We’re taking a little rest this afternoon from a morning spent outside. The rain finally stopped and the sun finally dried up the jungle of weeds enough for me to make inroads to some outdoor spaces. Today I cleaned out and reclaimed the shade house. It was overgrown with nasturtiums, which filled an entire trash can when I was done.

I wish I could say that it’s quiet this lazy afternoon. Instead, the foot massager is rumbling under my husband’s feet. The battery charger is humming as it recharges the lawn mower battery. The roomba is making its daily rounds on the tile floors. The water heater is blowing off air in the closet. It all adds up to an electrical dull roar. My ears are actually ringing.

As an antidote, I’ll write about my treadle sewing machine. I believe I mentioned that I would tell the story in a blogpost long ago. Here goes.

When I was a teenager, I came upon a White treadle machine cabinet in my uncle’s garage. This was a dark, damp one-car garage with the lath and plaster walls exposed. He used the cabinet drawers to store his tools. The little twigs were broken off from the handles, and the top was in bad shape. There was no machine inside.

When I asked my uncle and my mom about it, I was told this story.

The sewing machine sat in the front hallway of their childhood home in Indiana. It was nestled under the stairs. One day, a traveling salesman knocked on the door. His pitch was that people wanted to update their old treadle machines. All the neighbors were electrifying theirs. He offered to install a motor, my grandma agreed, and off he went with the machine.

He never returned.

When I asked my mom if they pursued legal action, what about the receipt and so on, she just shrugged her shoulders. She was only a kid, so life just happened and what could you do? The cabinet was pretty, and it remained in its place.

I don’t know how the cabinet came to California. I assume it came with Grandma when she came out to live with Uncle Kenny. Years passed, and the time came to clean out the house. Grandma was moving to my aunt’s house, and no one wanted it, so I got to be the keeper of the beautiful cabinet.

I took it with me when I moved into my first apartment. It was the eighties, so lacy cloths and doilies were strategically draped to cover the dings and scrapes.

It came with us when I married and we set up our first house. But by the 2000’s, and our second home, it had passed its prime. I wanted to keep it for sentimental reasons, but we had no room. So I contacted all the family members I could think of to offer it on to them. No one wanted it. The day came when I said good bye and let it go at the Goodwill.

Fast forward twenty years. We were empty nesters, and I once again had room. I had always regretted letting it go, so I started looking at treadles on Craigslist. I took my time, knowing that if it was meant to be, then the right replacement would present itself.

After a year or so, it did.

The cabinet was an exact match to my grandparents’. So maybe the machine was a match as well?

Now here’s where the story becomes interesting. In my haste to check out all the parts and pieces and workings of the machine while negotiating with the seller, I didn’t take the time to look at the serial number. When I got it home and starting cleaning it up, I finally looked . . .

What??? It had been scratched off. Why would anyone do that? It looks like someone took a drill and went to town on the numbers to obscure them. Why? Could it have been a so-called traveling salesman who really was a thief destroying the evidence?

AND … the machine had been electrified after-the-fact . . .

The first thing my wonderful husband did for me was to uninstall the motor from the machine when we got it home. I wanted it treadle only. And this add-on is very creepy, wouldn’t you agree?

I wonder how many treadles were stolen, refurbished with electricity, then re-sold with their serial numbers removed? Are you thinking what I’m thinking? What are the odds that this could be my grandmother’s machine?


But it’s a good story. And I love this machine that sews beautifully, elegantly, and most of all, quietly.

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