Today, my Dad dropped off a slightly bittersweet present: the sewing machine that belonged to his mother. My grandma* (who gave me these quilts and also this fabric) is moving from her small senior’s apartment to an even smaller room in a care home, where there will be people around a little more continuously. I’m sad for her, (especially giving up her machine) but hopeful that she’ll be well taken care of.
I hadn’t really thought much about her machine. The last time I snooped it, I think I was nine or ten, and I remember being unimpressed. Obviously my tastes are a little more refined these days, because now I find it quite charming in that mid-century way.
I once claimed my other grandma’s machine looked like a rocket ship. Well, this one is DEFINITELY going to the moon. Actually, the comparison between the two machines is kinda fascinating, since as far as I can tell they were both purchased within a year or two of each other in the early sixties. My maternal grandma—okay, I give up, I’m going to call her Grandma South—’s machine is a Japanese-made Singer 15 clone, a sturdy old-fashioned straight-stitcher dressed up with a nice coat of paint and some cute decals. Kinda like a horse and buggy sporting racing fins. My paternal grandma (henceforth, Grandma North)’s machine, on the other hand, is full of newfangled gadgetness.
It starts with this proud patent label. This is not your Grandma’s sewing machine, Grandma. Er.
But seriously. Aside from the zig-zag, it has what looks like a plate for cams on the top (I have no cams, but my Dad thinks there’s another box of odds ‘n ends that are sewing-machine related still back at his house, so I shall live in hope for another day or two). And a very mysterious dial. I hope there’s a manual in there, too. Although I can ask Grandma, if push comes to shove.
And it has a drop in bobbin. I had no idea these went back to the early sixties—I feel kinda like an archaeologist who unsealed the Pharaoh’s tomb only to find Pharaoh buried with his iPhone.
I have not actually tried any sewing with it yet, although I presume it’s in working order—it’s been a while since Grandma made a quilt, but I imagine she’s mended the odd thing. Speaking of which, I had assumed this lever dropped the feed dogs, since it says “darn” in the middle position (machine darning being like free-motion quilting, usually done with the feed-dogs dropped). Well, it doesn’t. What it does is lift the needle-plate. If you move the lever all the way to the left, it pops the needle plate right out. Crazy, no? I’m presuming this is one of those aforementioned “patents” that didn’t catch on like wildfire… but maybe I’m naive. Anyone else ever seen a machine that “dropped” the feed dogs by raising the needle plate?
In addition to the machine, I was handed two large boxes from Grandma’s kitchen. Mostly food, dried pantry stuff, which is nice enough, although I have no idea what I’m going to do with three bags of shredded coconut. Unless I find Grandma’s recipe for Coconut Mountains**, which were one of the highlights of the Christmas season of my childhood, but that seems a lot like work, and baking would take away from my sewing time. Anyway, much of the stuff we can use, and eventually use up—but it included the contents of the spice cabinet, a random array of little bottles, some of which are older than I am, although I’m going to assume that the contents have been consumed and replaced many times over the years. Anyway, I find them adorable in their slightly gungy glory. I have no idea what I’ll do with most of them, however.
*I grew up calling both my grandmothers “Grandma.” This makes it a little awkward in the context of the blog, since it’s not immediately obvious that I’m not talking about my maternal grandmother, whose machines I’ve already scoped out here. My kids are much luckier, having a Momo and a Gigi and a Nanny (sometimes referred to as Kokum).
**A search for “Coconut Mountains” only turned up this recipe. These look nothing like the things my Grandma made (I’m not convinced hers were even baked) but I suppose the idea is similar. Grandma’s always had the tips dipped in chocolate “snow”