Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Gramma Manuel’s Machine---

I only ever recall my Great-grandma Manuel from way back in my early childhood memories.

I don’t remember how old I was when she passed away, but her sepia toned portrait hung in our house for as long as I could remember. She was simply refered amongst family as the “white haired” grandma.

I thought she must have lived to be ancient ---but I think she was only in her 70s when she passed away. Funny how a child’s brain determines what is old---and I’m sure to my 4 or 5 year old self, she was OLD.

My mom told me once that her grandmother Manuel’s hair started turning white in her 40s. She never dyed it, and it was long ----she just always twisted it up into a bun at the back of her neck. I can relate to that. I’ll probably end up doing the same thing. It’s sensible, easy, and leaves more money for buying fabric!

I’d be completely happy if I never have to have another PERM in my life ever ever again! ((It’s been around 15 years since I have had one ---what a nightmare those were, bad smells and all!))

Gramma Manuel wore simple rimless glasses. I guess I’m following her there too --- but my favorite pair of glasses ever? The blue cats eye pair with “diamond” studs I wore in 2nd grade. Now THOSE were cool!

Several years ago I took a trip up to Minnesota for a family reunion. My Mom’s Sister, Auntie Joy, took me down to her basement and pulled out this ratty dirty machine case. Joy is my mom’s youngest sister ---which puts Joy and myself only 5 years apart in age, so we were raised more like cousins than aunt/niece. ((Oh, did I idolize her growing up! She was SO sophisticated and beautiful and stylish ----oh I still idolize her!))

Back to the machine ---

She said she’d been hanging on to this for years, but just wanted it to go to someone who would love it,with the thought that it should be passed down to the women of our family. I hefted this machine home on the plane as my “carry-on”. It only weighs something like 43 lbs!

The fact that Joy still had this machine is a wonder. My Grandma ((Mom's & Joy's mother)) passed away when I was but 5 years old, and Joy was only 10. I really don't have anything else as a memory of my maternal grandmother, not to mention my great-grandmother -- so this was a real treasure to me.

The machine needed cleaning and oiling –and the case itself is in pretty bad shape. But after all this time, the machine, a class 15 Singer from 1942 RUNS like a champ.

I pulled her out yesterday to piece a backing:

**Side Note:**

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What was I saving 15 yards of THIS double pink for anyway?

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Do you see that? IN THE YEAR 2000!!! FIFTEEN YARDS?! Let’s just say that a good hunk of it is now used and what’s left I have determined to be the zig zag border on Nearly Insane – it’s insane I’ve hoarded hearded this fabric this long!

I did get the backing pieced and the quilt quilted --- can’t show it to you yet, it’s for a future project ---but I have to tell you that I was nearly weepy sewing on Great Gramma Manuel’s Singer.

When she got this machine, MY Grandma, her daughter --- was a teenage wife & mother. It was quite the bit of gossip too, in a small Minnesota town in the early 1940s, when her daughter, Verna Fern Manuel up and married Dr. Alvin K Mach ---the local dentist who was at least 10 years her senior. ((Maybe more)) Grandma was something like 16 years young and they eloped to Iowa. I’m not sure I have details right –but I’ll double check at the family reunion in Idaho over 4th of July ---Auntie Joy is coming from Minnesota too. Yay. Oh, I love family story time!

So Verna Fern and Alvin set up housekeeping --- and at some point Great Grandma Manuel’s machine came to live with Verna Fern --- where she sewed clothes and skating costumes for her daughter, my mother Anita. My mom says she remembers this machine in the house, but whether she sewed on it herself I am not sure. More info to find out ----

But can you see why I was so emotional while simply piecing a backing and putting on a binding yesterday?

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This machine has been touched by 4 generations of women in my family. I wish I knew what else it had sewn. Wouldn’t it be nice if machines came with diaries to list every article it ever made? Who’s hem’s it raised, who’s knees it patched, who’s curtains it crafted? I don’t get this machine out to play enough. Sometimes I pass it by for zippier, flashier models with fancy colors and sleeker body types, more features ---but this is the machine I have the most connection to.

I’m off today to run to Statesville to spend a bit of time with a California Friend, Sherry, who has been traveling the country with her hubby in their 5th wheel ---I need to catch her before they head back west, so today is it!

