Ok let me explain…no there is too much, let me sum up…. you know how a man see’s Vanishing Point and gets a mad passion to own a 71 Dodge Charger? and then drags one home from the junk yard to sit in the yard…all you see is a rusty lawn ornament and all he sees is a 440cc sexy beast? Well it’s like that. Okay I better explain.
I learned to sew on a treadle with a too loose leather belt, at the Kane School Lawrence Mass in 1976. I made an apron. Like everything else I am not a great sewist. I like having the skill and tools at hand when a project comes around. On and off I have had various machines, that worked at different levels of aggravation. But all along, all I ever wanted was a manual one. As with kitchenware I found that the fewer parts, electrical or otherwise, the less that can go wrong and the easier it is for me to maintain it.
Right now in my stable I HAVE a 1962 Singer 604 which I have grown very fond of. From what I understand this 600 series may have been the last model with completely metal innards. Which means, there is very little that can go wrong, if I don’t drop it out a window or leave it in a moist basement. I also picked up a 600E which will do a zig zag which I found I HAVE to have if I want to follow modern sewing patterns, which assume that you have one. (They don’t give you enough seam allowance to do French seams, so you end up having to rejigger your pattern…it’s a whole big thing.) That one is in the shop because it needs a little TLC and I didn’t want to experiment on it, since I NEED it to work and not just sit in pieces on my counter top.
The Singer treadle is an iconic machine, it basically change people’s lives and civilization over the entire planet, like the rotary egg beater and the Universal food grinder. Hours of women’s lives were reclaimed for them to do OTHER THINGS. This design was made for DECADES, a lot longer than you think. Then they just rejiggered the treadle models, by sticking an electric motor on the outside. Singer repainted and electrified and resold it to a new home. Seems an ideal way to recycle and remarket machines so that every home could have one. Which is the 1916 machine I bought for very low money last week.
Over the decades, I have had many chances to put my hands on one, but they were all too rusty, too broken, too expensive, too too many things. Mostly too unnecessary. a luxury that I really don’t NEED to own. But I’ve reached that point where if I don’t start ticking things off my bucket list, then I may as well set fire to the damn list.
This 1919 Singer has all its extremities: no one has painted it to match their shabby chic decor, no one has taken the iron base to make a glass topped table, no one has left it in a barn to rust and rot for decades, and cause the shellac to take on that alligatoring effect. I don’t know where it’s been but it’s got a thick coat of what I think is woodstove soot, and the expected sticky oily dirt and attendant dust bunnies; all inside my wheelhouse to address. It was also well within my mad money/birthday/Christmas present spending limit. In fact both century old machines added together only cost about HALF of what this machine in this condition should cost.
So she’s a completely self-indulgent purchase. But she makes me smile when I look at her. And I predict many hours of satisfaction, cleaning each little bit of all the previous decades off her surface to reveal the machine underneath. And maybe she will tell me her name.