Thursday, August 29, 2013

An old friend is back!

I must have been 9 years old when I first sat down to this particular Singer 301A in my Auntie R's bedroom in her apartment in Berkeley, CA. That's when and where sewing truly began for me.
I believe one of my first projects was making one-dimensional stuffed animals--kitty cats, dogs, horses--cutting out two pieces, embroidering simple features (eyes, nose, mouth) on one side, sewing the two pieces together, stuffing them with cut up nylons (remember that??? No poly-fill stuffing then!), and clumsily whip stitching the bottoms closed. A fraternal group I was in made dozens of them to give to children at a local hospital.

Born Gertrude Irene in 1903, here's Auntie R sitting at her kitchen table in about 1967. You see, my gramma died when I was only 3 years old, so as the eldest auntie, she was more like a gramma to me than an auntie. Her two sons, who were only 8 and 10 years older than my father, had no children, so for her, my brother Robert (only 5 years older than me) and I were her grandchildren. Robert and I used to spend weekends with Auntie R and Uncle Ray, playing dress-up, sewing, getting spoiled. The sewing machine was set up in Auntie R & Uncle Ray's bedroom that had twin beds that were always neatly made before they left the room in the mornings. The Singer sat under the window overlooking Gilman Street through old fashioned wooden venetian blinds (the type we pay big bucks for these days!). In the closet was an old Quaker Oats paper canister filled to the top with buttons probably dating back to the 1920s and 1930s (Oh, how I wish I had that canister now!). It was a special time and place that I will never forget. 

When Auntie R was finally moved to a convalescent home when in her 80s, my folks--her closest living relatives--cleaned out her apartment and Mom took home the old Singer. I had it in my room for awhile when in junior high school and the first dress I made was for my niece as a Christmas gift. Ellen Marie looked quite the fashion plate in her green, white & red flowered dress with her purple knee-high socks. Well, we were in the San Francisco area in the psychedelic 60s!
Mom kept the Singer after I married and later brought her to me after I moved to Kansas on one of their drives back. I used it faithfully and each summer, Dad would oil & clean her for me to keep her in good working order. Before I got her, he also refinished the original cabinet she had been in since Auntie R had purchased her in the late 1950s or early 1960s--not long before I started learning! After I bought a beautiful Pfaff and a Horn cabinet in the 1990s, I let my eldest daughter take her home to work on. Between several moves, juggling multiple jobs, and two children, she got too busy to sew and some time ago put the Singer in her cabinet into the closet for safe keeping (it's probably been there 10-12 years at least!).

Jump forward about 50 years from when I first sat down to this beauty and look whose back!!! With my most recent move, I have set up two sewing areas. The primary sewing room with all the supplies, stash, etc., is upstairs in the master bedroom (who needs all that space just to sleep?). Plus, the country kitchen on the main floor is long enough that I have put my HandiQuilter Sweet 16 there and rescued the Singer from my daughter's closet, had her serviced, and set her up also in the kitchen. This way, when Jacob (remember that little rascal grandson I watch?) can play on the main floor and I can sew without worrying about him tearing apart my sewing room upstairs. He is only 13 months old, so doesn't yet get that he can't just empty the shelves and drawers! LOL!

My auntie's full name was Gertrude Irene, but she was always known as Irene, 'Rene, and later just went by R. In Auntie R's memory, I've nicknamed her old machine Gerty and just brought her home from her first trip to be serviced in probably 15 or more years. I sat down to her last weekend while working on my Kansas State Fair block and she sewed like a dream! It was like I hadn't been away from her at all. Using the knee pedal control was as natural as walking. I did have to find my thread stand so my Aurifil spools could feed up through the stand loop and into the machine, but that's no problem at all. 

I would imagine I'll be doing a LOT of sewing on Gerty now that she's set up downstairs. In fact, in anticipation I bought fresh spools of Aurifil 50 in white and cream to stay with Gerty so I don't have to be running up & downstairs in search of my favorite threads. Although I love my Brothers--both the Quattro 6000D and the Innovis 80 Runway, whenever I'm downstairs I'll be sitting happily at Gerty, stitching away. It's so good to have her back and in running order!

More snippets from the sewing room soon,

1 comment:

  1. My first Singer 301A, found at a Habitat Restore a few years ago, is my very favorite piecing machine. The new Janome is great for ditch quilting and FMQ, but there's nothing like piecing on one of these peaceful vintage Singers! So happy for you that this special machine found its way back home.