I recently had the opportunity to show off my Army Machine (aka the Domestic Special) to my mother. This is kind of like putting together chocolate and peanut butter. My mom may not exactly get my sewing obsession (though she enables it just fine), but antiques of any kind are her bag, baby. She’s the first person (other than possibly Tyo) I’ve gotten to show that machine to who I don’t suspect is secretly thinking “And you bought this why?”
And then she pulled out a little antique tin box she bought years and years and years (and years ago), mostly because she thought it was exquisite. I have vague memories of it kicking around when I was a kid, and maybe even of opening it from time to time, but the contents not ever making much sense.
Well, this time they make sense.
Lots and lots of sense.
It’s a complete, exquisite set of sewing-machine attachments, for a machine with a top-clamping presser foot.
Like my Domestic.
Tragically (or perhaps inevitably) the feet don’t quite fit—the height is right but the distance between the clamp and the needle isn’t, and while you can fudge by not inserting them all the way, I’m not sure they’d be stable enough to actually sew with. I’ll probably try at some point, because I’m crazy like that, but I didn’t today.
Have you ever seen such an insane selection of rolled hem feet? I wonder what that big ball in the middle of each is like to hem around.
This is the ruffler. It’s simpler than the others I’ve seen—there’s no control for gathering on alternate stitches, so it only does ruffling, not pleats. I initially thought it might be broken, it’s so stripped down, but some wiggling and adjustment of the main screw (which controls how much of the fabric is shoved forward) and it works, although it’s badly in need of oiling and de-rusting before it goes anywhere near an actual garment.
I think this is the tucker foot. I think this based on a repro antique Sears catalogue my mom has that figures a variety of sewing machine attachments, including a similar-looking “tucker foot”, but I really haven’t got a clue how it works. And my Handbook of Sewing Machine Attachments is in a box somewhere.
All the pieces bear a stamp: Pat. Oct. 13 96.
Since I’m pretty sure they don’t date to 1996, that would presumably be 1896. A bit older than even my mom thought the box was, frankly.
There are a couple of other random bits in the bottom, bobbins for two different machines (one I think an old shuttle treadle), a plate that would have attached to the bed of the sewing machine for lapping seams and positioning lace and ribbons and the like, and that long thin thing that I have no idea at all about.
Although I didn’t recognize the name on the box, Eldredge Manufacturing Company, out of Illinois, one second’s worth of googling turned up this article about the Eldredge/National Sewing Machine company. Which, yes, was based in Belvidere, Illinois, in the period around 1896. And here’s an ad, albeit of rather older vintage, for the company’s machines. And the shuttle bobbin looks like it could well be for an Eldredge machine as well. I do kinda love the ISMACS site.
Also, my messings and musings provoked my mother to comment that at this point I know rather more about sewing-machine attachments than she does. After I’d picked my jaw up off the floor, I had to demand what she was talking about—after all, it was her machine’s ruffler-foot that first got me started on this whole attachments obsession business.
People, apparently in the thirty-odd years my mom’s machine belonged to her before I pulled out the scariest foot in the attachment box and set about figuring out a) if it was a ruffler, and b) if I could figure out how it worked (the answer, by the way, was yes to both), my mom never knew what that foot was, never mind how you made it go. I had always assumed that if my bull-headed fumbling didn’t yield results, I would just ask her. I feel kind of like one of those Enlightenment mathematicians who assumed the calculus they were inventing had all been known to the ancient Greeks… Only I just got to talk with Pythagoras and he was all “WTF are you talking about, dude?”
Or, y’know, not. But anyway. Fun. I love it when something I didn’t know how to place before suddenly makes sense…
Now if only I could sew with them…