Day to day

For the Love of Vintage

I started free motion quilting in 2015 on my old workhorse of a Pfaff using a darning foot, quickly realized I loved it and that I wanted a bigger throat space, so upgraded to a new domestic machine designed for quilters. With the eventual progression to bigger longarm machines in my studio, this new domestic became my main sewing machine and my old Pfaff got no more attention.

Fast forward to last year (2019) when I started participating in a sewing day outside my home with a few other ladies and I decided to take the old Pfaff out, give it some love, and take it with me.

I bought this machine with my own money at the age of thirteen with money I made working in the fabric store my parents owned. I had been sewing for four years – first on my Gramma’s old Pfaff and then on my mom’s new one – and because I was used to using my mom’s, which was the top Pfaff model at the time, I wanted the same thing and nothing less. It was going to last me a lifetime so go big or go home, right? LOL

Taking it out last year and getting it ready to work for me again was an emotional experience because it brought back so many memories of years of sewing projects for myself, my own family, and my home.

As my children grew, clothes became cheaper to buy than make, and fabric stores had more quilting supplies than dress goods (and I wasn’t a quilter then) so before I started quilting, my trusty machine had been almost retired to a basement room and was only pulled out for occasional mending. I knew I would always keep it, but I wasn’t sewing much during those years.

So as I oiled it up and polished it to prepare for my sewing day out, I began to feel rather nostalgic and even a little guilty for all but replacing it with the new machine as I moved forward with my quilting journey.

I spent some time looking through the accessory box, identifying the feet I remembered using, winding a couple of bobbins, and doing a bit of stitching, and it occurred to me that it actually ran better than my new one. The stitch quality was noticeably superior, it hummed along more smoothly, and I gradually recalled its features.

However, while I gained a whole new appreciation for my old friend, it proved to be too heavy for me to cart back and forth on a regular basis, so I made the decision to buy a portable machine for that purpose. I didn’t put it back in the basement, because I wanted to be sure to pull it out once in a while and enjoy it, but I began taking my new little machine to sewing days.

I found myself constantly comparing machines from then on; my original Pfaff set the standard to be met and the others left me wanting. Yes, the newer quilting edition had bells and whistles and a big throat space and the portable was light and easy to carry and had its own share of features, but they would never really take the place of my first machine. It didn’t help that one of the ladies always sewed on an old machine with that lovely hum that reminded me of mine!

Then one day I was visiting a friend who introduced me to a Singer Featherweight. I had heard about these but hadn’t paid a lot of attention because I wasn’t in the market for another machine, especially a single stitch machine older than I was! I had no idea what the fuss was about until she opened the cases. She had three of them on her table to show me, told me to try one out, and I got sucked right in, first by how adorable it was, then by the beautiful stitches and the lovely hum. This was a solid trustworthy machine just like my old friend but small enough to carry anywhere and did I say it was adorable??? To make things more confusing, it was also for sale. So I had a couple of difficult days going back and forth in my head about whether or not I needed it and because I don’t generally collect things of that value unless I need them and will use them regularly, my practical side won. I already had a brand new portable and I didn’t need another one, so I let it go. And it went – fast!

I was describing this event to another friend – a long time friend of my mom’s and now mine as well through quilting, who sends me quilt tops regularly for custom work – and she told me she also had one that had hardly been used. She wasn’t actively selling it, but was willing to consider it if I was interested at some point, which meant I didn’t have to decide right away, so I focussed on other things and got busy with Christmas projects and client quilts.

But it didn’t go away, the thoughts of this cute little vintage machine that ran like my good old workhorse, and by the first sewing day of this year when I was working away on my new portable, I was slipping further and further down the Featherweight path.

To top it off, one of the ladies in the group decided to bring her own Featherweight out to play that day. I don’t know if this was premeditated (HAHA) or if all my chatter about preferring the old machines to new ones prompted her to change up her selection, but regardless I had to sit there and look at it all day and it wasn’t mine!!! I stitched a little on hers after feeling frustrated with my own, and knew I had to go home and make a decision to either sell my new portable and replace it with the Featherweight – because it had to have a purpose if it was coming into my house! – or put it aside once and for all and move on.

Within twenty four hours I had advertised, sold and delivered my portable to its happy new owner and purchased the Featherweight over the phone. It was a peaceful, easy decision that I know I won’t regret. The video below shows me unboxing my new addition like a surprise (it was done for social media LOL) but now you know what is in the box.

On a side note: my newer sewing machine and my sit down machine have been in for regular servicing recently and because our weather was so awful for several days and I was avoiding travel, I’ve been down to just my lovely old Pfaff for this past week. I’ve loved the experience of connecting again with my long time friend and have found a new appreciation for its simplicity compared to dealing with a computerized machine. Everything is straight forward, and the free motion quilting is even better on it than on my newer machine! For what I actually do – and other than the bigger throat space of course – I am having some serious inner conflicts over what will happen when the newer one finally comes home again.

Now I can’t really leave this story here without bringing things full circle:

This friend from whom I bought my Featherweight is the same lady who, at the time I purchased my original machine 40+ years ago, was the Pfaff dealer in our city and sold it to me! I still have the cancelled cheque from 1979 and her handwritten receipt. And now I own her Featherweight. Lastly, she is also the lady who bought the fabric store from my parents when they sold it, after being a long time customer.

Life is amazing.

My mom taught me to sew when I was a child, the best skill she ever taught me (well, that and how to give the best hugs). She has always been and is still my biggest fan, and even at this age, there’s something significant about showing her my finished projects and seeing her enjoy them. She did put all of this in motion!

And her friend who sold me my first machine and now this one, has been an ongoing source of encouragement on my quilting journey. When I started, she celebrated my skills and told me I would be using a longarm one day. I couldn’t see it, but here I am with my Gammill and she doesn’t hesitate to say “I told you so”!

You never know how your story is going to develop, or which of the “little things” will turn out to be pretty big things when you’re old enough to look back on how different pieces fit together. For now, I’m just enjoying the pages as they are written – one day at a time – and trying not to miss anything 🙂


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