Emma & Robert
* Sale now through October 6 only!
* Sale now through October 6 only!
This Singer treadle sewing machine was manufactured in 1912. I learned to sew on one just like this one when I was six years old. The first thing I sewed was my index finger!
In my early years I thought that Elias Howe invented the sewing machine; however, later I learned that this was not accurate. This is the history I soon learned about the sewing machine:
Then, in 1830, a French tailor named Barthelemy Thimonnier invented a machine that used a hooked needle and only one thread. His machine made a chain stitch similar to that used in embroidery. The machine was powered by a treadle and it worked! He quickly moved forward and secured a manufacturing contract for army uniforms from the French government. His enterprise was short-lived, however, because tailors saw him as a threat to their livelihood and they joined together and destroyed Mr. Thimonnier’s uniform factory and his 80 sewing machines.
Elias Howe secured a patent in 1846 for an American-made sewing machine. His machine created a lock stitch that utilized thread from two different sources. Mr. Howe had difficulty marketing his invention and defending his patent. One of those who adopted his mechanism was a man who would make the treadle sewing machine a necessary household item – Isaac Singer. It was portable, after all, and could be carried out on the porch or in a truck. Sewing could be done anywhere. I have a faded photo of my grandmother mending long cotton-picking bags with her treadle machine in a cotton field when she was in her early 20’s.
Cottage industries were birthed as women began sewing and mending for neighbors and friends. Shortly thereafter, electric machines came about. Many treadle machines were converted with a small motor attached.
A youthful customer came in the shop the other day. She uses her treadle machine every day and even rebuilds these antique machines for others. I keep my tiny Singer Featherweight (see above – these machines have a very interesting history as well) set up in the shop. These Featherweights are still popular with quilters due to their portability – they fold up and fit into a compact case. I use it often when I just want quiet security, and I offer students the chance to learn to sew on this machine. The stitches are very pretty and dainty, yet strong.
There’s beauty in simplicity. There’s something sweetly endearing about sewing on these old machines, the quiet click, click and hum. If you use one of these, what draws you to them?
Going through things and sorting is a never-ending task at the shop. Today I pull out a box of my old sewing supplies and decide it is time to purge and throw or give away that which I cannot use. Tucked away in this box is a tiny crocheted hat, about three inches in diameter.
“In my crown your thimble hide; in my felt your needle ride,” reads the carefully typed note pinned to the brim. In the crown is indeed a little golden thimble, and in the felt are two very tiny hand quilting needles (my eyes cannot begin to see the eye in this little needle). This little treasure was given to my Mammau, my father’s mother (who taught me to sew when I was 6 years old), as a remembrance from one of her friends in her sewing circle, and Mammau passed it down to me. These sewing women I met on occasion, and they were very sweet and thoughtful to one another. They cared for one another. They always welcomed me when my Mammau brought me with her to those gatherings. They taught me embroidery and hand-quilting.
These women all looked like Aunt Bee from the Andy Griffith Show. Hats and gloves were worn, but removed when they began sewing. Coffee was served in little demitasse cups, and always a sweet of some kind had me drooling.
I look at this little crocheted hat and think about the person that made it – the work and care they put into it – and I wonder where it will go from here. Who will care for it, protect it? I do not have the heart to part with it, although I will never use it because it is much too fragile. The next generation will make that decision for me.
What do you keep (or treasure, hoard or stash away!) even though you know you will never use it? Why do you keep holding on to it?
I love seeing how others deal with fabric scraps!
See this dress? Does it look easy to sew/make?
Every day in the shop a few people walk in and ask about sewing lessons. We get phone calls every day asking the same. I always like to get to know them, what their goals are, whether or not they have a sewing machine and we talk about their experience with mother, grandmother or aunts who may have sewn. Most students enjoy the conversation and can’t wait to dive into sewing. They realize that learning to sew is a process that takes time.
About once or twice a month someone walks in and asks to learn to sew because they have one thing they want to make. And they want to make it by next week. And all they have is a photo on their cell phone. This ambitious project is usually (but not always) something made from lycra and lace and very stretchy. Definitely not something a beginner will tackle in their first lesson.
When I tell these ambitious potential students about the learning curve involved in sewing, that they must learn how a sewing machine operates, how to thread it, and how to sew a straight line before they make their first item – a simple project like a pillow or tote bag – some decide they do not have the patience for all that. Some become intrigued and decide to undertake a series of classes regardless of the time it takes to learn. Sewing is not for everyone.
Five Things You Need to Know if You Want to Learn to Sew:
1. Take sewing classes. Sewing may or may not be something you enjoy. Start simple, and if you enjoy the process think about buying a machine.
