Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sing a song of Singer

I have been thinking about the life this lovely old Singer must have led. She is a similar vintage to the treadle that belonged to my Grandmother, and though the design detail on the cabinet drawers is different, so many elements appear from memory to be just the same. She (this Singer, this Songbird) is currently residing in my downstairs lounge room, where I catch regular glimpses of her simple yet beautiful form.
Singer 15-30

This is a family heirloom, though not strictly originating from my own family, and therefore I am feeling much-honoured to have been gifted Dame Singer, Queen of the Needle for safekeeping hereafter. She has for so many years resided with Marg, mother of my darling friend Jo, and before that she belonged to great Aunty Mickie, and possibly to Jo's great-grandmother before that.

How well her accoutrements have been kept and preserved; the hand-crafted box with multiple and varied attachments, all still accounted for and intact. The instruction booklet, published in 1896, is, as you would expect, slightly dog-eared and folded within a drawer. There are also numerous vintage boxes and tins filled with bakelite buttons, cards of press-studs and old hooks and eyes.


It is almost a time-capsule; a little museum all on its own. Aged packets of needles and wooden spools of thread sit all a-jumble in drawers, with scissors and spanner and awl.

I am transported to childhood moments each time I look into the room; watching my Mama's feet plying the treadle, while long small fingers pick and sort the treasures within her black tin button box.
I remember the year that I turned five, receiving a bulky package of dolly dresses for Christmas. Fully eight sets of clothes, complete with petticoats and knickers, bonnets and slips. Each matching set trimmed with narrow lace, some with pin tucks or frills. Pink, yellow, white, blue; miniature florals or delicate filmy fabrics. Such a gift no impish five-year-old ever deserved! Twelve days after Christmas my Mama had a heart attack in her well-tended garden and her treadle moved no more. My strongest memories of her were forged amid the tangle of the sewing-room floor. She was ever-resourceful; a true make-do-and-mend woman. Intensely practical, highly creative and productive. She would whip up a stuffed rag-doll and fashion a cardboard-box cradle while you visited for the day. She would cut thick rounds of white tank-loaf bread and smother them with slabs of yellow butter, and turn you into the wilds of the back garden to dig in the dirt or to run along the stone-lined paths.

Mama's old machine was eventually disposed of, along with many other pedestrian household contents. I think I have missed it ever since. How very blessed I feel to have welcomed Aunty Mickie's old Singer into the heart of my home. I wonder how many children were clothed by the threshing of her treadle; how many seams she seamed, how many rips were mended. Her stitches would have been fine and even; something to behold.

I will have her looked at by a man who knows about the workings of these things, and will anticipate threading her up for stitching again. But for now I am content to rest my eyes upon her ebony skin and happily remember.
x x x

I am sure that the joy of creating was forged during my foundational years. Being fully immersed in imaginative play with scraps of fabric, making rubbishy dolls clothes from the hoard of remnants in the cupboard; playing with bits of lace and braid, ribbon and string. I loved cutting out with those incredibly fun pinking shears, making zig zags all along the edges. Cardboard boxes were made into cubby houses, paper was cut into shapes and stuck all over the place with glue. I was a texta-freak; they were so much more colourful and instantaneous compared to the boring old pencils with broken leads. It's the thing I most value about my childhood; materials supplied, permission granted, encouragement received. Go forth and make. How about you?

x x x


  1. What a fabulously well preserved bit of history you have there! I am, of course, green with envy!

    1. I am still pinching myself Annie, I can't believe she is actually mine. It has given me a lovely meander down memory lane and I never realised that I missed my Grandmother at all until I started writing about it. I would not have thought that I had time to be terribly close to her, and didn't know I felt anything until now. It is strange to experience a small and quiet sense of loss for something so long ago.

  2. I have similar memories of my Nanny Evie :) except that she was fully electric...nothing but the latest industrial machines for her! A very progressive Nanny I had!

    I was very close to my Nanny....in fact she died on my 30th birthday. I still miss her & think of her often.


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