Friday, April 9, 2010

The Vintage Singer Mystery Solved!

I mentioned yesterday that my mother and I were still puzzling over the origins of the beautiful vintage Singer that turned up in her flooded basement the other day. Mystery solved! After some thought and digging around in her own basement, my Bobie (grandmother) realized that it was indeed her first sewing machine, the one she learned to sew on in the 1950s--she even found the thread and projects she had for it, and the table she had it installed in. She apologized for not recognizing it instantly--but I told her that when you're 87, you're allowed to forget things occasionally!

So here's the story, as she recalls it! She didn't do much sewing at home, or right after she was married (in August 1944)--and soon, she had four young kids to take care of in a small apartment, not leaving her much free time! She did do some crocheting and knitting, however, like this lovely baby blanket she made for my Aunt Elissa in 1947, and which has now been passed down to me for my little girl! (Sorry for the weird cropping, but I was making a bizarre face!)

Baby blanket crocheted by my Bobie in 1947

Eventually they moved to a bigger house and she decided to learn to sew dresses for her two daughters--who had particular ideas about what they wanted to wear, unlike my dad!--and clothes for herself. She thinks she got the machine from her family, and that they had had it for quite a few years before that. When she upgraded to a newer machine many years later, she gave the old Singer to my parents, and into the basement it went.

Here's a photo of Sylvia (that's her name, by the way--Sylvia Katler, born Sylvia Fishman) in the 1940s looking sharp in her Coast Guard uniform--she's on the right, and that's her sister Sarah and brother Milton. Most of her nine brothers and sisters were also in the service during WWII (Milton was too young, but served in the Korean War).

Here are some photos of her with my grandfather Leon Katler, also from the 1940s--don't they look glamorous?

And here they are in 1947 as new parents:

Here's a picture of the four kids with Leon from the 1950s, but I don't know if she sewed that dress (and I can't tell which is my dad and which is his brother, they looked a lot alike back then!):

Here's a recent photo of me and Sylvia at my baby shower, with my grandmothers-in-law Theresa and Wilhelmina!

And should you be interested, in college I put together a short collection of some family stories she told me about her life growing up in old Jewish Boston, her time in the Coast Guard, and beyond!


  1. What a beautiful machine - so lovely to have a family treasure like that. I also have my grandma's 1938 Singer, which is operated with a knee press. (Have you seen that the Singer website gives you all the serial numbers so you can look up the origins of your machine?)

  2. Vintage Singers are not that uncommon. They hit huge production post war. The detailing on that one is delightful!

    Have you tried to use it? :D

    There are tons of sites dedicated to them. There should also be a serial # somewhere on it (perhaps its base) where you can just pop it into the old google machine and go from there

  3. Yes, I know they're relatively common--a friend of mine has one that she uses as her main sewing machine, too, but it doesn't have that paint job!

    I'll ask my mom to give me the serial number. She lives five hours from me, and I won't be traveling until well after Cartoonist Baby is born!

    Oh, and I bet it does work fine--it was fine when my grandmother gave it to my parents, and I don't think it got any of the flooding on it.

  4. Lovely story and photos - and what a great picture of you, your grandma, and grandma-in-laws!

  5. What a cool story! :) I wish I had something my grandmother made passed down to me.

  6. I love the look of this machine. So beautiful.
    Thanks for sharing the story, especially the link to your grandparent's story. Loved it all. The pictures were just gorgeous.


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