Sewing machines were a distinct part of my childhood, but I didn’t like them very much. Not sure why, other than they were things I didn’t understand, and fear of something tends to breed a certain loathing, easier to dislike what can’t be comprehended than to actually face one’s trepidation. But as I said in the last post, one quilting blogger stressed fearlessness when it came to confronting a sewing machine. So, somewhat fearless I have become.
Now, in regard to my mother-in-law’s machine, fear had nothing to do with me not wanting to use it. For one reason, it was employed as a table for our printer, and wasn’t readily extricated. Two, I wanted a modern machine, basic but functional. Who knew if that old machine even worked?
And three? Well, here is where vanity comes into it; I wanted my own machine. Or maybe that stemmed from the aged machines of my childhood, which confounded me and kept me from embracing sewing right off the bat. Whatever the combination of reasons, my husband was happy to oblige, an early birthday present easy for him to sort. (I have reminded him that roses of some kind would be a lovely addition to the celebratory mood, when my birthday actually arrives…) However, seeing the Magnolia on my desk day in and out gave him pause, and finally his curiosity won out. And, I’ll admit, I wondered what lurked under the laser printer, just two feet away from where I was starting to sew up a storm…
Our PC/Janome space is a small one, what used to pass as the dining room in our 1950s era home. First the printer had to be hefted into the living room, then the sewing machine and its accompanying table hoisted from the corner. Thankfully my hubby is a strong guy, and nothing (and no one) was injured in the process. We’ve had this table since the mid-1990s, but to be perfectly honest, neither of us had ever lifted the top of it to peer inside. All my husband knew was that it was older than he was, which would out-date my mom’s 1969 White. Other than that, a mystery waited.
Now I think back to that afternoon, ten days ago; since then I have finished the scrappy quilt, made a small wall hanging quilt for my sister’s stepson, and started my fat quarter quilt that has been lingering on my quilt wall for ages. But on the second of April, I was still sewing scrappy rows, uncertain of how quilting that ensuing project would go on the Magnolia. Within minutes my vista was broadened, for as soon as my husband pulled out the machine, plugged it in and found it still worked, I had quilt plans galore!
I couldn’t wait to machine quilt on this 1947 Singer sewing machine.
A moment needs to be taken to start to appreciate this treasure. It has been set aside, first in proper storage during our England years, then used as a printer table for the last seven. This machine hasn’t been used in over two decades, and the last thing my mother-in-law made on it was probably a baby blanket for my youngest daughter. Oma doesn’t remember, and of course we have no idea what that final project was, but that’s a fairly firm guess. The machine still had a bobbin in it, of rust-coloured thread, and as my husband poked at it, we found the light even functioned! The only bug seemed to be the missing knee pedal, although the motor could be engaged by pressing in the lower right corner of the table, where the knee pedal should have been. Both my husband and I vaguely recall that piece floating around, of course, we’re not sure where or when. That level of detail was ethereal, as we ooh’ed and ahh’ed over the heirloom taking up most of the space in our work area.
Now, to fully realize the gist of this find, I have to note that not only were we ignorant of the value of this machine, but of the story behind it. Was it his mum’s, or did it belong to his dad’s mom and her sister? We would learn the answers to those questions in due time, but another popped into our heads; could someone local service it, could we resurrect it to its previous single straight stitch glory? I regret to say that I’ve been too busy to yet make calls to sewing places here in Silicon Valley, and due to space constraints, we have put the Singer back into its corner, and replaced the printer atop it. But a beating heart throbs from under the weight of that modern printer, calling to me to restore the Singer to its former glory. And then to set fabric under a (new) needle, a fully loaded bobbin yearning to release thread into the lower piecing of a future quilt.
All things in good time, which include the rest of this tale. Who initially owned this 1947 Singer, which was the first year the company produced machines after the end of World War II? More on that in the conclusion of this series…