Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Singer

I love antiques. I don't love them for their monetary value, but for their historical value, the idea of where they've been and who has used them. I love what they stand for: an earlier, simpler time, a time when things were made to last instead of to be replaced when a new model was available. Most of the antiques I have, I use. My cheese grater is the old box metal variety, made before 1940. When my (newfangled) pastry cutter fell apart when I was making biscuits, I remembered there was a perfectly good old wire one hanging on my wall. I have and wear aprons made as early as 1910 - they still wash and wear beautifully. Old canning jars line my counter tops, storing dried fruits, spices and seasonings.

Two days ago, my aunt gave me an incredible gift:

Her fully operable antique Singer sewing machine. The serial number and a bit of research tells me it was produced between 1913 and 1915. It's in amazing shape, when you consider the fact that it's nearly 100 years old. Of course, it's also cast-iron - it won't be wearing out any time soon.

Of course, I couldn't see any good reason not to use it.

Have you ever tried sewing on a treadle sewing machine? It's sort of like riding a bike and sewing at the same time. Or rubbing your tummy and patting your head, with your feet rocking the treadle while your hands guide your fabric. It certainly takes some getting used to. I managed, though, after looking up some tips and hints on the best way to use it.

Sewing my first seam was thrilling. Sewing my first straight, neat, even seam (about 20 tries later) was even more thrilling. Now that I've (mostly) got the hang of it, I can't find too many reasons to go back to electric sewing. The treadle definitely gives you more control over every stitch. Of course, there is the fact that it lacks a zig-zag. And a button hole option. And the other 40 fancy decorative stitches that my electronic one does. But for most sewing, I think it's perfectly feasible to use this one. I like that it is quiet, that it fits conveniently in my living room, and that it doesn't need to be set near a plug. Mostly though, I'll use it because I just love the idea of it altogether.

Of course, since I figured it out, I've been sewing obsessively. Which is nice, considering I haven't been in the mood to sew for months. I made an apron:

Smock-style, copied from a vintage one I bought at a yard sale, but altered to fit me a little better. For good measure (and because I couldn't decide on fabric) I made it reversible:

After that, I felt a little more confident in my ability to really control the machine... but only a little. So I made another apron:

Sewing all that bias tape around all those curves on a treadle sewing machine? Not the easiest thing I've ever done, but maybe the most tedious. I almost gave up, until I reminded myself that a good housewife in the early 1900's could make an entire Victorian gown on one of those machines, so there was no reason I couldn't manipulate a bit of bias tape.

This one is "The Waldorf" from the book A is for Apron by Nathalie Mornu, with my own hand-drawn pattern because I didn't want to pay to have the one in the book copied and enlarged. I'm giving this one to my aunt, as a way of thanking her for the machine and letting her know it will certainly be used.

And then I'll go back to the fabric store, because making aprons on a treadle sewing machine is apparently quite addicting, and I'm pretty sure I don't have enough aprons yet.


Anke said...

Your swing machine is gorgeous!! What a fantastic gift to receive from your aunt. The aprons you made with the machine are beautiful, and how sweet that you will be giving one to your aunt.

Dani said...

You can make me an apron if you are addicted! :) I'll pay you for it, even. ;)

Dani said...

Oh, and that sewing machine is GORGEOUS!

Joan MIller said...

Loved this blog also. So sad that i don't have my mom's Singer treadle machine. Your aprons are sooo cute.
Your determination to conquer the bias tape is awesome!!! Love you,