Love My Tools!


  • QUILT MONTH at the Fayetteville Public Library! Every Wednesday in June 6-7:30  June 4: Antique Quilts
    June 11: Contemporary Quilts
    June 18: Memory and Scrapbook Quilts
    June 25: Hands On Quilting–Make a small log cabin block. Everyone welcome.

 Love My Tools!

“I feel energized when working with tools that are beautiful and have stood the test of time.” Bernard Maisner, skilled calligrapher featured in MS Living November 2012


I do feel energized when I sew and create on this lovely cast iron machine. Sitting quietly, I guide the fabrics with my hands as my feet create the up and down rhythm needed to move the needle and join the fabric in a sturdy lock stitch.  I feel the energy of creativity. I feel connected to the generations of women who played with the alchemy of sewing. We are making magic! And, this simple machine I am propelling could last hundreds of years if properly cared for. I admire my sewing machine’s function, yes. My eyes enjoy the sensuous lines and the gilt letters and scroll work common in another era. My work horse is beautiful, not plastic.

Connecting to the animate and inanimate objects around us comes easily to humans. We depend on our homes for shelter and on food for nourishment and on vehicles to transport us. But to find satisfaction in our lives can be a challenge. What part does the “craze for machines” play in that challenge?

In 1909, the young Indian scholar Mohandas K Gandhi was returning from England and wrote Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule detailing his view of the problems facing his modern world. The book was immediately banned by the British who ruled the continent of India at that time. This excerpt about the usefulness of machines seems equally relevant today, over 100 years later, as the corporations and machinery dominate our lives:

“How can I be [against machinery] when I know that even this body is a most delicate piece of machinery? The spinning wheel is a machine, a little toothpick is a machine. What I object to is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such. The craze is for what they call labor saving machinery. Men go on saving labor till thousands are without work and thrown on the open streets to die of starvation. I want to save time and labor not for a fraction of mankind but for all. I want the concentration of wealth, not in the hands of a few, but in the hands of all. Today machinery merely helps a few to ride on the backs of millions. The impetus behind it all is not the philanthropy to save labor, but greed. It is against this constitution of things that I am fighting with all my might …. The supreme consideration is man. The machine should not tend to atrophy the limbs of man. For instance, I would make intelligent exceptions. Take the case of Singer’s Sewing Machine. It is one of the few useful things ever invented, and there is a romance about the device itself.” See Gandhi’s complete 1909 book here:

The romance comes from the knowledge that by using a leather belt to connect the foot treadle to the balance wheel, I can pump the treadle and move the needle to sew a perfect lock stitch and sew almost anything. The simplicity of the machine is its elegance.

Prior to the invention of the sewing machine (treadle) in the mid 1850s, all clothing and bedding was produced in the home (usually by women and girls) and often began with the spinning of the linen fibers or carding of the wool to make yarn. Growing, harvesting and carding cotton was not any easier. An enormous amount of life energy was spent sewing for a household. Purchased fabric was a luxury. Learning to sew was a necessity. Powering a sewing needle with human-power was a revolution! In another section, Gandhi adds bicycles to his short list of helpful inventions.

My foot-powered Singer treadle sewing machine No.115 was made in 1921, three years after Gandhi wrote these words. I bought it for my 60th birthday in 2005. I will never know who used it before me. The only facts I know are that I bought it in Oklahoma and it was in excellent condition with its original instruction book. It had been separated from the original sewing cabinet, but I had a cabinet that fits it well. Since then I have bonded with this machine! I find it especially useful in the winter when the short days mean our solar electricity can be limited. I can use my treadle during daylight hours because it sits in front of a nine foot tall window giving me lots of light. Because my treadle sits near our trusty Harman woodstove I’m warm and content.

It seems the craze for machines and devices has accelerated and come to dominate the lives of millions on the planet–even endangering the planet itself.


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