Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Family Treasure

1917 Singer Model 66 in unrestored condition
Cousin Beverly called last week with a sewing related question.  Then she mentioned that she needed to buy a sewing machine.  But before I could shout down the line "DON'T DO THAT!"*  she went on to say that she had an old machine but could not get anyone to come out and look at it.  Her house is way out in the country on the family farm land.  I guess my fame as a sewing machine repair person has not spread all the way out there.  So I told her that working on old machines is what I do for fun.

*friends don't let friends buy crappy new plastic sewing machines

I told her that I would expect her to sit with me while I worked on it so that she would know how to maintain it, and she was enthusiastic about that.  The girl is into vintage, like all right-thinking people are.

She inherited it from Aunt Beulah, a legendary sewing-person and quilt maker.  Beverly's mom has several of Aunt Beulah's quilts and Beverly is plotting to acquire some of them.  I can tell you that because her mom is not a computer person and not online in any way.  And I don't really think she means to break into the house in the middle of the night and steal them, just talk her into parting with some of them.

Aunt Beulah definitely knew how to keep a machine maintained.  When we sat down everything was turning, but stiffly.  A few drops of oil and she was spinning like a top.  But the real reason I know it was maintained well is that the screws on the needle plate came out easily.  This needs to be done from time to time to clear the lint out.  Most old machines I work on have lint packed in there like dense felt, and the screws are frozen with dried up sewing machine oil.

The drawers were full of treasures:  all kinds of attachments, the original manual, and a replacement leather belt in a cardboard case marked 80 cents.

A happy Beverly!  Treadling away like a champion.

We got it sewing in an acceptable manner, although the tension is a bit off and refused to be reset.  Ditto for the stitch length.  But it is making a strong seam and the stitch length is fine for almost anything.  I promised her a full spa treatment for the machine, irons, and cabinet some time next year.  Right now I am in the middle of an all-out restoration project on another treasured family machine which I will write about later on.

The hardest part of the job was connecting the plastic tubing with the tiny connector thingy.  I prefer this to leather as a treadle belt because it won't stretch and need to be redone.  I did give Beverly a choice since it does not look traditional, but she plans to use this machine.  And her granddaughter Kailah whom you have seen before in this blog here will be using it too.

Kailah using a Singer Spartan hand crank
In fact, Kailah spent a day with me earlier this summer and made a dress in ONE DAY, start to finish.  It was a longish day, and I took a nap in the middle of it, but we still finished it.  We shared the work, but she definitely did her half of everything, from laying the pattern out on the fabric, pinning, cutting, sewing, drawing the elastic through the casings, everything.

 She chose a poly-blend fabric from my stash and a pattern that I used often back in the 1960's and early 70's.

She wore it to vacation Bible school the next night.

if she was not destined to be a scientist, she could easily be a model.  but scientist is way better.

Pretty impressive for a ten-year old person, right?

So have you guessed what the family treasure referred to in the title is?  Is it Aunt Beulah's Singer treadle?  No, silly, it is young Kailah.


  1. Truly a treasure. A sewing scientist. I like that very much.

  2. How neat that she has such a memory of Aunt Beulah and she wants to carry it on and share it with her granddaughter!

  3. Dear D-Poodle! CUTE machine! Thanks for the tip about screws in the needle plate. I agree they need to be cleaned with the area under the needleplate at the end of every project! I've been working on a vintage Necchi with grunge everywhere (tears). Pray for me! Its starting to sing again. Your Kailah is definitely a treasure! With more practice and training, she'll probably out do us all! Thanks : )

  4. *friends don't let friends buy crappy new plastic sewing machines* Yes! Couldn't agree more!

  5. Model and scientist are not mutually exclusive. ;-) It gets better- this woman sews too.

  6. Passing on the families love of stitching! Great pattern. I remember that style well (shows my age).

  7. Very impressive. Look how sassy she is!


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