We’ll grab some lunch, and there may be some antiquing stops on the way --- or----wouldn’t it be fun to do some girly stuff and go get a pedicure? It all depends on how much time we have while they are having maintenance done on their 5th wheel before they hit the road --- we’ll play it by ear and it will be great to see each other again!

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Happy Tuesday, everyone!


  1. My mom had an old Singer that was also my first machine. It's a shame we donated it to the church when I got married and got my first Bernina. Friends from church had the Bernina dealership in San Antonio and I got a floor model for $500! My dad was the minister so I'm sure I got a deal. That machine and a new mattress were our first purchases for our married life. My hubby knew from the beginning that sewing was important!

  2. Those kinds of things touch me most. I think about the people who sat in front of that machine creating something just like we are. Look how many of those old machines are still serving us well. Not sure if these modern marvels will be chugginig along 50 years from now. Thanks for sharing that.

  3. What a wonderful story! And you are so lucky to have that sewing machine! I think when my Grandma died, my mom and her siblings probably just sold or tossed things like that. What a shame. They just didn't value "old" things. I would give my right arm for my Grandma's treadle machine! Oh, and BTW, I wear my long hair twisted into a bun and love it. My sister thinks I'm nuts - about hair and quilting - but I'm happy. The bun makes it so easy when we are traveling in our camper too (of course I bring my featherweight with me). I love that pink fabric, too!

  4. Yes! To the sewing machine diaries!
    And while we are still daydreaming...that the orginal manuels and parts never departed from the side of the machines! :D
    This spring I was gifted with a sewing machine that appears to be the same make and model, but was in a wooden singer sewing table/base...Yours is in much better condition!
    The 'new' machine I recently aquired, the gold has worn away, the black has lost it's shine and the wiring is frayed.I am hanging on to the machine in hopes of one day restoring her....but the main reason...I look at the machine, see the years of service, the wear and wonder like you, where is the list of everything that was created by using this machine.(I do know a small bit of the history of the machine, but huge gaps of information are missing!)

    sowingstitches [at] yahoo [dot] com

  5. Loved the story,are you kin to any Manuel's in Louisiana? There are quite a few here. LOL

  6. WOW, here I am crying, tears running down my cheeks! What a wonderful treasure you have shared with us. Gives me goosebumps.

    My Dad secretly got rid (OUCHIE) of my Mom's treadle machine and bought me a Singer Electric, very similar to yours here. Since my Mom died when just before I was 16, I LOVED that treadle. He had no idea what it meant. How could I fuss at him. He wanted to give me something he felt as better for my 16th birthday. To this day, I would give millions for the treadle machine. I still have the electric machine - a sign of my Dad's love.

    Bonnie, we should send your post to everyone who loves a certain machine and let them keep it in the family.

    Thanks again,

  7. Wonderful story. Say hi to Sherry for me. How's the progress on her hexes?? Kendra

  8. Bonnie, thank you for sharing your family story! I too sew almost exclusively on my grandmother's 1938 201 Singer. I've sewn all morning on it today! I have a picture on my blog! There is nothing like them for sure!!! ♥♥♥

  9. OK, this is my story, I'm sewing on my Mom's 201, most of my quilts, grand daughters Baby clothes, my clothes, and my Grand daughters Christening Gown, (That i made from my Mother-in-laws Wedding gown, at the time I made it it was 60 year old SILK! The gown had a 10ft Train) on that 201, I have my mom's Featherweight too! I just finished Oca Bay on this Machine! and started another one, I learned how to sew on this Machine when I was 5, My Great Aunt taught me how to Sew. I made her a Quilt for her 99th Birthday, When I told I did it on the 201 she started crying! Sometimes I think (if your a sewer) your best family memories have something to do with your Mom, Aunt, Grandmoter and you with an old faithful Sewing Machine, I even have an extra Motor for Betsy, so if anything Happens I can keep her going! Thanks for showing your 15, Bonnie, I have an old 66 that's I found on Ebay years ago! She runs like I little champ too, but I swear she tips the scales heavier than the 201 and that says something, Betsy is about 50 pounds, Thank God she is in a cabinet! Time to turn her on and get sewing! Have a great day of Fun Bonnie!

