Why Do Singer Sewing Machines Evoke Emotions, Stories, & Histories?

"My great grandmother had a fancier version of this one but she made all the clothes and quilts on her farm....she was pretty amazing" -Rebecca Scott Gonzales commenting on this photo of co-Founder Jade Beall upon the arrival of our oldest Singer sewing machine from 1982. 

Almost every day, someone walks into the Fed By Threads boutique and I watch as they immediately take a journey into their memories when they see our collection of 60-120 year-old Singer sewing machines. They rub their fingers gently along the contours of each machine. Keenly, they describe to me stories about the generations that came before them with a nostalgia for a time when family members made clothes, blankets, and beyond. 

It is as if these machines sew the fabric of their families' histories together. Silently, I try to imagine the images cycling through their mind's eye. I wonder what their grandma's fingers might have looked like as their feet pushed the treadle to make the machine fly. These stories are like the most delicious fruits; their antiquity speak to a past of hardships, of victories, of generosity. 

How often do we get to hold something that is 120 years old? How many machines are actually still fully operational? Our country used to make goods to last and the Singer sewing machine is an icon of that era. Their cast iron bodies carry a weight of a one-year-old baby and live on with the confident durability of a tank. The metal welcomes our touch; the wooden bases speak to a craftsmanship based on pride rather than speed. 

My own grandma had an ancient Singer which we ourselves heartbreakingly got rid of after my own mother died of cancer. This was well-before Fed By Threads was born but how I wish I could retrieve that machine and install it here, in it's rightful place, an icon of my own family's past. The bentwood case was in shambles and it was with teary eyes that I let it go back then. So now, when I myself run my fingers along these Singers, I am taking back in time, and smile sadly missing my own grandmother who is since long passed away. 

Come and take your own journey. Let your own fingers journey along the metalic curves of each machine and tell us your story. These machines beg for our stories to be shared. 

Please click share at the top of this page if Singer sewing machines hold a special place in your heart! 

-Alok Appadurai is co-Founder of Fed By Threads and is a writer on sustainability, the US economy, & human rights as well as being a vegetarian, a social entrepreneur, a new father, and a budding urban farmer. Email him directly at ALOK@fedbythreads.com

Alok Appadurai
Alok Appadurai


1 Response


October 26, 2012

As a historian I am so pleased to see that the inertia of Fed By Threads is built on so many things, not the least of which now is a social consciousness that recognizes ties to the past. This story invokes for me an image of how much different the current view of time is than in the past. We are truly the instant gratification culture, not often for the best. Of course the great irony is that the Singer was itself an innovative piece of technology in its day! Keep up the great work, FBT. Love your vision and mission!

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