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.