Monday, February 27, 2017

I Miss That Old Sew-and-Sew, the Singer Treadle--and a Contest!

The old treadle Singer sewing machine hummed a lullaby when I was growing up. My mother sewed dresses, doll clothes, and ballet costumes with regularity. She even slaved over slipcovers for our sofa and stuffed armchair.

To me, that machine was the epicenter of magic. Every part of it, from the belts to the wrought iron scrolls that held it up, thrilled me. I don’t remember when or how she replaced it with an electric Singer. The newer machine was fabulous, but frightening, and it weighed a ton. The foot pedal on the electric machine had a habit of running away from you. Suddenly, your fabric would be zooming through the machine, and you’d fear for your fingers.

Today I used my new Singer sewing machine for the first time. I bought it four years ago.



Yes, that’s pretty silly, isn’t it? But somehow I found the new machine daunting. To open the box, to study the manual, to learn its secrets seemed like overload. However, I wanted to hem a set of old white curtains, because I was turning them into covers to throw over my armchairs. Nothing so fancy as my mother had done. Instead, I wanted simple, washable throws that Jax could leave his footprints on and I could remove and wash at will.

I considered hemming the pieces by hand. However, the size suggested I’d be sewing them for hours, if not days. Also, I knew that hand-stitching wouldn’t hold up as well as using a zigzag stitch on my machine. Reluctantly, I dragged the box out of the closet. The machine still smells like plastic. I removed the Styrofoam packing. The instruction CD had broken in half. No great loss, as the manual was fairly clear. I felt like Dora the Explorer as I tried to figure out how to thread a bobbin and then run the thread through the needle. And yes, the machine performed admirably.

That said, I wish I had my mother’s old treadle.


Am I alone in this? Have any of you ever felt daunted by a new crafting machine? Do you own a sewing machine? Where did it come from? Did it ever intimidate you?

One lucky commenter will win an e-book copy of Love, Die, Neighbor: The Prequel to the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series. (I'll choose a winner on Friday.)

24 comments:

Deb said...

I, too, get nervous when using a sewing machine for the first time! I have bought several sewing machines in the last 20 years, each time making sure they don't have any fancy buttons or stitches, unless it makes buttonholes! That I like!
Thank you for the giveaway.
debprice60@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I have my mother's sewing machine. I have never used it. Before I got this fancy machine, I had a portable one that I bought from a friend. I did sew many outfits in the early 70's. Later as a kindergarten teacher I made tooth fairy pillows for all my students. karen2850@charter.net

Susan Stahl said...

I got a Brother Dream Weaver machine several years ago. I was so afraid to use it but I kept the manual at my side to help me through. It also does embroidery which is another stressor. I still stress out every time I embroider something.

Jen Smith said...

How fun that you talked about this today! This weekend I pulled my sewing machine out of the closet (it is also in the box) to prepare for all the things I have decided I want to sew. I dug through tons of patterns that I have never opened and put them in an order I think easiest for learning... potholders, aprons, pj's and hopefully one day skirts. It does make me nervous thinking about going to the store for all the notions and fabric. Hopefully the ladies working there will help me out. Loved your post!
Jennyraye4956@gmail.com

SR Adamson said...

My husband persuaded me to buy a sewing machine (Singer Stylist) for a project I wanted to do and I was so nervous but now love it! I use it to make outfits for my daughter, endless cushion covers and curtains and more!
However he surprised me with a Serger for my birthday 2 years ago - it's still in the box, unopened, as I am scared to use it! He even bought me a class online to learn how to use it but I haven't tried it out yet!

LeighAnn Rebillard said...

I have my grandmother's old treadle Singer (that I've never used...it just needs a new belt) my parents old electric that's in a cabinet & my own Singer beginner model that in all honesty I bought you see on scrapbook pages, cards, stuff like that. It's in the closet. I'm not really a sewer.

Julane Crabtree said...