2. Do not rush to buy a machine. I know several people who decided they were going to learn to sew and bought a machine that just sits in their closet. They did not enjoy sewing as much as they had hoped. Before you purchase a sewing machine, ask your friends that sew what type machine they use. Test out different brands of machines when you take lessons. Choose a machine that you are comfortable using. Never order a machine online unless you are familiar with the brand name and model and have some experience with that type machine. You may luck out and find one for sale on Craigslist or an estate sale. The more you know about how a machine operates and how to use it the more qualified you are to purchase your machine.
3. Gather the proper and necessary tools and have a box or tote to store them all in. Basic supplies can be purchased at reasonable prices. What do you need? Good shears in two or three sizes; thread in various colors; seam ripper; measuring tape; seam gauge or small ruler; iron and ironing board; straight pins; disappearing or erasable fabric marking pen/pencils; safety pins; sewing clips; thimble; hand-sewing needles; pincushion. There are many other supplies to consider later on.
4. Learn to do basic hand-sewing. Sewing on buttons, hemming a skirt, mending a pair of pants – all this will build your hand-sewing skills. All machine sewing involves hand-sewing in the finish work. YouTube has wonderful tutorials in just about any area of sewing.
5. Go easy on yourself. Take your time in learning to read and understand a pattern. Choose patterns for beginners or purchase a beginner sewing book that includes patterns.
Sewing is mostly a solitary process, but it doesn’t have to be. To really enjoy sewing, find a sewing community where you can learn tips and tricks of long-time sewists and quilters. Sewists love to gather and share projects and ideas. Sew social!
Call our shop if you’re ready!
Growing up we were a family of 10 living in the same household. My mother, father, 6 children, grandmother and uncle. We had no automatic washer so my mother and grandmother boiled all our soiled clothing, including sheets, towels and such in a tall, large pot on the stove.
Quilts and blankets were usually washed once a year in the bathtub.
A strenuous job any time, and especially in the summers in Mississippi. (No A/C of course) There was a long wooden spoon that my mother used to lift up the sheets from the pot and poke them back down and stir around.
She carried this heavy pot to the bathtub and poured the pot of clothes into the tub where she rinsed and wrung them out. This pot of wrung out clothes she then carried outside to the clothesline and she hung up each piece carefully, securing with wooden clothespins. Her hands sometimes bled from the caustic soaps.
As a small child witnessing this ordeal, I remember asking her why she cooked our clothes.
For things that were badly soiled, like my four brothers’ jeans, Mama had a scrub board she put in the bathtub and she rubbed the soiled items with a cake of lye soap. She also had “soap flakes” she put in the big pot – I assume these were flakes of lye soap. Years later, when we finally moved to a modern house and we had a washer and we ran out of Tide, she would still write “soap flakes” on her grocery list.
When I was about twelve or thirteen a laundromat opened 2 blocks away and every Friday night I would take a book with me and spend a couple of hours there washing our family’s clothes. I was the girl, after all.
We were not as concerned about having cute clothes, the latest styles, or even whether or not we liked what we wore. Having clean clothing was the luxury, with all my mother went through for us to have this. As usually is the case, I did not appreciate what she did at the time as much as I do now.
What do you remember that your mother did when you were little that you appreciate greatly now?
This is one of my paternal grandmother’s quilts, and it is over 100 years old. My Mammau. She was from Bayou La Fourche, Des Allmandes and Jacoby, Louisiana. I have no idea what happened to her other quilts but I am very pleased that this one was put in my care, moved from house to house, lovingly packed each time. The colors are still lovely, vivid and clear. The fabrics appear to be clothing remnants, flour sacks and such. The star patterns are not all the same design.
The backing is also interesting – I have not been able to identify what the textiles are. Loosely woven work clothing perhaps, faded whites and blues, and the batting layer is still intact and very thick. The entire quilt is quite heavy, large and of course it’s all hand-stitched. My Mammau taught me to sew on her 1918 Singer treadle machine.
I would love to try and duplicate her patterns in this quilt but the thought of all those little pieces gives me a headache. Ok, I love to quilt – just not with pieces this small. So how do I reconcile my love of quilts and quilting and my aversion to tiny piecing? Because I know how quilting and sewing can enhance a life, and even change one’s emotional perspective. It’s all about creativity and community.
Therefore, I want to join with Scott Fortunoff of Blank Quilting Company in starting the “Sewing Revolution of 2018”. In his most recent blog, he said the following:
If you say it more and more, people will believe it and they may venture to jump in. And in Scott’s words: “We cannot allow this great art to wither away and become a lost art” when it is so easy to embrace. “What is going to be your contribution to the Sewing Revolution?” Let’s do this and let’s have fun doing it.
Sew………. are you with me?