The Stories of Vintage Sewing Machines

Did you know your vintage sewing machines have a story to tell a story? Some of the stories are well documented, the person selling the machine knows exactly what that machine was used for and others can just be guessed. A few of the machines we have came with a bit of background but the vast majority we know very little about. That doesn’t mean that those old sewing machines don’t have a story. Let’s look at the ways we can figure out what their stories are by the “damage” on the machine.

Pin Rash

This is called pin rash. Back in the day women wrapped a piece of cloth around this part of the machine and used it as a pin cushion. This tore the machines up. It scratched them, wore the decals off, sometimes the bare metal is all that is left under there. What does that mean? A lot of pins were taken out of fabric and put into that wrap.

Worn Bed

This machine’s bed has been worn. You can see the decals are all but gone. Lots of fabric passed over the bed of this machine.

The Teaching Machine

I sort of know this machines story. I don’t know how the person I bought it from got her but I know what she did before that. She is out of a Home Ec. class room of my neighboring school district. She suffered through teens learning how to sew, hopefully both girls and boys. She’s got tape on her. The district just scratched it’s info on to the back of it. The case it’s in looks great because it’s mine and if fairly new.

Vintage Sewing Machines and the Stories They Tell @homeecmel

The Story of the Machine
So what do all those marks and scratches mean? It means the machine was used. My husband calls them love marks. Sewing machines were liberating for women. Singer had a payment plan so they were accessible to everyone. Women sewed not just for their families but for others as well. They were able to make money for their family. Today, a woman making money is no big deal but in the early 1900s it was unheard of almost. Each mark on the machine is from fabric or pins. The deeper the scratch the more fabric or pins that were used. Now do I know for sure the woman who used the machine made money with it? No, I don’t. I do know that she was making life better for her family. Sewing by hand had never been efficient. A sewing machine made the task of sewing so much faster allowing more work to get done in the same amount of time. Even the hand crank machines could do a few hundred stitches per minute. A person who is a good treadler can get those machines up to 700 stitches per minute. Think about how liberating that had to be for a woman! They were able to produce full garments in the time repairs used to take. The woman could sell what she made or hire out her services. This continued on for years and it still continues today. There are women and men who today sell what they make on their sewing machine. They sell their talents, mending, altering, even full one of a kind garments. There are those of us who teach others how to use the machines.

So what was/is the money used for? Well that would certainly depend on the family and how much the person brought in. Some have sewn just to make enough to cover the fabric they needed at home. Others used the sewing machine to put a child through school. There are the ones who have an inner need to create and there isn’t room to keep all their creations so they sell them for some mad money. Some of us hope that our sewing machines will one day change our families economic status.

The next time you see a sewing machine all beat up remember that they weren’t beat. They were loved. If you can’t find out the real story than make one up. Maybe those scratches are from making all the dresses for their daughter’s wedding. Or maybe the woman wanted her own car so she took on others sewing. Maybe the woman wanted to be able to stay home with her kids so she did seamstress work at home. We may never know but I like to imagine what the machines did before they came to me.

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Read Other’s Stories
Inang’s Amazing Sewing Machine
Myra’s Vintage Long Arm
My Sewing Legacy

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