Good-Bye, Old Friend

Not too long ago I bought a new sewing machine to replace my old one. At the age of 24 years, its motor finally had given out.

That machine, a Babylock 6600, was purchased in 1997 from Granny’s Sewing Den in Glenside, PA, which was also my primary place to buy fabric for many years. Granny’s has been closed for some time; it was owned by two women, mother and daughter, the mother now deceased, the daughter retired. Both of them were friends to me.

Anyway, this machine was responsible for my success in the fabric part of my art career and without it, I do not think I would have gone on to to work in paper collage, or to paint. Or all the other art things I now do. I do not think my work would have progressed enough for me to make those leaps without the techniques this machine allowed me to master so that I became able to express in fabric my visions.

Here is an example of a fabric wall hanging I made with this machine. It’s called “Garden in the City”, was made in 2000, and was displayed in Philadelphia’s City Hall in an exhibit devoted to community gardens. I still have the piece.

I also made many garments for my family with this faithful friend, as well as home decor items, tote bags, dolls and toys…you get the idea. This machine worked HARD for me and never once did it let me down.

Well, after I bought the new machine (another Babylock, the Jubilant model, which is very similar to its predecessor in my sewing life), I kept this one for a while. Finally I decided that since it could not be repaired, there was no reason to keep it around.

We decided to dismantle it. Maybe I could use its parts in some of my hanging metal sculptures. I hated just to throw it out. My husband spent two or so hours taking it apart. Sure enough, I now have a box of parts for a future project.

But I am saving some just for a keepsake. Here is the assortment:

What’s in the photo? First of all, you see a tag for a cleaning; my name is written in the handwriting of one of the women at Granny’s Sewing Den. I kept it on the machine’s storage box all these years for sentiment’s sake, I guess.

You also see two feet from the machine – the metal one (with grooves worn on the bottom side from pins and the like passing under it) – and the purple plastic one. I used a lot of free motion stitching in my fabric work and this foot was purchased separately – the machine at that time did not have its own proprietary one. I do remember it was called the Big Foot.

Here is the throat plate. This is the part of the machine that lies under the needle and it’s what I looked at the most in all those years of using the machine.

And here is the plastic plate that I used as part of free motion stitching. To do free motion work, you need to disengage the feed dogs, the part of the machine under the throat plate, that move the fabric along. This machine did not allow for the feed dogs to be dropped; they needed to be covered instead. Hence this plate.

It snapped on over the open section at the top of the throat plate, where the feed dogs would have been. I could never remember in which direction to orient the plate. Usually I realized I had set it in wrong and fixed it before I started stitching. But…sometimes I didn’t. That is why you see the holes in the plate. The needle punched right through it.

I am getting older now and can look back on a lot of years that I have been doing this thing or that thing. Sewing is one of those activities that in my life extends back decades; my mother taught me to sew about 55 years ago on a totally mechanical Necchi machine that she kept until the end of her life.

I’m not a great seamstress but I was able to take my sewing skills and use them to make art, something I never would have thought of in my childhood lessons. Trial and error and experimentation and a lot of enjoyment is what got me along the path. That, and this machine.

Thank you and Good-bye, old friend.

23 thoughts on “Good-Bye, Old Friend

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. Yes, in my childhood my mother made all our clothes plus many household items and I learned from her (though I never approached the skills she had, I could make clothing and simple household things) and so it was natural for me to turn to this material when I decided to make artworks (though at the time I would not have called them artworks).

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