The Treadle Sewing Machine

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, May 1, 1911: 

The month of May has come today

With many a happy pleasure.

With it, she brings the flowers of spring,

In full many a boundless measure.

Started to make a dress today. Want to get it finished this week, if I can. There was an awful heavy shower here this evening. It hailed some too but it soon cleared off and everything looked so fresh and beautiful.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I loved to explore Grandma’s attic when I was a child, and remember that she had an old treadle sewing machine in her attic. Instead of using electricity, the machine was operated by moving your feet up and down.

I wonder if the sewing machine in the attic was the same one that she used to make the dress in 1911.

I can remember begging to be allowed to explore the attic. Off to the side of Grandma’s kitchen at the spot where the kitchen merged with the hall, there was a door that led to the attic stairs.

Grandma would open the door, and lead my cousins and me up the hardwood stairs. The stairs led to a huge sun lit room. (My memory is that it was always sunny whenever I was in the attic.)

At each end of the room were large casement windows. The ceiling sloped nearly to the floor along the sides. Grandma’s bungalow was really a 1 ½ story house, and I think that the attic was designed so that it potentially could be converted into bedrooms, so it had beautiful hardwood floors.

There were rows of wooden shelves in the attic filled with boxes, dishes, knickknacks, and other miscellaneous treasures. Amongst all the stored items sat the sewing machine. My memory is that Grandma actually used the treadle sewing machine, and that torn pairs of my grandfather’s overalls lay by the machine waiting to be patched. But my memory is very foggy on this—and maybe there really were no torn overalls–and the treadle sewing machine was no longer used and merely stored in the attic.

4 Responses

  1. […] mother (Mater) probably used a treadle sewing machine to make the skirt. I wonder if the skirt had any tucks or pleats.  The January 1912 issue of […]

  2. […] difference was that I used an electric sewing machine and Grandma would have used a treadle sewing machine. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  3. How wonderful! I’m a sewer, by love and by profession, so this post really is special. Oh to own a treadle sewing machine now!

    For my birthday a couple of weeks ago, my family bought me a new Singer sewing machine, with the old style look, which was a special release to celebrate 150 years of Singer machines.

    I love Helena’s little poem. Do you know if she wrote it herself? I think the sunshine in the attic may also be a “happy memories” assosiation for you! :)

    • The sewing machine sound awesome.

      On the first day of each month there is a poem in the diary. I don’t know whether or not she wrote them. She may have gotten the monthly poems out of a book or magazine. They seem to vary in quality. Sometimes I think she wrote them herself–other times I don’t.

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