Thursday, October 1, 2015

Grandma Elsie

In the aftermath of the Sewing Machine Garage Sale there has been a rekindling of sewing history in my family. Because I'm such a nut over these vintage and antique sewing machines, my family gets dragged into this from time to time and are good sports. There are even a few family members who are learning to love these old gals and Brenda is one of them, my second cousin from "up north." In case you think the Twin Cities of Minnesota isn't north enough, there's even more country up there where the summer is even shorter but the daylight is even longer.

After Brenda went back home she sent me some nice photos of the treadle sewing machine she inherited from Grandma. When she said Grandma I thought of her grandma, my aunt Alice, but she said, no, it was my grandma, Grandma Elsie, who was her great-grandma. When Grandma Elsie died in the 1980's, she still had her treadle sewing machine and it sat in the Humboldt, Iowa home for decades. When Elsie's daughters, who then owned the house, died, everything was finally cleaned out and somehow Brenda got the treadle sewing machine.


It's an attractive piece of furniture so it sat in her family room until she took an interest in vintage sewing machines and got to wondering what was in that treadle cabinet. I think there was a heavy television on it so she promised to take a look and I got a nice photo this week:

It's a Davis vibrating shuttle but I really can't tell anything else about this model but does look pretty good, don't you think? I sent the photos to my mom and sisters in hopes of stories about Grandma using the sewing machine and here's what I got:

From my mom:
I do not have any remembrances of this sewing machine. We lived with them for about a year before they moved into Humboldt and we stayed on the farm. If it could talk it would have lots of stories, lots of mending. I never remember her sewing but that has to be 70-75 years ago as we were married in 1946.

That's 69 years to be exact so it's no wonder my mom doesn't recall some of the more mundane tasks of life at the time! She does remember Brenda's grandma, Alice, sewing quite a bit and I know one of her daughters, Elaine, sewed all of their clothes since they were a family of petite women. Grandma Elsie's sons were the youngest in the family and had been in the war for the past several years, so the years of mending overalls had probably come to a close, much to her relief. But almost twenty years later my sister Sue and I visited this set of grandparents in Humboldt, Iowa and we do remember Grandma sewing with us. I shared my memory of that long ago summer day:

Remember doing hand sewing with Grandma? Grandpa made those little chairs that sat flat (Barbies legs didn't bend back then) and we made doll clothes with Grandma's help. I have a very distinct memory of standing in their basement laundry and Grandma showing me how to scoot my knot down to the end of my thread using the needle end. I still think of that.

That jogged my sisters memory a bit and Sue replied with this:

I do remember her doing hand sewing with us; she must have enjoyed that so much!

It had been a long time since she had little girls in her house but we were "Bud's girls" and would have tried their hardest to give us a happy visit. My memory of standing in her laundry room, probably waiting for the load to get done so she wouldn't have to keep walking up and down those steep stairs, is so vivid, I can almost see the sun coming in the small basement window well as we stood there and she moved that knot down with the needle. I thought it was the neatest trick and my grandma must have been brilliant. Maybe she was.
My Grandma Elsie with my dad, "Bud" as she called him
After all these years to see a photo of the treadle sewing machine she used is just wonderful. Thank you, Brenda, for giving it a good home and I know one day you will put a belt on it and pedal away. Wouldn't that make our grandmothers happy?

1 comment:

  1. This almost brought a tear to my eye. I have my Grandma's Singer 99 in original cabinet from 1938. She loved to sew and knit. Thank you for the memories.

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