People sensitive to these accumulated vibrations, like myself, can’t resist collecting the treasures.
Precious memories reside in the pine chest of drawers Dad made when I was born as well as the four-poster maple bedstead my aunt refinished in 1950 and subsequently passed down to me. The picture attached shows a portable Morse sewing machine Mom and Dad purchased in 1971 at a local swap mart as a gift to me. Even at age eleven or twelve, I understood the value of the gift and the love behind it.
Although family heirlooms remain most dear, I sense similar auras around all antiques. Deep rich stories, lifestyles, and struggles ooze from the worn woodwork of an old vanity dresser, the tarnished brass of a pendulum clock, or the faded upholstery of a Victorian settee. Even in the garden, I bend over to watch an heirloom onion poke its first pointed leaves through the ground—rare, endangered, exuding a history steeped in the culture of the local Native American people, who also struggle to hold onto their old ways. It seems that “ways of doing things” are just as endangered as antiques themselves.
My grandparents, Mamaw and Papaw, moved to Arizona in the 1940s from Arkansas. They couldn’t afford to buy pre-made sewing patterns, so Mamaw made her own from newspaper or paper grocery sacks. She could imagine the most complex dress with pinches, pleats, and ruffles and then bring the dream to life.
Before sewing machines became popular, this task was done by hand. A skillful seamstress, like Mamaw, possessed an advanced repertoire of stitches and methodology. Still, today, the finest work is done with a needle, thread and thimble. Foot-powered treadle machines replaced routine needle and thread methods. Electrically-powered models soon followed.
My first project with my Morse buddy was Barbie doll clothes. Later, I made a long ‘midi-skirt’ popular in that era. The machine went on to make my own wedding dress, baby clothes, and Halloween costumes for my children.
About five years ago, I gave my Morse machine to my oldest daughter. Since that time, she has followed in Mamaw’s tradition, making her own patterns and ‘re-purposing’ existing clothing.
My Morse friend returns to my home for routine maintenance. These older models require regular cleaning, oiling, and belt changes. Like hand sewing and growing heirloom vegetables, the knowledge of how to repair and maintain non-computerized types is disappearing. The next time my daughter’s sewing machine requires this service, perhaps she will help me with this task. I want to pass this skill onto her while I still can.
Over the years, I’ve collected a number of machines from thrift stores. These little guys almost always have mechanical problems. Fortunately, some of them can be brought back to life with a good cleaning, a few spare parts, and a little love.