This is my sewing machine – the one, the ONLY one, I use. She’s a 1910-1920s era vibrating shuttle treadle machine. There’s no zig-zag or backstitch, but she could sew through a tin can if I wanted to. I don’t worry about breaking any parts, and her steel and iron guts are precise, ingenious, and comprehensible. She’s covered in decals in an Egyptian Scarab theme, though they’re mostly worn away from years of use. This machine is an identical clone of a Singer model in form and function, which is fortunate since I can get replacement parts and bobbins.

When I found her at a yard sale for a pittance, her six-drawer cabinet was stuffed full of notions and pins and chalk and attachments, and even the well-worn original manual. I had to replace the drive-band and do a lot of cleaning and oiling – I think she got passed down and put in storage, but at least it was dry storage. There was a companionable feeling in picking up the tools and parts that a craftswoman stranger had left behind.

She’s so simple by comparison to the new machines – but so effective in her single purpose. I haven’t figured out the assortment of rufflers and other exotic appendages in their clever velvet-lined puzzle-box. I may well never use them, but it’s impressive to see the versatility of my little straight-stitch workhorse.

(And it’s gratifying that sewing machines are one of the only tools that seem optimized for left-handers.)