I own the treadle machine my great-grandmother bought so all the "girls" could learn to sew. My grandmother, mother, me and my sisters all learned on that machine. It is special as it is in a cabinet - you open the lid and the machine raises up - you rest the top on the door to the cabinet while sewing. I had it rebuilt as it went through two floods and it is now just beautiful. It only needs me to take a part to get it machine-made and it will run like always. I miss using it as I always felt I had more control when my feet set the speed of the needle! My "old Singer" was bought in the 70's and only has a few special stitches (zig-zag) and that's how I like it. Now that I'm retired I'm getting back to sewing and may just spring the cash to replace that one part so I can use that treadle machine again!

Pam Calvey said...

My 92,year old mother has two Singers, one bought in the 40s, and the other in the 70s. The older one still works better, but doesn't have as many fancy stitches. Both need tune ups now, and so neither of us sew. But when it's time to break up the household, I'd rather keep old reliable!. Funnily enough, I came across the receipt for the old Singer. My dad had to pay for it. I think they did a payment plan and wives weren't allowed to have credit, even though she worked before we were born.

Tricia Conner said...

My mom also had a Singer. There was a lever you pressed your right thigh against. I began sewing on it at age 8. In college I started out as a home ec/fashion merchandising major. The machines had foot pedals which intimidated me. At some point my mom replaced her Singer withstand newer model with the dreaded foot pedal. I have it now. Celia and I both use it. I still have trouble regulating the speed. Celia got the hang of it right away. I think it is whatever you start with.

Victoria's Place said...

I have a Singer too. I don't so that often, especially the last few years...so anytime I get it out, I get a little nervous.

Kitty said...

I used to have an old Singer treadle machine. I wish I had never sold it.I liked it better than the new electric machines!

Shirley said...

I have my Mother's Singer sewing machine, a 15-90. I made my first quilt on that machine. Now, I have much fancier machines but my Mother's machine is still my favorite.

Roxane said...

Yup. Just love going with the old stuff. That being said, Mom, Dad & brothers chipped in for a reconditioned Singer (with metal parts) for my HS Graduation gift MANY years ago. Love that machine. Mom's old Singer was electric. She was a teacher and got it in the 60's for $600, with her teacher discount! It was FANCY! It could do all sorts of embroidery stitches, put in a zipper, sew button holes....She made most of her (and my) clothing. (Not for the brothers, though!) The coolest thing ever was her making a cream brocade cocktail dress, with mink-edged 3/4 sleeves, and a matching one for my little 6-year-old self, and one for my Barbie! She could break that machine apart and put it back together and get it running so smoothly again. Can't tell you how many times I saw it in pieces, then her back at it, whizzing along. She told me her idea of heaven would be a room full of fabric and a sewing machine! My dying mother-in-law & I figured she was up there sewing the pink gown my mother-in-law desired! I came across a machine just like Mom's at a thrift store. It now sits in my dedicated sewing room. I can't break it apart (and put it back together) like she did, but it does hum nicely along when I want to sew!

Lisa Ansell said...

My husband bought me a new sewing machine last September as I had out grown the one I'd had for more than a decade. I was definitely intimidated, however the new bells and whistles are phenomenal! I love quilting on it and I can do the applique I love without missing stitches like the old one would do.

I recently purchased a new crafting machine that has interplay with my computer or on the cloud. Now that intimidates me so much that I haven't move it from the spot on my crafting table to load up all the cartridges I own. It seems daunting and I just don't want to go there yet...a bit ridiculous, but none the less....

Froggie said...

I hated sewing as a teen. Now as an adult I don't mind it. I was given my late Grandma's Bernette sewing machine. It has done really well. Been repaired a few times. Now it is starting to fall a part. My hubby bought me a Brother FS101. It has over 100 stitches compared to the other one. I'm not sure how I am going to go using it. I have about 4 sewing projects to do. That includes dolls clothes I want to make and hope I can understand the patterns better! Gathering up old jeans that are ready to throw out has now turned into a denim quilt. Some were turned into a baby's jacket many years ago. Recycling old jeans or material is fun.

