Readers, forgive the somewhat misleading title of this post. I didn't really visit the NYC Sewing Machine Museum. In fact, there is no NYC Sewing Machine Museum -- yet.
But I did go out to Queens yesterday to visit my friend Johanna, avid sewing machine collector and knitter. (Since I rarely leave my neighborhood, this was like a trip overseas for most people; I even got to eat Greek food.) If sewing machines and knitting sound like a mismatch, you're right, but what can you collect if you knit? Needles?
Johanna has a beautifully curated collection of vintage sewing machines out on display for all to enjoy, though you have to get into her apartment first. All Johanna needs is a gift shop and handicapped access and she could start charging admission. Sadly, she lives in a walk-up.
Since most you will never meet Johanna, let alone be invited to her museum and treated to lunch, I thought I'd share some of the highlights of her collection and our day. Here is Johanna's latest acquisition, a pristine white Singer featherweight, purchased at a price so low it's practically theft. It sews a beautiful stitch but could use a little more oil. Nice case too.
The eagle-eyed among you have probably already spotted the majestic Singer 201 behind it. When is this woman going to start sewing?
Johanna decorates with sewing machines, which may seem a little decadent to many of you, but you have to admit, it works. Wouldn't you rather see this beautiful Elna Grasshopper, artfully placed above a spool of Tangerine Tango yarn, than some painting of dogs playing poker?
Another favorite is Johanna's vintage turquoise zigzagger, badged Gimbels. Anyone who knows New York or has ever watched Miracle on 34th Street knows that Gimbels was the rival department store to Macy's back in the day. Gimbels is gone but this sewing machine, made in Japan, is still zigzagging.
Johanna also owns a gorgeous New Home treadle that used to belong to a family on Block Island, seafarers, no doubt. Is it just coincidence that I have a photo of Johanna admiring a very similar treadle not two years ago? Spooky!
I helped Johanna install the leather belt on her other treadle, a smooth-as-silk Singer 15-88.
This Singer handcrank is perhaps my favorite machine in Johanna's collection (which includes a Singer 301, a Bernina, Kenmores, and more). If I'd had bigger pockets, I might have grabbed it on my way out.
After visiting the museum, Johanna and I toured the exotic Trade Fair Supermarket, where foodstuffs from all around the world can be found, including a vast selection of Caribbean spices. (Quick -- hide the children.)
No trip out to the Sewing Machine Museum would be complete without a peek into the nearby Goodness Gracious Thrift Shoppe. Goodness Gracious perhaps; What a Dump is more like it.
My tour ended with a visit to Queens' answer to Mood and B&J, Astoria Fashion Fabrics. It's actually not bad and was quite bustling, which, given its size, requires just three people inside.
Somehow I managed to find the lone evening gown in the fabric bargain bin!
And that, friends, is the story of my visit to the NYC Sewing Machine Museum. If you would like to visit this collection, please let me know and I'll try to pull a few strings. Johanna's not home most workdays, so provided we didn't make a mess or raid her refrigerator, she'd probably never even know we'd been there. She also leaves her windows open.
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns, in addition to sewing for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!