Finishing a big project always seems to leave me feeling frustrated. I spent all this time and energy working on one thing, and now it’s gone and I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know why, but I have always found antique stores to be very restful places. I think it is because there are so many distractions I can’t help but let my mind wander away from whatever is bothering me. Usually, I leave an antique store feeling calmer. Today, that was not the case. Here’s why:
It’s a late 1800’s or early 1900’s treadle-powered sewing machine, complete with all the bits. I’ve been to this antique store plenty of times, but I had never noticed this machine before. (Full disclosure, I had gone intending to get another typewriter to fix up. They had a 1920’s Underwood that I wanted, but, alas, it has been sold). This sewing machine is magnificent. It very nearly works, and after scuttling underneath and poking around with my flashlight, it didn’t appear to be missing any parts.
After about ten minutes of Googling, this is what I learned. It’s called a coffin top sewing machine, because of the funny little box that goes on top. The six-digit serial number means it’s very early, likely within the 1890’s to 1900’s. This was at the time that sewing machines were really becoming popular for home use. The history of the sewing machine is anything but straightforward if you are ever looking for an interesting read. (It’s a history that’s also a little insulting. Ads didn’t assume much of the intelligence of women back then).
Inside one of the drawers, I found the original instruction manual and a hand-made needle holder. The fabric pattern is much more vibrant on the inside of the pouch, as you can see. I should have looked at the manual for an exact date, but it was so fragile I only handled it long enough to take a quick picture. I would love to own one of these machines one day, to restore it and know exactly how the whole thing works. But even if I could manage to get one of those machines down the stairs into my antique apartment, there isn’t an inch of space that isn’t already being used, and these things aren’t at all slim. To say nothing of the cost, most are over $200, before the expenses of restoration.
I could go on and on about the affinity people develop towards their trusty old machines. Cars, sewing machines, typewriters, record players, I love how reliable they can be, I even enjoy the work it takes to keep them going. Someday I’ll care for one of these old beauties, but until then, I’ll be perfectly happy with my modern set-up.