Sewing Machines

Making quilts was once thought to be an activity for old ladies, but that is changing. Younger people are getting interested in quilting too. In the old days, usually the quilts were practical—made for bed covers or for wrapping up in to keep warm. Nowadays quilts are more artistic and some are only meant to be displayed on a wall.

At the quilt show in Parksville on Vancouver Island last weekend, a friend and I admired many quilts of various styles and types. Most were newly made but, pictured below in the heritage section, are three quilts made in a very basic, old-fashioned way, with much of the sewing done by hand. One of the quilts was made 125 years ago. The old quilts had a lot of hand sewing on them, but there were early models of sewing machines on display to show what quilters might have used from the early 1900s on.

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This Singer from 1912 was operated by turning the wheel by hand. This was awkward because it left the seamstress only one hand to hold pieces of cloth together and guide them under the needle.

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Later Singer models used a long belt around that “drive” wheel and another wheel under the machine. The belt was driven by a rocking action by the feet on the treadle. Hence, your treadle sewing machine. Who needs a treadmill when you have a treadle sewing machine? And it leaves your hands free to guide the fabric.084

Then came the electric machines. Heaven! This Bernina is quite basic, but this company still makes one of the finest sewing machines available. They have the latest, fanciest machines you could wish for, and models for all levels of sewing abilities and needs.085

These two Singers below are the kind you turn by hand. If you can’t find the second machine, it’s tiny, brown, and tied to the handle of the old wagon next to the washboard.

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And for serious quilters, we have the quilting machines that allow a lot more room to the right of the needle for that huge quilt to be passed through the machine. There are also commercial grade long arm quilting machines, but most home quilters find a way to work with a regular sewing machine. Take your choice.092In the next post I hope to show you some of the more modern quilts we saw at the quilt show. Many were amazing and all were inspiring.

 

23 thoughts on “Sewing Machines

  1. My grandma has a Singer sewing machine that has a bar that attaches that goes down below the level of the table, so you press your knee against it to control the sewing. It looks very like the hand-turned sewing machine in your photo. They were made so beautiful in those days!

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  2. I can imagine the quilt show got you all jazzed up to make some more quilts. Some of them are so intricate and require so much patience. Looking forward to your next post. 🙂

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  3. One has to admire the intricate hand-work that went into those antique quilts. My motto is “If I can’t sew it on the machine, I don’t make it”.Machine work is a time saver for sure.

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  4. Many different people in our family quilt. My grandmother used to have a quilting frame in her kitchen that was on a pulley system. It would be raised to the ceiling when the kitchen was used for eating, and lowered for quilting. My grandparents were real homesteader stock.

    I still have the first quilt I ever made, it was an ambitious project. I had no idea of proper sizes so I made it the size of the floor of the sitting room of the apartment I had. It is huge. For good measure I put a double layer of batting….I wanted to be warm. To this day anyone who snuggles under that quilt falls asleep instantly, it is so big and warm….and handquilted ( I had a lot more time before I had children…obviously!).

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    • Wow! Good for you, Deb.That was ambitious for sure! But isn’t it nice, all these years later to see an old treasure still in use? And I love the idea of your grandparents rigging up a quilting frame that could be raised and lowered like that. How practical!

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  5. We had the same Singer at home when I was a kid. Then on the Charlottes (now Haida Gwaii) I got the same model for almost nothing. But unfortunately I didn´t use it much and gave it away. Very interesting post! I love quilts -but yours look much nicer than those shown on the pictures.

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    • Ah, but just wait until you see the next post with more modern quilts from the show. They are really expertly done. I kind of liked the old treadle machines, but basically they could only go forward and back – no zigzag – and so it was only good for plain sewing. Still, better than nothing. Oh wait a minute. Now I don’t remember if it even could go in reverse. Maybe someone out there can remember and let us know.

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  6. My grandmother had a singer treadle machine and a cabinet that resembles the one in the photo! It now resides in my sister’s home in her “antiques” room. It’s still a beautiful machine. Looking forward to your next post. Thanks for sharing!

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    • I learned to sew on a treadle machine. That’s what we had at school for our Home Ec. classes but at home my mother had a plain but good Singer electric machine. We’ve come a long way from those days, with computerized sewing machines, but the old ones still have a timeless quality about them.

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  7. I have that Singer, left to me from my cherished mother-in-law. It has sewed a lot of canvas fabrics and sails on our sailboat.
    Appreciate quilters, they express and share their artistic talents with so many. Marsha

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