I find vintage photos mesmerizing, and I could browse them for hours. The authenticity of the film images - the grain, contrast, the yellowing, the imperfections - coupled with subjects from bygone decades resonate with me.
Within the past few years we saw the "Instagram" effect applied to everything from selfies to snapshots of sushi. The trend has subsided a bit, it seems, but it certainly stemmed from the desire for a visually interesting alternative to the highly polished, over-produced, digitally enhanced images we see all around us daily.
My infatuation with time-worn photographs marries well to my enthusiasm for vintage sewing machines. Here are my favorites gleaned from all corners of the Internet.
The Little Tykes
A protruding tongue ensures a steady hand!
What? Mom gets two spools and this little cutie isn't throwing a tantrum?
I'm pretty sure that Goldilocks is wistfully eyeballin' the "grown up" machine. Her toy might be a "working sewing machine" but every turn of the hand crank nearly knocks the thing off the table. And Mother just smiles. Have a heart, lady!
Eyes on the stitch, young lady.
"You feed the baby, and I'll sew as long as my helmet hair doesn't break my little neck."
Start 'em young!
Growing Fast, Sewing Well
Photo from 1899. Hopefully these determined girls lived long enough to see their grandchildren attend desegregated schools.
Vocational students. Let's hope this doesn't lead to the sweatshop. Seriously. (Albany, NY)
Students at a school for the deaf in Oklahoma. One machine in the back.
Home Economics students in the 1920s using New Home machines. Four future flappers rebel by parting their hair in the middle while the "proper young ladies" part theirs on the left.
During a period of "rural electrification," this young girl relies on light passing through her window to continue sewing after dark - most likely without complaint.
Stepping forward in time, Cruella de Vil supervises.
These small gents clearly expect the Sister to do their mending.
A family working in their apartment in New York. Third from the left, the 12-year-old boy would operate the machine when his mother was not using it. Otherwise he'd help the younger boys trim thread.
1913 in Savannah, Georgia.
1926 and still only one sewing machine.
Fast forward and dog gone it! Still only one machine!
The 4-H Club - Head, Heart, Hands, and Health
Imagine the condition of this Featherweight! Who wouldn't grin ear to ear?
"Nobody puts Baby in a corner." Unless she's sewing.
1953 National 4-H Congress. Delegates hold the "tools for sewing."
1957. The faces show bemused disgust at that rat's nest of an electrical cord.
1960. This lucky gal is awarded a beautiful White.
The next time you worry that your machine's belt is poorly aligned, have a look at this photo, keep calm, and carry on.
This stylish young lady demonstrates the correct wrist position of the right hand, then succumbs to carpal tunnel syndrome 20 years later.
Child Labor & Sweatshops
Before sharing these, I'd like to quote a Facebook comment by reader Marcella Bogart who had this to say:
In textile mills, very young children worked in the looms (literally climbing under and in). They lost fingers and developed white lung, but they were cheap labor, and nimble.
The photographs are heartbreaking, but many of the most poignant and best known were taken by a man named Lewis Wickes Hine as part of his efforts to create child labor reforms. In no small part, Hine's efforts to capture the hardships experienced by kids in factories, Congress passed child labor laws. So, there is an upside to those images, hard as they are to view.
Hosiery Mill - Lafayette, Georgia.
Gertrude Belier, age 15, sewing curtains in a Boston factory.
Far right, Mamie Gerhino, age 13 working in New York City.
Bessie Blitch, age 15, sewing curtains in Boston.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, how about checking out our documentary on vintage sewing machines? Or if you love quilting, have a look at our Quilter's Stash Box.
Share this post