Singer Treadle Machine 1912
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:
- 1804: Thomas Stone and James Henderson receive French patents.
- 1804: Scott John Duncan receives a British patent.
- 1810: Balthasar Krems of Germany invents a cap-sewing machine.
- 1814: Josef Madersperger, a tailor, awarded an Austrian patent.
- 1818: John Doge and John Knowles invent the first American 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.
Singer “Featherweight” circa 1933
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?
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!
The creative team at Uptown Needle & CraftWorks
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YOU’RE INVITED: Don’t forget the Magazine Street Champagne Stroll on Saturday May 13, 5pm-9pm. We will be open!
The Frannie Baby
dress by Children’s Corner has to be one of the cutest baby and toddler dresses ever designed. Summertime COOL! Make it and let Kate monogram it for you! And, we have a workshop coming up!
Calling all knitters! Bring friends! Help us make “knitted knockers” for breast cancer survivors who need prostheses, 3rd Sundays.
May 21, 4pm-6pm.
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We’re with you every step of the way.
|The team at Uptown Needle & CraftWorks thanks you for supporting our funky little shop.
Emma, Robert, Kate, Hannah, Kit, Meredith, Jennifer, Rebecca and Grace (our shop dog) hope to see you soon and very soon.
UPTOWN NEEDLE & CRAFTWORKS
4610 Magazine Street
New Orleans La 70115
What? Only March?
Those of us who are “makers” know that every day is craft day (or we wish it were so). A friend, Lisa Craig, re-introduced me to the fine art of hand embroidery. Long forgotten stitches reappeared across the screen of my brain: chain stitch, French knot, lazy daisy and even the fun feather stitch. Yes, I did have to google these to remember how to do them.
I’ve been wanting to make some pattern weights for a while now and I found a sweet pattern for tetrahedron weights made from cotton fabric and filled with rice at Sachiko Aldous’ blog, Tea Rose Home. I tried a few from her instructions; however, these were not weighty enough for me. So off to the Big Box I went to look for weights. First I looked at fishing weights, but those are made of lead and I felt they were unsafe. Also a little pricey. Especially compared to rice. Next I looked at old fashioned Daisy BBs. Brought back memories of my brothers shooting squirrels with these, but I digress. Also cost more than rice, but the best alternative for weight, I believe. I purchased two heavy packs of steel BBs, got some strange looks from folks in the checkout line. I imagine they were wondering what this mammau was going to do with 12,000 BBs. (Okay, so I’m a little compulsive.) I’m happy say it was not necessary to use the retorts that quickly came to mind – and believe me, I had several imaginary stories ready.
But back to the real story here. I cut my little triangles out of wool felt because I wanted to try my hand at simple embroidery on these. My French knots look decent, but my chain stitching needs practice, after all it has been over 40 years since I’ve embroidered. In celebration of National Craft Month I made the entire set of 6 with only hand sewing.
They are filled with steel BBs and are weighty enough that the pull of scissors cutting on fabric will not easily move them from placement on a pattern. And who will know they are filled with .177 caliber steel airgun pellets. I think they turned out beautifully, don’t you? No more pinning patterns for moi! And I have enough BBs to make more sets for my sewing friends! Wanna try your hand at a few? All begins with 3.5″ triangles, fold each end up to the center, press and stitch. And use 100% wool felt. There’s nothing better. So celebrate! Make something, and send me a pic!
Posted in creativity, embroidery, Hand sewing, New Orleans, patterns, sewing, textile art, Uncategorized
Tagged embroidery, hand sewing, pattern weights, sewing, Uptown Needle & Craftworks
Have you ever experienced someone crossing your path and you knew at once it was divine intervention? A few weeks ago, a woman was walking past our shop on Magazine Street and she made a sudden decision to go inside and look around. That woman was Claire Koch. She saw the beautiful fabrics, and she told me the touching story of her daughter’s experience with ‘heart pillows’. Within that conversation we developed an idea, and within minutes we had a plan. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, February 20-22, we will have a “Heart-a-Thon” and sew as many heart pillows as we can. More details below. But first, Claire’s story – so appropriate for this Valentine’s Day: “My daughter was born 6 weeks early during a hurricane evacuation. But that was not the shocking news for me. It came when the doctors told me something was very wrong with her heart and she would need surgery. My baby had her heart “fixed” at four months of age. It was not lost on me that I lived in a country where the best health care in the world was provided to my precious baby. I made a deal with my God: if he made sure my baby recovered I promised to one day help other children. That was the beginning of my 16-year journey to this point. Once my daughter began to grow up and become more independent, I started to look for organizations I could join to help other heart children. I had a difficult job finding the right organization that I felt used the funds completely for the kids, and one where I could be a volunteer for as well. Until I read about HeartGift in the newspaper. HeartGift in a non-profit organization dedicated to providing lifesaving heart surgery to children from developing countries where access to specialized medical care is either scarce or nonexistent. Participating pediatric physicians donate 100% of their time and talents and HeartGift assumes all other financial obligations for the child and mother. The only thing the families are responsible for is seeing their children grow and flourish. HeartGift has five chapters in Texas and one here. We could not achieve our success without our partnership with Children’s Hospital here in New Orleans. I have been with HeartGift since 2011 and have seen 20 children through the surgery and recovery process. I have been at the airport welcoming a weak and frail child, only to watch that same child return to the airport 5 weeks later to run past angered TSA agents. But it is the courage of the mothers that gets to me each and every time. These mothers leave their villages and countries for the first time and make long trips to New Orleans to seek help from complete strangers in a foreign land. They hand over their child to us. It is amazing to see the hope and trust in their eyes. While I have spent many hours in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) I have noticed every year we see a few heart shaped pillows arrive for the patients. In the past, a local Boy Scout troop made twenty or so pillows for the kids each year.These pillows do not just brighten up the room but proved to be more effective to use than a regular pillow to press against a child’s chest post-surgery when a child starts to cough. Coughing is normal post surgery, but can be extremely painful. The nurses use a pillow to press into the child’s rib cage to help cushion the child’s ribs as they cough. I happened to meet Emma when I was walking down Magazine Street. I am so excited she has offered to do a “Heart-a-Thon” to produce needed pillows for all the children in the Heart Center of Children’s Hospital. Currently, there are 22 beds in the ICU. Many of them are filled with little babies who do not need the pillows, but the kids who are two and up, as well as teens, could sure use some of your loving handiwork! The pillows will be a valued dearly by the children recovering from heart surgery, their families and the staff of the Heart Center at Children’s Hospital.” Come join our “Heart-a-Thon! Uptown Needle & CraftWorks will donate fabrics. Clair has already purchased fiberfil. Now we need you – to cut out hearts, sew, stuff, and hand stitch – for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour of your time on either of the days above. We will have sewing machines set up, fabrics and scissors at the ready. Experienced sewists needed to come and assist! You will be glad you did. February 20-22, Friday and Saturday 10-5pm, Sunday noon-5pm. Below are a few pictures of some of the kids HeartGift hosted last year. You may get in touch with Claire Koch at Claire@ClaireKoch.net. Learn more at HeartGift.org.
Posted in charity, childhood, creativity, Heart, New Orleans, sewing, volunteer
Tagged Children's Hospital, Claire Koch, heart, Heart Center, HeartGift, pillows, sewing, Uptown CraftWorks