Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #9: Sewing Up Memories

As my regular readers already know, I adore bookstores, especially those that feature used books! To put an even finer point on that, I love the shops that carry other various types of vintage items, such as maps, magazines, product leaflets, branded recipe booklets, and the like.

One of my favorite such spots is located in Moran, Michigan, called “The First Edition, Too.” It was there where I was thrilled to come across the 1939 Singer Illustrated Dressmaking Guide pictured above. This was especially fitting, since I sewed as a teenager in Michigan on my mother’s Singer, which now “lives” in my Texas apartment. The slim booklet shows drawings of sewing strategies such as shirring, insets, and pleats. There are even sections all about sewing for infants and making “first school dresses.”

Martha Kennedy, who blogs at I’m a Writer, Yes, I Am,” wrote a great post about her grandmother’s sewing machine. This got me thinking more about my own, shown above! Martha’s appears to be older and much more ornate than mine, as a treadle machine compared to my electric model. As you can see, I still have the original box with attachments.

I found an interesting website for the International Sewing Machine Collectors’ Society (ISMACS), where I zeroed in on some info about my machine. Based on the serial number, mine is a Singer series AH model and probably purchased about 1947-48. This makes perfect sense, as that would be around the time my mom had her first baby, my older sister, Terri. She may have sewn her infant layette on that machine!

Looking through old pictures, I was pleased to find one from when I was about six months old. My mother’s Singer sets next to the couch behind me. Although Mom sewed quite a bit when her kids were young…clothing, doll clothes, and items for the household…I think she used it mainly just for mending in later years. I’m sure happy my mother hung onto this machine, since it brings back such sweet memories for me.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’ll share one more photo, showing my maternal grandparents (Rudolf & Frieda Witzke), Mom (Ella Witzke Ross), Aunt Frieda (Mom’s older sister), and my older sister, Terri. This photo was taken in Tawas City, Michigan, on my 1st birthday, and I imagine my father, Philip Ross, was the man behind the camera. Now I’m wondering if Mom sewed those cute, gingham kitchen curtains on her Singer!

 

 

70 thoughts on “Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #9: Sewing Up Memories

  1. Wonderfully nostalgic post, Becky — and another great bookstore find! My equivalent to your vintage Singer sewing machine, and the memories it evokes for you, is having a 1927 typewriter originally purchased by my maternal grandparents.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Such wonderful memories! I particularly like the family photos. My mother worked for a Singer store after she and my dad were married in 1952, so she was able to get her trusty Singer at a discount. It’s the machine I learned how to sew on.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. My dad’s dad worked for Singer and apparently their house was full of sewing machines. Wouldn’t it be great if one had been kept for posterity. (He worked at Singer in the 1940s and 50s).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love these old Singer sewing machines stories. I wonder what color those gingham curtains were. What a neat find to accompany your family heirloom. There was an old Singer that made the rounds through my family (aunties and sister), and I had brief possession of it for awhile, refinishing the wood to its former glory, a no-no for antique dealers 🙂 It was originally my grandmother’s though sadly I have no recollection of her ever sewing, so Martha Kennedy’s blog post about the Singer was especially poignant for me. You might want to mosey on over to Rebecca Budd’s Tea Toast & Trivia podcast, Season 2, Episode 3, Frances on the Art of Sewing for a lovely discussion. I love that you love bookstores!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know, and I can’t find any color photos of that kitchen. I’m guessing red, based on the dark-colored candles on the window sill, too, but that’s definitely and guess, and my sister doesn’t remember. I love to hear everyone’s sewing machine stories. I’ll definitely check out that ep at Rebecca’s blog about sewing, as I always enjoy her podcasts!

