Tools of the Trade

Sewing requires accessories. I have to admit, I’ve spent an extreme amount of time playing with the toys that go with my machines, that can be used for hand sewing, that I have no clue what they do and no memory of ever buying but somehow find in my toolboxes. After all, whseller respecting geek canresist the allure of toys? I certainly can’t.

One of my biggest and least used toys is in fact a family heirloom. Originally purchased by one of a pair of great- great-aunts, my beloved Singer treadle machine would have ended up in the local tip when they passed away in the mid 80s, if not for my mother seeing its potential and diverting it to our house. Once there, after a brief time when I was allowed to play with it as a ten year old, it served such useful purposes as fish tank stand and pot plant rest. When my parents downsized a couple of years ago, I took it with me to my flat and it has moved twice since then without experiencing anything other than the back of two moving vans,and serving as a handy place to store the mail in a series of shared living arrangements. Its current location means its inconvenient for that purpose, so I’ve started to look at it again and think, “I really should use that.” Truth to tell, it’s more accessible than my normal machines of choice right now.

So recently, I actually took steps to getting it usable. I went through the drawers and found any number of attachments, as well as the original instruction manual – helpful, as I have no earthly clue how it actually works anymore. The manual is also helpful in dating. Like all good nerds, I like to know about my tools. Googling the serial number tells me that this machine was built in 1920, One of about 70000 turned out in Newcastle in June/July of that year.  It’s a model 66k, one of the most popular models ever produced by Singer, and in production for decades. It is the forerunner to today’s machines in ways earlier models can only dream about, and the first appearance of many features we take for granted now.

Thats what I can learn from Google. The manual is a slightly different prospect. It was stored in one of the drawers of the table where oil leaked onto it, making it incredibly difficult to read. What I can gather suggests that it might be worth attempting to get my hands on another copy. It disagrees with Google in one respect though; it is dated 1922, the year before my grandmother, the niece of the original owner, was born.

I plan on finding out how it all goes together, though. The great-aunts and their siblings sewed for their whole families. Nana still talks about her mother’s feats of dressmaking, and my aunt’s collection of original Barbie dresses backs up the claims to greatness. And, as a period piece, the machine is invaluable. I know it could fetch a few hundred dollars but even in my poorest moments I’ve never considered selling it, something that can’t be said about anything else I own (except perhaps my bed).

So there you have it, a working antique that I intend to put to the purpose it was intended for – making a 1920s – or at least vintage – wardrobe. Pointless? Perhaps. But as a fan of all things vintage, my sewing can only be improved by going back to the days where the average wardrobe involved more than a trip to the nearest shopping centre. Anyone with any clues how to use the attachements to a 66k would be welcome to get in touch!


A Potted History

I love to sew. There, I said it. But more than sewing, I love accumulating the bits and pieces that go with it. The fabrics, patterns, machines, buttons, threads, needles, hooks – the list is endless, even before getting to the finished product. I can spend hours just looking over my collections, which are slowly taking over my room.

More than anything, I love the sense of continuity in the sewing world.The methods used today have evolved over millennia. My toy collection alone can throw up items that are almost a century old, linking back through at least 4 generations of sewing women. There is documentary evidence of methods used back to the middle ages and beyond, some of which has found its way into my hand at various points. And I love it all. 

So I’ve decided to blog about it, learning the traditional methods myself along the way, and sharing what knowledge I have or can get my hands on. In an effort to justify my collections, I’m going to force myself to use what I already have; the books, patterns, machines, all of it. It makes a great excuse to buy other bits and pieces, as well. Not that I’ve ever needed one in the past.  And along the way, I’ll hopefully produce some wearable clothing. Hopefully.