To me, there is something incredibly romantic about a beautiful old sewing machine. When I look at them, I usually see a few minor dings here and there, or sometimes a few major ones…and I think to myself, “Oh, the stories you could tell.”
First of all, who had the pleasure of bringing you home from the store, opening your box, and running his or her hands over you for the first time? Were you a gift, a splurge, or purely purchased from the need to make clothing, warm quilts, and decorations for the home?
I also often wonder, when I come across an old machine for sale, why on earth someone else in the family of the person who owned you originally didn’t keep you. You were rejected and “kicked to the curb” by someone who probably didn’t sew, or had a fancy new machine and didn’t need you taking up space. I feel a little sad for you, and I want to rescue you and take you where you will be shined up, loved, and appreciated.
Some old machines are probably discarded because they are in ugly cabinets that are out of date and perhaps in bad shape with water stains, scratches, etc. The thing is, what is in style always comes back around. For example, those “ugly” mid-century style cabinets are actually back in vogue. If you have one that you want to sell, just find a millennial. They are all about the mid-century look.
Some old machines are just too heavy to be portable. Today, with the classes we take, sewing days we attend, and retreats we go to, we just can’t lug around a 50 pound sewing machine. Perhaps that is why the most sought after vintage sewing machine is the Featherweight. They only weigh 12 pounds! They have a beautiful straight stitch, and are perfect for carrying to class or retreat.
While Featherweights at 12 pounds, and even the 301 or 301A at 16 pounds are perfect to take out of the house, those old workhorses, like my new Nelco, are better left at home in their original cabinets waiting for the next time we decide to use them for some heavy-duty sewing.
These machines from the 20’s through to the beginning of the 60’s are all just so unique. There are lots of colors, which I love, and the body styles are generally more sleek and attractive to me. I just like to look at them. Even if they aren’t being used, they look beautiful sitting on, or in, a bookcase in your sewing space. If space is limited, why not pick up a child-sized machine or two? They are purely decorative, though many of them still work, and add such an air of whimsy to your space.
These old girls ( call me sexist, if you will, but I think of them as girls) are adopted, tested to see how they run, and given names. They are each unique, and special to me. I wish I knew more of their stories. Sometimes, I wish that vintage sewing machines had labels like quilts that told who they belonged to, where they were from, and perhaps why they were purchased. Maybe it is the history teacher in me, but I do love a story! Sadly, they don’t have labels.
If you are lucky enough to own a machine that belonged to your grandmother or someone special to you, you should write down her story and keep it with the accessories, book, case, or whatever you have that goes with her. If she ever falls into the hands of another, they will know her story. If that person, like me and so many of my friends, appreciates old, forgotten machines, they will love that their new family member came with a written history that they can then pass on to the next owner. All of these machines are older than I am, and I am confidant that they will live on past my lifetime because I will preserve and protect them, or make sure that they are going to someone who will do the same.