Owning a few sewing machines developed into a collection for Polly Pulver. She estimates that she probably has about 30.
She has sold some, and bought more over time. Most are stored in a nearby building.
Three parlor cabinet treadle machines hide all indication of their purpose. Doors conceal the treadle and other working components. The head drops down into the cabinet; the hinged lid becomes a table top. Open doors disclose the treadle, wheel and drawers.
Her machines are a 1920 Singer model 66 “Red Eye,” a Singer 9W circa 1905, and a White. These three sewing machines in parlor cabinets serve as end tables in her living room. They work well, are handy to use, and workspace is readily available when opened.
She also has a New Vulcan hand crank portable circa 1890 and another hand crank, a Singer portable made in 1948 in Great Britain. They are lightweight, easy to transport and can be stored in a closet. She said that the third-world countries remain a market for hand crank and treadle machines (no electricity needed) and are still being made in Pakistan and in Japan. The Amish use treadle sewing machines. Polly demonstrates her hand crank portables at quilt shows and events such as Heritage Day 2010 at the Stolte Shed in Pioneer Town.
Several other machines are used in Polly’s back room. A Bernina that can do most everything though is used mostly for just plain sewing. She also owns a serger, used occasionally. Collectors often become restorers. She can do her own minor repairs and tune-ups.
She owns a toy Singer sewing machine that is in good working order. Toy machines are very collectable. Owners enjoy the miniatures because they bring back happy childhood memories with the added beneﬁt of being small, taking up less space than other models. The Montgomery Ward 1905 catalog listed price was $3.50, quite a sum for the times. Today, vintage toy sewing machines can be as small as 4”x 5” up to about 9”x10,” ranging in price from $100 to more than $2,000.
A sewing machine collection can be enhanced with “Puzzle boxes,” wooden hinged boxes with designated spaces for special “feet” (attachments) for special uses. They were used for binding, rufﬂing, applying braid, pleating, a pinker to ﬁnish seams, a button-hole maker, and more. A zig-zag attachment moved the fabric back and forth. Later machines move the needle instead. All boxes included a screw driver for attaching them to the machine. Perhaps these are called “puzzle boxes” because ﬁrst you needed to learn to use the strange looking gadgets.
The Fall/Winter 1894-95 Montgomery Ward catalog listed treadle machines from $13.50 to $28.00. Checking out the selection of fabrics offered in the same catalog, you can ﬁnd “new fancy dress prints,” 25” wide for 6 cents a yard, cheaper at 5 cents a yard if 50 yards are ordered. No illustrations were offered, descriptions only with no choice for print colors.
Belonging to ﬁve quilting clubs (four in Delta County one more in Grand Junction) keeps Polly busy. She specializes in “rescuing” old quilt tops.
This month the Thurs-Bee, also known as Cedaredge Thursday Quilters, met at Polly’s house north of Cedaredge. Members exchanged quilting blocks, ideas and pattern books, caught up on the latest happenings, and plans made for future events. Hands were kept busy with embroidery, appliqué, crochet, and other projects.
Plans are being made for the Cabin Fever Quilt Show to be held in Heritage Hall at the Delta County Fair Grounds in Hotchkiss. There will be a display of quilts, hand and machine quilting demonstrations, vintage and modern machines on display including a long arm machine. The event takes place every other year, with the next one set for March 2011. Watch for the date.
The Women’s Resource Center, County Health Department, Disabled Veterans, and North Fork Valley Children’s Party beneﬁt from extra quilts made by club members.
S&B Quilters are in charge of the Needlework Department at the Delta County Fair. They encourage all quilters and other needle workers to share their talents with the public. A quilt is rafﬂed at the fair each year with proceeds supporting club newsletters and supplies for charity quilt making.
Polly wrote an article that was printed in the Fall 1999 issue of The Vintage Collector. In it she outlined what to look for when collecting vintage machines. “Make sure it has all the important parts such as bobbin case, bobbins that ﬁt, side plates that open to insert the bobbin, and uses standard size needles. Check the drawers for parts, additional attachments, and if really lucky the manual might be there. Be certain that moving parts move freely and that the rod that connects the treadle to the big wheel is included. Treadle belts are fairly easy to replace. It may be difﬁcult to get other replacement parts.”
One of Polly’s resource books, The Encyclopedia of Early American Sewing Machines (second edition) by Carter Bays, is ﬁlled with colored and black and white photos of early sewing machines from individual collections and the National Museum of American History (Smithsonian). History of the machines, inventors, promoters, and companies, as well as identiﬁcation and values are included. The book is of special interest to historians and collectors.
Anyone interested in joining a quilting club can contact Polly at 970-856-4569.
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