It's funny how a series of coincidences and social media can converge into an investigation into one's past and a revelation or two.
I would like to introduce you to my mum's Singer sewing machine. It belonged to her great grandmother, Elizabeth. I have always thought of this machine as Victorian, but research of the last few days tell us it was manufactured in 1902, making it (just) Edwardian.
I did my first ever machine sewing on this, and on my nan's 1935 Jones. It was ideal for little me, as the winding wheel meant that the sewing speed could be really, really slow and controlled. No worrying about small fingers being stabbed, unlike my mum's 1980s electronic Singer, which scared me to death!
Just look at the detail. This would have been the pride and joy - not to mention essential household member and in some cases livelihood - of any housewife of the day. My nan would make clothes for my mum on this in the 1950s and 60s, as it was still by far the cheapest way to clothe a growing child in those days.
The owner of this sewing machine, my great great grandmother, owned a grocery shop with her husband, and continued to run it after his death. She had to, as there was no pension. I'm told the dates printed here are a little inaccurate, as my mum remembers visiting this shop in the mid-60's, and seeing the wood panelled store room and piles of tins. This photograph immediately made me want to create a new doll's house shop!
All this family history exploration came about when my friend Katrina asked me to pop round and see if I could get her recently acquired sewing machine working for her. Here it is (sorry for the photo quality from here on in, it was rather spontaneous!)
This is a 1958 electronic Singer. Its rather unorthodox electronics by today's standards made us a little nervous!
Anyway, we got it working, only concluding that it needs a new belt, when we discovered a drawer full of patterns...
And a secret compartment full of sewing supplies! I immediately reached for my phone and popped all of these images on Instagram. This led to a conversation about Singers and someone asked to see a photo of my mum's Edwardian Singer. So I pulled it out and quizzed my mum on its original owner... and on the very same day my nan emailed through - completely coincidentally - the above picture of the shop owned by the very same lady. My mum's godmother had found the picture and thought my nan would like to have it.
So you see, life has a habit of throwing up these odd little conversational patterns every now and again. Thanks to a call for help from a friend and Instagram I have learned about a special ancestor... and perhaps a little something about myself, too. I had no idea we had grocers in the family, but have since firmly decided that this must be why I have always had such a desire to have a little shop of my own. I don't think my paltry online retail space will be blown out of the water by the likes of Sainbury's any time soon though!
Looking at the pictures below, it's amazing to think how much technology moved on in half a century. All decoration disappeared, electricity arrived, but the sewing machine lost none of its work horse, dependable status. Then you compare the first picture to that of my little Audrey there on the right... oh how I love her for her convenience and for helping me in my own sewing adventures, but I wonder what Great Great Grandma Betty would think of her. I doubt my hobby machine will be around in 111 years' time!
Have you got an antique sewing machine in your family? Do you still use it?