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  5. My mother’s sewing machine is long gone, but I noticed that green attachment box right away. I still have Mom’s, and although the attachments are gone, too, it still holds a couple of pieces of dressmaker’s chalk, a sewing gauge, and the ever-useful seam ripper. I love the birthday party photo, too. There are a lot of familiar items there, from the clear glass dishes to the metal-banded table. What a nice post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that you still have that same green Singer box, Linda:) You’re very observant about the photo, and we still had that kitchen table for many years, so I remember it well. It had the gray top, but I don’t remember for sure what color chairs we had. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  6. Hi Becky, INNOVATIVE way to celebrate Mother’s Day would be an understatement of the decade. Loved it since it brought back memories of my own Singer automatic sewing machine that Mom hardly used after a point. Happy Mother’s Day to you. Never too late to wish given the occasion.
    Thanks and much appreciated for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for this marvellous article, Becky:)). I had an old treadle Singer sewing machine – but sadly I didn’t have room for it when I moved from Somerset and had to sell it… I suspect that was the fate of many of those marvellous old machines…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is too bad, but you had it for a time! I’m sure that probably is the reason so many people get rid of them. For nears, I had just the sewing machine head set on the floor in my study, and the cabinet was stored up above, in the garage. When I moved, it was one of the things I made a priority, partly because I was leaving so many other things behind when I got divorced.

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      1. Yes… and I know that feeling! I walked away from my first marriage with my car, my computer, my clothes and a ripped sofa. Everything else (including the children’s furniture) I had to scramble to provide myself. Years down the line, however, I’m so glad. I walk into this house and there is hardly ANYTHING from before!

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  8. I have my mother’s Singer sewing machine. I think that it is almost identical to yours. It is the best. I had to buy a new belt last winter for it, but it still works perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for this wonderful post, Becky! I have so many fond and funny memories revolving around sewing––my mother’s, my own, and even a college friend who found an old Singer machine in an antique shop and became an avid sewer. I can still see her hunched over her machine sewing away in her dorm room. I still have some patterns from clothes my mother made for me and my sister when we were kids and that I made myself as a child. I’m pleased to see that my daughter is now getting into sewing.

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  10. Hi again Becky,

    I couldn’t see a way to continue or conversation re my grandfather where I left off before but here goes:

    It turns out that my grandfather worked for Singer in the 1920s, yo till the Great Depression. He was given a shop to run, where he repaired people’s machines and when Singer needed to close the shop he kept all the machines, which is why my dad’s family home was full of them.

    I dare say my gran just wanted rid of them and wasn’t thinking about posterity, although they must have had them in the house for over 10 years as my dad was born during WWII.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a lovely post!
    I am a seamstress/ pattern maker by trade. I became a Costume Designer in film & TV.
    I feel bad that domestic sewing has gone by the wayside. That’s a different post, though.
    You brought me a fab memory.
    My grandmother had a treadle sewing machine. She never did bother getting an electric one.
    When she would sew, I would hunch up on the treadle and ride, ride, ride! I was about 4.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I certainly admire your work, Resa! What a sweet memory, riding on your grandmother’s treadle! I’ve read before that some people liked those machines better and felt they had easier control over the speed, etc. Many of us in the past learned how to sew in school. Not sure if they do that at all, anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It seems sewing and all needleworks have become luxury pastimes for those who can afford to partake.
        Fast Fashion has changed the landscape.
        No need to teach sewing anymore. Just toss clothes and buy a new item.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I was just thinking of a darning egg yesterday. My hubby has very expensive marino wool sox, and the knit is big enough to repair! I’ve got until winter comes back!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I think gingham curtains should have a come back! I learnt to sew on a machine given to Mum by a widowed uncle. It was not a Singer, but was very ornate and the gold writing said ‘ as supplied to Her Majesty Queen Alexandra’ – she who was married to King Edward, son of Queen Victoria. It was hand driven, turning the wheel left only one hand to steer the sewing! I made clothes for my doll and later clothes for me. My mother never used it, Dad was my technical advisor.

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    1. That machine sounds amazing, Janet! And it also sounds like a lot of work required in turning the wheel with one hand to make it go. You were a very determined child and lucky your dad was there for advice:) I bet you had the best-dressed doll around!

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  13. I think my mom had a Singer similar to yours, maybe a few years later. After a few decades, she replaced it with a newer model that fit into the wooden cabinet. That machine and cabinet are a couple of feet away from me, and my husband spent a couple of hours today cleaning and adjusting it. I have to admit, I find sewing machines infuriating, but when they work properly they can be useful for doing repairs. I couldn’t actually make a garment from scratch to save my life, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great to hear that you still have the original cabinet AND a working sewing machine:) I remember feeling rather short-tempered when making clothing, although it was rewarding when it worked out! Now I do all my repairs by hand…

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