Crafting of any sort can be made into a fun project. Whether it is sewing. Learning to use a new machine can be a bit daunting. Once you learn it will become easier each time.

ceblain said...

Last December (2015) my husband bought me a brand new fancy Singer pirtable machine. I had hoped that the one that I had owned and loved could be repaired after it started to only see in reverse!!! But it is difficult to find quality repairmen. So after a year I finally had to see some things that needed mending and it wasn't as intimidating as I had thought but I still get nervous filling bobbins etc. Can't see or mend much now due to cataracts etc but hope to teach my granddaughters the basics as I have done with hand sewing. Our nearly six year old loves to sew by hand so I am thrilled with that
I didn't get my mothers treadle machine but I swear that was what gave me stronger and shapely legs as a teen and young adult. Haha
I love the way people are decorating with the old Singers now. Look so unique in homes.
Loved your posting.

Cynthia Blain

ceblain said...

Sorry for errors in typing. My cataracts are really awful and I didn't notice that my fat fingers hit the keys next to them and not the correct ones. In places where it says see it should say sew. Sorry.

Becky Lee said...

We have 3 machines. An old Singer my mother had in college that was past down to me until she took it back because she couldn't figure out how to work the new Brother Disney embroidery sewing machine. We also have a serger that I use to sew an edge around my cross stitch Aida cloth so it doesn't unravel. The old Singer is the best of the bunch because it will sew through anything.

Nena Hanna said...

Yes Ma'am, I remember the whir of Mom's old Singer late into the night. She made almost all of my clothes and hers too. She started me on easy projects at about age 10, and then I had great teachers in Jr. High Home Economics classes. I sewed my way through college since fabric was cheaper than ready-made back then. Remember those hidden zippers that required the colorful plastic attachments? I've made men's 3-piece suits, but never could get the lapels to lay just right. Now I sew on a computerized Bernina Quilters Edition, but I'll always be grateful for learning on that old Singer.

Joanna Slan said...

I am so appreciative of all of you for sharing your memories. I seriously thought there was something wrong with me because I was intimidated by my new machine. Thanks to all of you, I realize, I'm normal! (Hurrah!) And I can't help but wonder if Singer would do very well to go back to the old treadle machines. Think of the exercise we'd get--and all of us loved those machines, in part because of the control we had. My new pedal keeps traveling across the floor. I think to get it to feel more secure, I'll need to tape it down. How do all of you keep yours from traveling???

Joanne Kocourek said...

Until the wiring frayed I had and used my Mom's original foot peddle Singer machine (also learned to sew using my Grandma's machine which was operated by moving your foot/feet in a rocking fashion (not electric). I love to sew! Before Children I made the curtains and bed set for the nursery. When younger I made a majority of my clothing and dresses for our daughters.. I miss those days! Replaced the old machine years ago. Our daughter now uses my machine to make dress clothes for our granddaughter and stuffed toys. This post brings back so many memories. If you place the foot pedal on a small rubber mat Simon at to a piece of Rubbermaid non slip shelf lining it will no longer slid away from you.

Pamela Hargraves said...

I learned how to sew on my grandmothers old treadle sewing machine. I loved that machine and just passed it down to my daughter. I do like my new machine but the foot pedal just moves around all the time and some times it just whisks away my material. My mothers first electric machine that I remember you would run the machine using your knee against an arm that came down from the wooden case. I liked that.

Amy Goodyear said...

They only intimidate me when the needle breaks. It sounds so scary.

Joanna Slan said...

Woohoo! Julane Crabtree, you won! Email me at jcslan@joannaslan.com and put SINGER in the subject line. I'll get you a copy of my book. And to all the rest of you, thank you so much for all the wonderful shared memories.

BTW, Amy Goodyear, I about faint when there's a loud crunch while sewing on my new machine. Turns out that if the bobbin isn't filled just right, it catches. Eyeow!!!