  10. What a treasure trove you have!

  11. Such a wonderful story! Family stories are becoming a lost art...make sure to print out this post and keep it with the machine. So any future owners (75 years in the future) will know it's value to your family.

  12. Great story! I wish I had my G'Ma's Singer treadle machine, but it went to a cousin. I am glad it's still in the family.

  13. Such a neat story. I have my mother's machine & cabinet that she bought when she learned that I was coming! I still use it sometimes. I learned to sew on a treadle machine that was my great-aunts. Sitting on either her or my mom's lap while they would pump and I would sew.

  14. I learned to sew on my Mother's new Elna. In 1953 my Dad paid $353 for it. I have it and the receipt. When I married in 1964 and moved to Arlington, Va, Hubby was in service, I bought a Spartan from a neighbor for $17.50. I had to make installments because we could not afford to buy it outright. That was 1965, I still have it and want to get it out and sew on it. Bonnie has encouraged me. I also have a treadle that I purchased in excellant shape for $40. My favorite machine is my Pfaff 7550, just love it. Have had it since 1995. Ramona from Maine

    1. Well, Ramona, I connected with you because of your Pfaff 7550 - I've had mine since around 1987, and I do love it, it has done thousands of miles of sewing - but it's the wierdest thing, some starter thingy on the motherboard has gone wonky, and the machine has to be manually warmed before it will sew. We're in Winter here in South Africa, and when I get up in the morning, I park the machine on its' side on the window cill in my attic sewing room so that it catches the sun, and after it's thoroughly warm, it will only sew. On a cloudy winters' day I do other catch-up and prep stuff, as it simply doesn't warm up enough! Margaret in Pretoria, SA

  15. Great story! Skating costumes? Roller or ice? We were a family of roller skaters and I have my Mom's old Bernina that sewed many a skating costume for the annual local Roller Rhapsodies for our family and others whose Mom's didn't sew.
    I confess to still having a bit of that double pink in my stash--but only a bit, not 15 yards!!

  16. I have my great-grandmother's Singer 66 treadle. It's in rough shape but a refurbishing job for the future for me. I do most of my sewing on a singer 401, which I bought off of Craigslist, and a singer 301, which was gifted to me by a generous lady. I do wish sewing machines came with diaries. It would be fascinating to know what all they have made and who they made it for.

  17. i enjoyed your family history, especially the small town scandalous marriage!! hehe. my mom and dad married after only 5 weeks of meeting. my mom was 17 years younger than dad, there were many tongues wagging in our very small town. they were married 39 years at my dad's passing. i love family treasures....

  18. Bonnie, I have a machine that looks almost identical to yours. My In-laws bought it to do upholstery and gave it to me when they moved out of their house into an apartment. I've used it only a few times and I really like it. It's one of three antique Singers I own. :)

    Here's a link to a photo of my machine, it's a model 15-91 and a lookup of the serial number shows it was made in 1948.


    I also have a 128-23 from 1950 and a 31-15 treadle from 1927. The only problem is that the main drive wheel and pittman arm on the treadle is long gone... the machine had been converted to electric in the 1970's or so. I need to find a new drive wheel so I can turn it back into a treadle!


  19. Your wonderful story brought to mind two memories of mine. The first is learning to sew at age 3 or 4 on my great gramma's treadle machine, which has disappeared unfortunately. The other memory is talking to my grandmother at age 30 and telling her that I was concerned that my hair was turning gray. She responded, "How come so late?" I thought she was joking, but apparently in my family it goes white early too.

  20. Anonymous12:54 PM EDT

    Another good story from Bonnie. I love it. But I have to tell you that funky pink light just doesn't go with the old Singer. lol
    Happy Tuesday all.

  21. I loved your story Bonnie! I had the same glasses as you only I was in 6th grade when I got them. You would have been in either 1st or 2nd grade then. I thought I was such "hot stuff" with those glasses on. My grandma too had long hair but she would have a braid on each side of her head and pin it on top. I'm taking after her as my hair is now below my waist but I wear it in a ponytail almost every day and braid it at night.

    Have a wonderful Tuesday.

