My Mother-in-Law is a big fan of Garage Sales, thrift Shops, and Estate Sales. A long while back, she brought home a vintage Sewing Machine from one such trip: The Estate Sale of a Woman who had died, and whose children were convinced that my Mother-in-Law should be the one to take the machine.
Rosaleigh, the previous owner, had bought her when she was first manufactured- and owned it right up until she died. But after my Mother-in-Law was convinced to take it, the machine sat unused for countless years. That is, until she gifted it to me last September; she didn’t know what model or year that it was- or whether or not it even worked- but she offered it to me when I made a passing mention that I was having problems with both of the modern machines that I owned.
I said yes simply because I wanted a machine and was itching to sew again even though I have no real sewing skill. Honestly, at that point I’d have taken any machine offered to me, and Vintage machines aren’t anything that I haven’t owned before; my first machine ever was an ugly monstrosity built into a cabinet far prettier than it was, manufactured in the 60’s or 70’s. My Parents had it rebuilt for me for Christmas when I was 14, from two machines my Maternal Grandmother had left behind in our barn.
What I didn’t expect from my Mother-in-Law, however, was what I’d actually receive; it’s always been a dream of mine to own a true 1950’s Sewing Machine… And when I lifted the lid on the cupboard it was in and spotted the tell-tale signs of a 1950’s machine? I am not ashamed to say that I cried some incredibly ugly tears of pure happiness.
Rosa, a Singer model 201-2 manufactured in 1952 (the “Rolls Royce of Singers”, they call it), was in near perfect condition- though at some point she was re-installed into an ugly 1970’s Cabinet for unknown reasons (the opposite, ironically, of my first vintage sewing machine). All she needed was a good service, and so I shipped her off to a friend of my In-Law’s who offered to take care of her for free.
She was recently returned to me in wonderful order. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier to have such an amazing piece of technology in my house; it really is a lifelong dream come true! And of course, I immediately put her to work making a replacement for my Apron– which, honestly, should have been retired years ago at this point.
I had planned to make a more vintage style 1950’s Apron to replace it; It just felt right to do so with this machine. But I chose a gorgeous Tea Cup print fabric that I had bought for a pair of shorts before my last Modern machine bit the dust on me, and unfortunately there wasn’t enough fabric to do what I wanted to with it. I didn’t feel like getting more fabric- especially since I still hadn’t sewn much and was a relative newbie at it. So instead of buying more fabric, I made due with what I had- and really, wasn’t that the whole spirit of the early 50’s anyways?
So I cut apart the old apron that I had, using it to make the pattern for the new one. Several things, however, were changed about the new Apron due to the fabric constraints and my own forgetfulness about some of the steps I had taken to construct the last one. Still, it came together with a lot of finaggling.
I even had enough fabric leftover to make an Ironing Board for the top of the cabinet; I used the same Tea-cup fabric I had used for my Apron plus the padded cover for a tabletop ironing board that’s simply too big to use anywhere in my house. I sewed those together into a mat, then connected two of the ends together into what is basically a tube using Lingerie Elastic. Now it can slip on or off my Sewing Cabinet at will whenever the top is folded down, and I can do my sewing and my ironing in the same spot.
Neither of them look very pretty once you really look at them; their entire reverse sides are very decidedly a hot mess– and there are uneven seams everywhere. Factor in the fact that I spent the majority of the process fiddling with the tension to get it right (sewing machine tension and I have never gotten along and I fear it will be an eternal thorn in my side)… And… Well… They won’t exactly be winning me a sewing competition any time soon.
But they work and they’re mine- and they were sewn on a 1950’s machine. And honestly, that’s one of my life goals complete. Who couldn’t be happy about that? So here’s to a future with a machine that’s seen (and sewn) more that I will ever know- and maybe even a friendship with Tension at some point!
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