A New Love and Second Life

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singer featherweight 221 green white box“Can you list these items on Freecycle?” my mom asked, pointing to a pile in the corner of her living room. After 40 years in my childhood home, my mom has downsized to a townhome not far from where I live. Downsizing of square footage means downsizing of belongings; my sister and I have been assisting with listing items on Craigslist and Freecycle, sending things to Community Forklift, and scheduling charity pickups.

Singer Featherweight 221 Green White in boxIn this pile was a small piece of furniture, two paisley tapestry suitcases, and a mint green tumbled leather box with a handle and clasp. I knew what was inside: a Singer Featherweight 221 travel sewing machine. This little white sewing machine and its mint green box traveled with my mom overseas when she studied abroad in college and helped her create her wardrobe. The box was always around, usually near her sewing table that held her bigger more modern machine, ready to help out in an emergency. I took some pictures of the box, the sewing machine, and its accessories and went home to list it.

Singer Featherweight 221 Green and White with BoxBefore listing the sewing machine on Freecycle, I googled it. The box alone was a vintage treasure, I figured the machine was worth some money. A quick search on eBay showed the machine sold anywhere from $100 to $1,000 depending on color and condition. Preferring a quick sale over a lingering yet possibly lucrative one, I listed the machine on Craigslist with the price of $200.

The first email inquiry arrived five minutes later. A woman several states away was interested and had a friend who lived nearby who could get it for her. Within 24 hours, I had over 100 queries for the sewing machine, but agreed to work with the first individual. She got me in contact with her friend, we scheduled a time for pickup. I sent a generic email to the other individuals letting them know someone else got it but if they flaked I may contact them. Some replied with a thank you, a few replied to let me know I underpriced the machine, a few offered more money to possibly have me change my mind.

One wrote back, “Do you know a Carl Gary?”

Uh, yeah I do. Creepy. I hesitated, but wrote back,

“I do know of someone with that name. How do you know him?”

He replied with, “Was his father’s name [name]?”

Now I’m mega creeped out and start googling this guy. I’m showing the photos that pop up, Karl doesn’t recognize any of them.

“How do you know Carl?” I write, without any further information, making sure the doors to the house are locked.  I'm ready for the next email to say, “I'm writing this from inside your house!”

The gentleman writes back, and instead of being a serial killer, he informs me that he worked with Karl’s dad. He attended the memorial service, and when I share all this, Karl realizes he does know this guy, just by his nickname, not given name. He’s a good egg, a nice guy, doesn’t live very far away.

We’re now Facebook friends.

“If the first buyer doesn’t work out, let me know. My sister in law would love it.” he messages me on Facebook, and compliments me on our Halloween costumes.

Friday, the first buyer was to meet with my mom before 11am. 11 came and went, no visit, no email, no call, nothing. That evening I emailed my new Facebook friend and let him know he was the new owner of the machine.

This week, I get an email from this man’s wife:

“My sister is thrilled with your mother's featherweight! She has named it “Lilly” and will be taking it to quilting classes. [My husband] will take pictures of it in its new home tomorrow and send them to you to share with your mother.”

This story just tickles me so. I love that things worked out where a family friend ended up with the machine, and to know it is loved and getting a second life. My mom is also thrilled to know that the machine that she loved but wasn't using is now bringing someone else lots of joy and convenience.  It may be hard to let go of things that have memories, and maybe have monetary value. But knowing that like my mom’s Singer Featherweight, your items may get more love and use when in the possession of another makes parting much easier. Whether it’s a vintage sewing machine that crossed the oceans with you, a dress that no longer fits but was worn to many special events, or a bag that cost a pretty penny yet you hardly ever use, letting go may be the kindest thing you can do for yourself and the item!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. My sisters and I learned to sew on my mother’s Singer featherweight, which she bought in the 1950’s. She still has this machine and is now using it for quilting. As an adult, I bought myself a fancy sewing machine, but when I was given someone else’s old featherweight, I abandoned the new machine — in fact, gave it away. Singer featherweight = my mother, my sisters, my teen years, my maternity clothes, my curtains, hours and years of fun and creativity. Love, love, love the Singer featherweight!

  2. I had the same machine but in black with gold decorative scrolling (oh, yes, I’m old enough to be your mother) and I made my entire wardrobe on it until I borrowed a friend’s more modern machine–with zig-zag!–and I could finish seams so much more easily than by hand. I made 5 garments in one week, even with a brand-new baby. Oh the nostalgia! So lovely that your mother’s machine found such an appropriate home.

  3. Oh wow ! what a great story I even got watery eyes.. for me its always an issue to let go, however I think that knowing the item will have a “life” after you makes a big difference.

  4. A friend is having a clothing swap party this weekend. Can’t wait to give away some perfectly good (but not good to me) stuff.

  5. Great story. We just finished our downsizing and it’s very freeing to let go of things you’re no longer using and let them live a new life.

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