I inherited this 401A Singer from my Great Grandmother, Lela. I have had it for years, and before that it sat at my Mom's house gathering dust. This past week I decided it was damn time it worked (partly due to the awesome quilt Steph made, but I digress) and took it to have a little much needed TLC. This machine is over 50 years old and let me tell ya'll it still sews like a champ. It seems to remember the miles of thread that has traveled through it before, and has given me no problems.
I have been sitting thinking of my dear grandmother as I sew, feeling connected to her as my fingers are just where hers where for so many years. Saying this woman was amazing would be an understatement. Sometime during the early 1940's, after the birth of her fourth child, her husband left her for another woman. He moved to California never to be seen again. My Great Grandmother never remarried, had no family that lived near and still managed to raise four small children all alone. I could not imagine what that must have been like. She mainly kept to herself and preferred not to talk of the past.
By the time I knew her she had a sewing addiction for sure. I remember her sewing storage room: A bare bulb hung from the ceiling illuminating an ironing board island surrounded by a sea of cloth and doll parts. The smell of moth balls wafting out of everything. There were closets so full of cloth you could not see the floor. Half finished dolls, patiently waiting for an arm or perhaps a face. Lela made hundreds of cloth dolls and I bet that every child that was supported by The Christian Children's Fund in the 70's - 90's has one of her dolls. She made them for less fortunate kids, the homeless. I would love to have one of those dolls now. I was amazed by that room, with all the different colors, prints, textures. How I wish she could have lived to see my interest in all things crafty.
She also made her own clothes. For some reason she always choose crazy polyester prints to make her matching pants suits. I don't think I ever saw her when she was not wearing polyester. Oh yeah, and she was mostly deaf. So it was always comical to have conversations with her. One I really remember between her and my oldest sister... Lela was well into her 80's at this time.
Sister: So did you have a good time in California?
Lela: Oh yes, we had lots of fun.
Sister: What did you do?
Lela: aye? (cupping her ear)
Sister: Did you go surfing?
Lela: yeah lots of times.
I can never smell peppermint without thinking of hers growing in her back yard garden. Ahhh....memories.