at the authorized dealer near me – where I should’ve started in the first place. You take chances in life; sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
I was coming to the slow realization that I needed a better option than my backup machine which eats fabric, takes random stitches to the left when I least expect it and in general is frustrating me. If I wanted to continue sewing, I needed something else.
My friend bought a Singer featherweight not long ago and all those memories of my grandmother’s own workhorse machine suddenly came back. I sewed on that machine! I knew it never gave her a moment’s trouble. But hers was long gone and so I did what I’m usually hesitant to do and I searched on Craig’s list. I’ve heard so many bad stories about experiences with that but staring back at me was a beautiful featherweight – and it had been available for a while.
I sent the owner an email – was it still available? Yes! She said yes with an exclamation point! I wrote back – awesome! Awesome with an exclamation point! And I’m available this afternoon to pick it up if you’re around. I countered with a lower price because she seemed eager to sell it and it was quickly accepted. Turns out, she lives just 10 minutes from me. She and her husband buy out storage units and then sell the items in it that someone has left behind.
In other words, I have no story about this featherweight. But I do know based on the serial number that it was built approximately around March 1949 in New Jersey. It came with the button-hole maker and original box, the original user’s manual, several bobbins – pretty much everything that was original to the box. The box that holds the sewing machine is slightly damaged but overall the machine is in great shape. And I tested it this morning and it runs like a charm!
I am so excited! A “new to me” machine that runs like a dream, at a fantastic price – and a lifetime of happy sewing memories of my grandmother and my mom. And some day I’ll give it to my own daughter. Happy mother’s day to all the moms, caregivers, and those of you are have held a role as a mom would to someone in your own life.
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Isn’t great to come full circle in your sewing history! It seems these Featherweight machines are truly work horses. May you two have a long sewing life together!
Thank you! I love how every stitch is just perfect when I sew on it.
I thought you might be interested in knowing that my first sewing machine, which I bought which I was fourteen. It had been converted from a treadle to a motorized with a Kenmore motor. It, too, came with accessories, some of which I still have not tried. Anyway, I made clothes on it for myself, my mother, my sister, my husband, my daughter, and myself–not to mention drapes, neckties, etc. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
What a great memory! I saw a Kenmore at an estate sale last month and almost bought it, just for the memories.
And for the rest of the story: When we lived in the Amish country in Pennsylvania, we bought a Wheeler & Wilson that was in poor shape but still had its treadle. My husband put that on my old machine; so now it’s back to its original design. Today a lamp sits on top of my machine tucked in its wooden case. It makes a nice accent in the foyer, in my opinion.
lucky you. I have a similar storey with my Memere (grandmother) she to was a seamstress. Still have the pattern adjusting templates that she made for tops. I’m not sure how to use them but ill keep them. I found myself an old singer for under 50 but I cant seam to get it to sew. But its just as beautiful as yours. thanks for sharing your story.
There are a few websites and Facebook groups dedicated specifically to the Featherweight that help people with issues like that. In my case it was a simple fix – I’d forgotten it threads right to left.
Thanks Texas ill have to look into them
I too enjoyed your story. Thank you rejuvenating this one at Tuesday Archivess this week.
How exciting Barb! That’s amazing that it came with all the stuff!
My Granny sewed on a heavy Sears treadle. I loved watching her!
She made her own patterns as well. How do I learn that skill??
Soak in the memories, and enjoy fuss free sewing again!
A friend told me today that Bonnie Hunter apparently sews today on a treadle. How fun is that! I keep thinking I’m going to try my hand at designing quilt patterns.
I need to go look her up then.
That sounds like fun, but I hate math, so it might not be so much fun as I think!
I just went to her site. WoW!! She is so far above my skill level, I can barely see her up there in the stratosphere!
Oh yes, same here! I would love to make one of her mystery quilts sometime.
That would be fabulous!
I love my Featherweight! I don’t do tons of sewing–mostly piecing for quilts–and I actually traded my Bernina, which I loathed, for the Featherweight. It is much more my speed!
Wow, that’s quite a compliment to the Featherweight! I remembered how much I liked sewing on my grandmother’s so it was an easy choice to make.
Congratulations! There is nothing more exciting than a good second hand score — I am a nut for garage sales and estate sales — will have to take a look at Craig’s list now….
I was very wary since the bad stories are the ones that always make the news. But it turned out to be completely legit and they were very friendly and honest people. Most people are, so I don’t know why I thought otherwise about Craig’s list.
That is an amazing lovely story about your family! I’m glad you had those amazing experiences.
Also, congrats on the new-to-you machine! She is a beauty!
Thank you – I appreciate it!
Wonderful story! Congrats on the new machine. Hopefully they figure out what’s up with your regular machine and can fix it quickly. 🙂
I think this guy was in over his head but didn’t want to admit it. I finally called him this morning and when he didn’t have any real progress made on it, I told him I would be by to pick it up over lunch. It will be a challenge to take it to my local dealer because he has so many enticing new shiny machines in there!
The memories this old machine must hold, dear T.Q.! I had one like this with the foot pedal and it was one which really could tangle up the thread if it weren’t tightly placed. I learned how to make skirts, jackets and hard patterns in high school on a newer version of this machine. One which folded into a cabinet. My Mom and I wore matching dresses in th e60’s to church and then, when I got older she would make dresses for my dolls to match mine. Mom still hand stitches from time to time in her 87th year of life. She is forgetful, dementia possibly but always kind and giving. She taught my girls how to sew, but both bring their hemming to ME! 🙂
Happy Mother’s Day and thanks for such wonderful memories! <3
How fun with the dresses! That is so great that your mom is still able to occasionally hand sew. My mom has late stage Alzheimer’s so she’s forgotten that part, but she really enjoyed it when she was younger.
What a find! It looks like one my mother had in the 50s. Those Singers are really good workhorses. What a treasure you have there.
I’m very excited to have it – it sews like a dream!
Looks great Barbara. I love that story! I would’ve loved to have known your grandma…..I LOVE hats! I have several vintage ones.
My machine doesn’t have the buttonholer, but I don’t think I’d use it because my other machine is like magic in making buttonholes. But if you figure out those other attachments, let me know!!