Thursday, June 20, 2013

hidden treasure

did your morning start out with a crib covered in baby poo? well, mine did. but no worries. it got better fast.

while the baby was in the tub, i was thinking about all my "before i quilted" quilts and trying to mentally locate one that had eluded me. i found it buried in the linen closet after the bath.
but more about it later.

while i was photographing the old quilt, i decided i might as well photograph my grandma's sewing machine, too. i've been meaning to do that forever.

when my paternal grandparents reached their 80's about 10 years ago, their health was failing and a decision was made to move them closer to the children so they could be cared for. their 4 children descended on their home of 30 years in houston, tx, and cleaned it out. there were a few things i wanted and got, the main one being a painting of my grandfather's mother.
maryann died when my grandfather was only 5 months old, so none of us ever really knew her. but i've always loved this painting and been drawn to it, even before i knew who the pretty lady in it was. i like to imagine she was a quilter. i do know for certain she was a musician and accomplished pianist. my husband thinks i look like her and i tend to agree there is an element of sameness there. my father brought me the painting and her wedding band after the move. priceless, both of them.

something i did not ask for that he so kindly brought me was my grandmother's sewing machine.
like i mentioned before, my grandma margaret did the obligatory 50's housewife sewing, but i never saw her use the machine in my lifetime. it sat in front of the window in her galley-style laundry room, untouched. when daddy brought it to me, it was locked up in it's pretty wooden case. i thought it was nice of him, but i secretly wished he'd gotten his grandmother's old black treadle singer, still in it's table. i remembered grandma's machine being white and boxy, and knew it probably came out of the 50's or 60's. it wasn't a graceful antique, but a retro machine is pretty cool. 

he also brought me two books from her extensive collection: a circa 1950's sewing manual and a biography of my great-great uncle, maryann's uncle lehi.

 i didn't sew at the time these were handed down to me and thought daddy's offerings rather unusual, but graciously and thankfully accepted them since i like family heirlooms. i suppose you could say they were prescient of my coming hobby and obsession. the machine now resides on a bookcase in my bedroom. this morning i had an urge to open it up and inspect it's mid-century white glory.

but the key was missing.

i hunted high and low for that darn key. i also tried a tapestry needle, bobby pin, safety pin, and any other small keys i could find. no luck. i don't know what kept me looking, but for over half an hour i did. and finally, in the last place of all, i found it. (well of course it's the last place - once you find something you don't look anywhere else.)

i thought i had looked at the machine when daddy brought it to me. but i guess i didn't, because when i opened it up today, i nearly cried. look!

 it's not her old industrial-looking white machine, but this beauty! i was stopped in my tracks, speechless over her loveliness. i have no idea where this came from, other than from grandma margaret's house. i know for a fact aunt catherine got the other antique machine, so i don't know what this one is, exactly. but, oh, thank you, thank you, daddy for being intuitive and thoughtful enough to bring it to me.

 there were even some notions in it - bobbins still threaded and this wood-handled marking tool, also beautiful. we just don't make stuff like this anymore. everything is made with attention to detail and aesthetics, as well. the machine's front plate is stunning. i took two photos of it in different exposures. can't decide which i like better.

 darker shows the details of the etching (?) more distinctly.

 lighter shows off the gleam and shine.

can you even believe how glorious? i'm completely in awe still.

i wonder if she still works, but i'm rather afraid to try.
however, i will be uncovering her to admire more often.
this rather makes up for not having any family quilts.

as for the retro sewing manual, it's gone into hiding. i searched pretty far for that one, too, but gave up. it'll turn up later and make for another nice post some other time.

do you have any heirloom sewing machines, notions, or products? i'd love to see or hear about them.


  1. I love old sewing machines and yours is pristine! What an awesome family heirloom!!

  2. WOW. That is just amazing and very special! How lucky are you :-)
    Ps baby poo is not so bad - it's better than a no poo baby!

  3. What a glorious discovery! She is so beautiful and look to be in perfect condition.
    I have a little handwork including fillet crochet which I think my grandmother made before I was even born. Also a few things made in the 70's but not heirlooms. I've never seen a quilt in either families, they just aren't common place here in Australia.

  4. Is it lightweight or heavy ? I had picked up an antique GRAYBAR machine at at thrift store with a wooden case and base similar to yours. It was IRON and weighed about 60 lbs! If yours is lightweight it is probably a Singer Featherweight and you can get the serial number off of the machine and Google about it on the Internet and find out what year it might have been produced in. Some of them are worth a small fortune! I purchased one ( some time after the Graybar ) but while I have a post on my blog titled Antique Sewing Machine, that is about the Graybar. I have not done anything about the Featherweight since I was having some troubles...)
    Anyway, you have a treasure there! :)

  5. oh! what a gem! I know you will treasure it. It is so awesome! Those notions are wonderful too! I do have a couple of family quilts (and they are cherished), but no machines or notions.

    :) Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation

  6. What a beauty! And the machine too! She looks so pretty and new, you must set her up and give it a whirl! Your post did bring tears to my eyes. I would have just melted for the whole day if I were in your shoes (!)
    My most prized possessions are those my ancestors valued, and hung on to year after year. I have a very cool wooden sewing box thingy my grandfather made for my grandmother in the 30's, with a note she wrote describing the story - she called it her Wednesday night mending box. So glad you shared:-)

  7. WOW! I am speechless. I think I would have CRIED! So gorgeous, and beautiful and perfect! Have you tried her out yet? Thanks for your sweet comment on my post and for pointing me over here to read about this. Wow!! That's all I can say. :D I have my grandma's fabric scraps and old buttons and I love them! Still waiting to find the perfect pattern to make a scrap quilt with her scraps.

  8. That looks like a Singer 15-91. You should oil it up and give it try - you can't get a better straight stitch then one of these old babies.

  9. What a gem you have ! I discovered your blog because of the precise explanation how to sew the 3.5" and 4.5" squares in the Gypsy Wife Quilt (more about that later). Out of curiosity I hit the button machines on your blog and my heart jumped ! You got a Singer Portable Electric Sewing Machine with a number around 221/222K. Check whether you see a number on that little golden-coloured plate. Mine has - and it's apart from being priceless a phantastic partner. I usually take her with me to sewing events and she never let me down.I got my machine from a lady in Switzerland (I live in Germany) who stopped sewing and I could see, it wasn't easy for her to part, but she said she has to start somewhere and only hoped it would come in good hands.
    Yes, she is a bit different. But before I go into that, tell me whether you have a little booklet ? It gives you a lot of tipps and hints how to handle it properly. I took it to me dealer and he was flabbergasted and serviced her for free !! back to the Gypsy wife Quilt - do you know there is a quiltalong,initiated by Rachel Hauser from stitched in color and scrappyviolet ? Yes, since this month and I am waiting eagerly for my copy of that booklet, but I ordered it from a shop in CA and it won't be here that soon I'm afraid. I worked block 1 (colorwheel) and nbr. 2 Pershing but I would love to know the measurements for nbr 3 - the "from the heart" block . I know there is copyright etc etc. so I just need the outside dimensions, the rest I figure out myself. Could you please help ? Thanks and have fun with you Featherweight, use her - she deserves it !

  10. ...just another thought - if you would like to have a copy of the little booklet I can send you copies of it. Because as I said - she is different from what we are used to.


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