I grew up surrounded by many elderly relatives, hearing stories of the old days. Their lives were reflected those tales; Lawrence Welk on TV, highballs in the evening, my uncle listening to baseball on his red plastic radio (turned up loudly for he was very hard of hearing). However, none of the women sewed. But if they had, I’m sure a 1947 Singer would have been their choice of machine.
Singer machines weren’t manufactured during the war; the company made weapons. Once back in production, machines weren’t available until 1947, which is where my husband’s family comes into the story. His dad’s mom and her sister ordered a machine, but had to wait until well past the end of the war to receive it. It came encased in a table, with a stool that served as a small supply cabinet by removing the top of the seat. That stool is also in use today; my husband keeps his jeans on top of it.
Learning the machine’s history brought me back to my older relatives; did they sew, and if so (ha ha), who was the seamstress? I don’t recall that ever being discussed, but one or more of them must have been handy with a machine. In my husband’s family, it was his grandmother and great-aunt who used that Singer, passing it down to my mother-in-law, who found it very handy well into the 1990s. And now, in 2014, that Singer, coming on seventy years of age, will once again hum with delight.
Yet, so much is unknown; who used it more, what did they make, besides clothes? What was it like, after so many years of waiting through the war, to receive that splendor of technology? We find it antiquated, what with only one straight stitch, but Singer didn’t introduce the zigzag until 1952. My mom remembers her mother with a similar machine, and she never used any other. Sometimes she would bring something to Mom, if it needed a zigzag. Otherwise she was completely happy with her old but reliable Singer, which is a concept mostly foreign to people today. Devices are used, then replaced, without second thought. But just a few decades back, when an item was purchased, it was expected to last.
Okay, maybe more than a few decades. Interestingly, when I researched sewing machines, Singer had very poor reviews. Other companies are now the standard bearers. But in the 1940s, a Singer was the ultimate in sewing style and sturdiness. I wish I knew what machine my husband’s relatives used while the war raged, but those women are long dead. However, a machine they coveted, and finally received, is waiting to be put to good use. In my recent sewing frenzy, again I haven’t called about getting it serviced. After Easter, I tell myself. And when my husband finds an appropriate replacement table for our printer.
In the meantime, I have my Magnolia, which is proving its worth. Yesterday I finished the Fat Quarters quilt-top (the Quilt on the Wall design), and today I’ll piece together the backing for it. Depending on how long that takes, I may pull out some 1/4″ loft batting, and cut a piece for my 53″ X 65″ top. I like Pellon batting, by the yard; I have four yards of 1/4″ loft and another five yards of 1/16″ loft stuffed into the closet here in the sewing grotto. But my need for a machine is purely for entertainment; I’ve gotten along just fine all these years without one. In 1947, two women were overjoyed to finally own the latest technological marvel. And sixty-seven years later, that machine is still purring like it was brand new.