Sew Nice!                            

By Clinton J. Holloway


As long as there have been people there has been the need for something to cover the body; therefore, there has long been the need for sewing. According to a booklet, The Story of Sewing, issued by the Singer Sewing Machine Company as a souvenir for the 1964-65 World’s Fair (Booth W-412, $2), “Sewing is actually the story of civilization.”


Primitive women, the booklet says, first sewed with needles made of polished bone, ivory, wood and thorn. By about 5000 B.C., according to the booklet, the Babylonians invented needles made from gold, silver, copper and bronze. Steel needles were introduced in Europe in the fourteenth century.


Singer says the first successful sewing machine was a French device invented about 1830. Afterward, men came along to improve the machine, including Elias Howe and Isaac Singer. These early machines were driven by a hand wheel until the foot peddle was invented; electricity then made these machines obsolete.


In the modern world, sewing is still an important task, but it is no longer one of the chief occupations of the woman of the house; women no longer need to make the family clothes. However, the sewing culture of days past presents a tremendous opportunity for collectors and decorators. Sewing machines themselves are rarely collected, but one can make a nice decorator item.


Booth T-304 offers a lovely sewing machine that would fit the bill perfectly (above right). Probably once a top-of-the-line White portable model in a faux croc case, it retains its original black matte finish with a wash of gold accents. The overall styling makes it utilitarian, but it is also imbued with a sculptural quality. In addition to tabletop or portable models such as this, there are many built –in varieties.


Often when a sewing machine was beyond repair, the machine was removed and the base, with its cast iron treadle, was converted into a table due to its appealing sculptural quality. We have one in our home that we use as an end table that was made by my father. Booth 1006 has just such an example with a beautiful wood top for $250; Booth 2007 offers a similar option but with a marble top.


I remember my Grandmother’s sewing machine was in a desk cabinet. She continued to use the desk long after the sewing machine was kaput.


Not limited to the machine, other furniture pieces might include a spinning wheel; a small version for flax can be found at Cedarcroft’s Booth in the original GasLamp for $650. Its diminutive size makes it ideal for home decor. Some spinning wheels can be almost as tall as a person, such an example offered by T-1005 for $450.


Sewing tables are handy places to stow thread, needles and a sewing project while keeping them always close at hand. These are also popular today and can be used for their intended purpose or as a place to stash magazines, remotes and your iPad.


Pakrats, Booth 2022, has a model, painted white, with a flip top that includes thread and notions for $145 (photo, right). Vintage Gold, Booth 545 at GasLamp Too, has a Martha Washington style stand in natural wood for $175. With three drawers and side wells, it has great storage potential in today’s living areas.With a little creativity, a fun sewing table can be turned into a jewelry box or a place to keep office items. Who knows? It's so easy to have fun with such pieces from days gone by.




Print this page