My Singer Story

I have very fond memories of learning to sew. I would have been around four years old when I learnt how to use a needle and thread and I was barely seven when I was first allowed to use my grandmothers old sewing machine.

I can remember sitting at the end of the kitchen table with my grandma’s big black Singer with all the fancy gold decals in front of me, slowly turning the hand crank and watching the tiny scraps of fabric being pulled through as the needle went up and down. Whenever my mother sewed I would go through the scraps to find pieces large enough for my “projects”. I made so many miniature sized cushions and bedspreads, stuffing them carefully with crumpled up tissues, making sure they were the right size for my dolls.

While I can remember that it was my mother who sewed clothes for us, it was my grandma watching over me that lingers so strongly in my memories. She was patient with me but never sugar-coated her opinions, I was making tissue stuffed rectangles after all! If I made a mistake she took the time to correct me,  showed me where I went wrong and then tapped the machine and let me get back to it. I don’t ever remember her being frustrated, with me or with that sewing machine. Both of us were pretty gutted the day we discovered it had gone missing from under the house. My grandma accused my mother of throwing it away, my mother pleaded her innocence and insisted someone had walked in off the street, seen it and thought they’d help themselves. I’m still not sure what happened to it- and twenty years later I still missed that machine. In a way I lost some of my memories and part of my family history the day that machine disappeared.

So I shared my story with Karl earlier this year.

I’d discovered a sewing forum with a dedicated thread for vintage machines and it brought all those old memories back to me. I told him how they were workhorses, how they cost half a years wages back in their heyday, how they were purely mechanical and almost impossible to kill. I’d had a quick look on ebay for any local auctions ending soon but there were none in my area BUT there was one in his. I sent him the link to show him what I was talking about and I remember him being slightly interested because of the engineering that would have gone in to them when they were originally produced. After sharing my story with him I was happy to leave my memories just as memories. I mean, I already had a modern sewing machine of my own, and I didn’t really *need* another one.

Karl moved up here in May this year. After doing the long distance relationship thing since 2008 he managed to get a transfer to my city and that made relocating so much easier. He turned up with half a car full of “stuff and junk” and we’re quite happily settled in now.

August was my birthday. I find birthdays anticlimactic. I look forward to my birthday in the week or two beforehand but I’m always so bummed out on the actual day. This year wasn’t much different- yes- I know I have a problem and that my behaviour isn’t normal- lol. The day went by and Karl kept asking if I wanted my present yet. My answer was “no”… then a few hours later it was still “no”… then mum came home and I felt a bit guilty continuing to say “no” so when he asked if I wanted my present I said “yes”. I was told to go wait in the study, so I did. When I was summoned to the dining room I was dragging my feet as I walked down the hallway. I didn’t want any presents I just wanted the day to be over and done with.

I entered the dining room expecting some brightly wrapped parcel with bows and string that you’re supposed to ooh and ahh over before they’re even opened. Instead- I was met with not one, but two, very neglected, splintered and peeling bentwood cases… and I realized what he’d done. The machine I had shown him so many months ago was on my dining room table and it had multiplied. I was speechless. I wasn’t teary I just didn’t know what to say. I was fixated on these two boxes in front of me, I couldn’t focus on anything else. I can remember Karl and my mum fussing about saying *things* but I can’t tell you what they said. Karl got one of the keys and opened up one of the cases… and there it was, a Singer 201k. My hand touched the wheel and I watched that needle move up and down just the way it had done when I was a child. It worked beautifully. They both worked beautifully. Housed inside those beaten up cases were two black beauties waiting for someone to give them the love they deserved. 🙂

These vintage Singer’s are probably the most meaningful gift I have ever received. Karl did more than just listen to my story. He wrote me a-whole-nother chapter.

Miss Thrifty aka Claire


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