    Sandy in TN

  22. Anonymous1:31 PM EDT

    Oh, how lucky you are to have this very special machine in your life. My grandmothers treadle Singer went to my cousin who to my knowledge does not sew. Enjoy the day with your special friend.
    Lynda from Chicago (Culvers)

  23. Ah, Bonnie - a diary of everything done - and a scrap of material from each sewing project attached. Wouldn't that be interesting! Hooray for digital cameras and computers noweadays - one can compile a pictorial diary for each machine so easily now. Margaret

  24. Anonymous2:10 PM EDT

    I loved reading your sweet story. It reminded me of my Mother's Singer dressmaker. She made many baby blankets, baby clothes, kid clothes, teenager's clothes, sewed for neighbors and friends, my wedding dress and all the attendant's dresses, many curtains and drapes throughout the years. There were five girls in our family and three of us had also sewn on this machine. My mother is 87 and doesn't sew anymore, but she certainly made good use of her little sewing machine. I asked her a few years back what had happened to her machine and she said that it had gotten wet and she threw it away, but I wish that I had known, it may have been salvagable.

  25. Bonnie I have an old Singer like this at home. I got it for $20 at an estate sale 30 years ago. It sews beautifully, though every time we moved I had to take it in and have it tuned up as it is very sensitive to being around.

  26. That 1940's singer is probably better than any of the machines these days. It looks in great condition. Lucky you.

  27. Anonymous4:15 PM EDT

    Oh Bonnie, I know exactly what you mean! It took me a few years after Mom passed away to sew on her old Singer, but when I got it out and it stitched so beautifully, I cried. She never quilted, but sewed most of my clothes and even made many knit shirts on that Singer back in the Stretch and Sew days. I remember that she even patched the canvas cover for Dad's boat! What a workhorse! She even got the buttonholer attachment for it and no machine makes nicer buttonholes! It was her only sewing machine for over 40 years - quite an investment!

  28. Cool old machine...and I'm sure I have a few pieces of fabric that old or older around here somewhere.

  29. I have my grandpa's Wertheim treadle. It was found in his shed 40 years after he died (long story) complete with sewing things in the drawers as he left it when he died in 1963. He was a sail maker. It is in pretty bad shape but I will never get rid of it.

  30. Maybe you should start a diary for the machine and write down the history and then keep track of what you do with it and make sure to pass this onto the next family member to inherit the machine.

  31. Alberta Diane10:16 PM EDT

    I adopted a singer just like that one at our church rummage sale last month. According to the serial number, mine was made in 1954. Does yours have a back stitch? I don't think mine does. It runs like a dream though. I just peiced two rick rack nines with mine last week.

  32. Bonnie, I learned to sew on my Mom's 1925 Singer, I still have that machine, plus the same model from 1915. They both sew like a dream and make a perfect straight stitch and use the long shuttles, the only downside - just a bit noisy. Also have a Featherweight from the 40's, which I take to classes. My Dad bought me my first machine in 1959 - still have it too. We won't mention the newer computer machines that I now have, but am still faithful to the older ones.

  33. I was Born Cathy Manuel. Makes me wonder if we very very long distance relatives. Ruth McDowell has a Grandma Manuel and we have found the link back to Newfoundland, very distant cousins. I have my Great Grandmother's old portable hand crank singer from around 1916 or so. I love the old ones but this one is extra special. The wooden case is in prime condition and still has a green cloth cover and key. I have to get some parts replaced. I need to look in to that and get it working again.

  34. OMG Bonnie, we have emailed back and forth about my Necchi that I bought and want to get rid of. when I saw your pic of the old singer from your GGM I had to go intot he other room adn check out the Singer I have from my daughters, GM! It looks just like it!!!It is a AJ491864 which should be around 1958. It's in amazing condition. I've only recently obtained it/rescued it.

  35. I love the story Bonnie. I have my Great Grandmother's White Family Rotary treadle, my late motherinlaw's Singer 201 & her mother's Singer 66 treadle as well as a family friend's great-grandmother's SInger 15-30 treadle & a couple of vintage Necchis, a Singer 301 & a more recent (1989) Husqvarna.
    For those who aren't aware, www.treadleon.net is a huge resorce of info on treadles & handcranks. Yahoo groups Vintage Singer group & other treadle/vintage machine groups are there to join with tons of info. WWW.ismacs.net also has lots of info about older machines. Check them out for links to dealers who sell parts for these old lovelies!

  36. My ex-husband's family (Manuel) is from the Twin Cities area....maybe you're related!


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