Tuesday, June 17, 2014
My 'new' 1947 Brother Sewing Machine
As I walked into an estate sale on Sunday morning, I never imagined the above machine I'd seen on Friday would be available at Sunday's 50% off price of $75. Upon arriving, I B-lined for the back bedroom, where I'd seen it a few days before, and there she was. Sitting next to the bed in the almost empty master bedroom, in the one story house in a small neighborhood just a few miles away from my home in the west side of Jacksonville, Florida. I couldn't believe it was still there!
I sat down with on the carpet with the machine, plugged it into a nearby outlet and as I pressed on the foot pedal with my hands, it started to hum that sweet sound only old machines make. A woman behind me asks, "Oh do you collect vintage sewing machines?" I politely tell her that I sew for a living and continue to examine the machine. "That was my mother's machine," she says, and I'm floored. Never when shopping at an estate sale do you ever consider that the family is actually present. I then realized she was straightening the linens on the bed, not just browsing. I'm torn between getting a little choked up at the perspective she must have, watching people buying her mother's belongings, and genuine interest in her mother and then ask her to tell me more about her mother. Gail continues to tell me more about her mother.
Her mother's name was Katherine, and this beautiful Brother sewing machine was her graduation present from high school in 1947. She taught Home Economics as well. Gail tells me all about how her mother sewed on this home machine all her life, and that Gail herself learned how to make doll clothes on it when she was a young girl.
She was so happy to see me take it home, knowing it was going to a home where it would be used and appreciated. It was a beautiful moment. I was sure to also pick up some clothing and fabric, to make something special on this machine, using Katherine's fabric.
Taking inflation into account, this machine's original price of $189.50 would be a whopping $2014.58 today! And I got it for a ridiculously low price of $37.50. Absolutely incredible. I love that it came in the original carrying case, and with the manual. It appears as if baby Gail got her hands on the manual on day back in the 1960s, while mom was sewing, with a few scribbles on the back page, clearly made from a child.
There's a reason the saying "They don't make 'em like they used to" is popular. It is so true. This machine is such a beauty. As soon as I got it home, I plugged it in, grabbed a rolled hem foot from my Brother in my sewing room, and cut out and made curtains for my kitchen.
While not as fast as my pink Brother, it's just as beautiful. My favorite part about these machines is the throttle. That's what that long metal lever is. All the way down, the feed dogs pull the fabric and you sew forward. All the way up to the top, you sew in reverse. Straight in the middle, the machine sews at a stand still. The knob on the right is the stitch length. It's a real trick to get the two in unison, takes some getting used to if you're used to sewing on a standard sewing machine, but it's like second nature to me.
Another fun feature on these machines, you can make a bobbin as you sew, just like industrial sewing machines. See that funny contraption on the front of the hand wheel? If you press down on the horizontal piece of metal on the right, it engages the bobbin winder. The spool of thread would sit where I have two bobbins, thread it through the thread guide to the right of that, and up to the bobbin winder. Personally, I prefer to use an external bobbin winder to reduce unnecessary wear and tear. Plus, when I make bobbins, I make a ton so I don't have to come back to it later in the day.
Now this is comical. A 20 Year Guarantee Bond. Going on 70 years old and still kicking it pretty good, I'd say Brother out did themselves with this machine. It turned twenty when my pink Brother was just a toddler.
To make the machine really shine, like it does in these photos, I used soap and water on a microfiber rag, removing all the dust and dirt. Washing out that same microfiber wrap, keeping it a little damp, I used the car polish my step father always store by, the same wax that I used to earn $20 for waxing his truck every year. Coating it in one coat of wax, I then used a dry rag to wipe it clean.
The only thing I will have to do to this machine, besides lube it up a little next time I sew, is rewire the cord. Because it's so old, there may be a little dry rot on the plastic on the cord, where there is currently electrical tape at the base of the electrical. Otherwise, it's the find of the year! I'm so happy to add this to my permanent collection of machines. This baby ain't going anywhere!
****If you are in need of a sewing machine, or know someone who is, and you live in the Jacksonville area, I'm giving away 3 sewing machines at our birthday bash for Shelby, on July 5th.***
***If you have a sewing machine you are willing to donate to us here at Sally Ann, we are super passionate about getting young girls (and boys) back into the field of sewing, and LOVE to get machines into their hands at NO cost to them. We act as the middle man, email us at SallyAnnFashion@gmail.com for information on shipping your machine to us.***