Saturday, February 5, 2011


"As Pa lifted the blanket away, there stood a shining new sewing machine. Ma gasped. "Yes, Caroline, it is yours", Pa said proudly, "I had to sell a cow anyway."

Sewing machines still remained a luxury for many pioneering families. As Laura Ingalls Wilder recalled, her mother had always wanted a machine but the family could not afford one until the girls were grown.

Singer machines sold for as much as $125 dollars at a time when $500 a year was considered the norm for how much people made. Singer, however had a time payment plan. Singer was a brilliant inventor and held numbers of patents.

One would think families or neighbors shared machines, otherwise the sewing had been done by hand. It is no wonder that in the early years of Thief River Falls, there were millinery shops. People used the machine as there lively hood. Dressmakers had store fronts. One of them was on North LaBree in the 400 black, about where the Falls Clinic used to be which was across from the Starkow Clinic in the early 1950's, although decades earlier.

It makes one wonder if quilting bees were more about bring your machine.

I don't know the model numbers of Mae' White machine nor of Grandma's. So I can't tell you how old they were. I do know that Grandma used her treadle machine as long as she sewed. I am certain that when she got it, it was a big, wonderful gift. I can still see her maroon slippers on the treadle going back and forth in perfect cadence as she stitched along. Then, with her scissors, now with a patina finish from years of use, snipping the threads.

Old Trunks wondered about all of this after reading an article about Singer's Model 15. According to the article, it was a hand crank machine, that is, the operator cranked the machine with a wheel with a knob on the right side of the machine and guided the fabric with the left.

This same Model 15 was reworked to be a treadle machine and later electric. Although Model 15 had changes, that number was still being sold in the late 1990's.

Just who was this Singer guy, anyway? It seems as if he was colorful with multiple marriages and mistresses and it is claimed he had twenty-four children. And to think the installment plan bought him lavish homes in the United States as well as England and France.

I suppose he kept people in stitches, too.


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