Monday, 12 September 2011

Great Aunt Cissie's Sewing Machine

After I dug out the old Singer sewing machine and established that it had not rusted solid, I spoke my dad (to whom it belonged). He told me that he in turn had inherited it from his dad who had been given it by his sister-in law, Cissie (my Great-aunt). I looked up the serial number of the machine, and it turns out that it was made in 1931.

Using the Singer, my grandad made the fabric parts of a folding canoe, which he then gave to my dad and there are photos of me sitting it when I was very small. An aptitude for hand crafts seems to run my dad's family. My grandma (my dad's mum) was en excellent knitter and embroiderer, and my grandad used to enjoy similar things. He didn't knit but he had a spinning wheel which he made himself and used to spin yarn for my grandma to knit with from raw wool, having first carded it with big spiky carding brushes. When my grandparents were still alive I used to love visiting them in their house in Wantage (Oxfordshire). They made all their own bread, and jam from fruit grown in their garden or gathered from the countryside. They were frugal and self sufficient in an entirely non-hippy way, just because they were brought up in austere times and also because they enjoyed it. 

So, using Great-aunt Cissie's sewing machine myself, I'm carrying on a family tradition of making things with it. I've now got to grips with adjusting the tensioner and how to fill up and thread the bobbin using the machine's ingenious mechanism. I really hope that I find time to use it, but there are quite a few jobs around the boat which will demand it - we need new curtains and the cratch cover needs fixing.

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  1. What an AWESOME old sewing heirlooms are the BEST! Have a lovely day!

  2. Not sure if this posted already, sorry - browser issues :(

    I think this is a 99 (assuming it's a hand crank?) - I had one similar for a while. There's a group based in Southampton that refurbishes these and sends them to Africa, and they have manuals for how to use and refurbish them - (if you'll take linkies - but google 'Tools for Self Reliance' and you'll find it.) I loved being able to field strip the Singer, and it was exactly the right speed for me. Perfect machine! Somehow seemed much easier to use than modern ones, which I somehow always break or mess the bobbins up.

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  4. I too am a frugal bunny like the rest of my family. in an non eco-minded way we have always recycled, composted and mended because that is the way it is done. Like yours my Grand mother knitted (for Sasha Kagan catwalks) and my mother once sewed for a designer, all for peanuts. I did try a sewing machine but the fabric is not cheap and I ruined it - V. expensive mistake. I hope your results are all good ones. Who knows, maybe you are the next big thing to design for the fashion houses?

  5. I love singer sewing machines. My mum and my nana have one and they have made many a things with them - including curtains and wedding dresses! Singers are regarded as one of the best machines when I've talked to people about them! I have a new home one at the moment which I'm about to start using for a few projects myself!
    Family heirlooms are great :]
    You'll have to let us know how you get on!

    xo Amy