Maisie and Celia

24 Oct 2009

celia works!

Mum bought some bobbins around yesterday and Maisie's sewing machine knee lever.
Threaded Celia up and away she went.
She sews.

Mind you I would have been happy to have her here
even if she didn't work but this is just lovely.
There is no way to regulate the length of the stitch,
this must have been the best length I guess.
The tension seems fine but can be adjusted even though the little outer dial is broken off.

I do think it helps having grown up with a Singer sewing machine even though Mum's was a delectable Featherweight.

My Auntie Maisie sent around instructions for how to attach the knee lever and I realised how she had no idea of how much the workings of her old Singer sewing machine are inscribed in my brain, and neither did I really.

My mum kept her sewing machine in the laundry, it was used often but never left its special little place near the back door.

Maisie kept her machine in the loungeroom and it was always there unless it was Christmas or a birthday celebration.
Maisie and my two cousins lived next door to us and we were always in and out of each others houses.
My auntie was alone, a deserted wife and supported her family by being extremely frugal and taking in sewing.
She also sewed for her family and sewed birthday and Christmas presents for us.
The machine was in constant use.
I loved to take the knee lever in and out, it fascinated me - my mum's machine had a foot pedal.
As long as the machine wasn't threaded I could push the lever a little to make it start to whirr.
The machine seemed so big and so beautiful, black with gorgeous gold lettering and swirls.
Mum's was black too but so much smaller and less decorated.
All of Maisie's sewing things were a wonderland for me and as long as I didn't break anything, and put things back where they came from and as long as Maisie was in a good mood I was free to explore.

Not too long ago I spoke to my Auntie about the design of her very 1950s house and especially about the sewing table.
You see, the machine sat on a table top that could fold up into the wall and looked like a part of the wall with a decorative wrought iron panel down the front which was actually the table leg.
Behind the panel was a large shelved space, so deep it seemed to me that I could never get to the back of it even if I crawled right in.
I doubt that Maisie has seen the back of it for a long time either it is so full of fabrics and sewing notions.
There were curtains on a wire across the cupboard so that contents weren't on display when the table was set up with the machine.
Under the sewing cupboard was a firewood cupboard with a little door to the outside of the house so that it could be filled with firewood without having to carry wood all through the house.
Maisie said she designed that herself.
She also said she had wanted a stand alone sewing room but due to finances it couldn't be built when they were originally building their house and so she designed her sewing centre.
She told me how she spent many months working on the plans for her dream home and included all sorts of nifty fifities design features with secret doors and laundry shoots and slide out chopping boards and ironing boards and a breakfast nook.
Her home was built in the late fifties and because money was tight very few decorating changes were made to the house until the seventies so although my own home was constantly being redecorated Maisie's house next door was full of wonderful 1950s textiles and colours, an old round top fridge, the laminex table top in the breakfast nook, an old rough textured loungesuite, a glamorous maroon bathroom.
She still has her original 1958 telephone, the sound is so clear, you get your daily weight training when you lift the handset and it's a bit tricky trying to do phone banking without any buttons to press.

When I started up Celia yesterday my whole childhood , the Maisie part of it came flooding back to me.
And I thought about the sewing connection, you see though my mum sewed she was never as passionate about making things as Maisie , that was always the connection that we shared, Maisie and me.
And I think I learned a lot about frugal living along the way too, my goodness that woman could make do and mend, bake and sew, and bring up a family on next to nothing and saw it all as a challenge.
I'm sure there must have been some really hard times and at time she seemed hard and bitter but she never gave up.
And now in her 80s she is still going strong.

Any way, I promised you the Melting Moment recipe and here it is , from the pages of 'Sweet, Old Fashioned Favourites', a Women's Weekly cookbook, though you will find similar recipes in any CWA book I'm sure.

Melting Moments of a Japanese Peony ware plate

125g (4oz) butter

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 tablespoons icing sugar ( confectioners sugar)

3/4 cup plain flour

1/4 cup cornflour.

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy and then stir in the sifted flours.

Now I just put spoonfuls of the mixture on to a baking tray but in the past I have piped the mixture onto the tray and they do look very pretty.

I like to make quite small biscuits but I saw some in a bakery yesterday that were huge, small is better I think after all once you sandwich them together you are getting two small biscuits which adds up to a nice sized medium biscuit.
I don't really like huge biscuits.

Bake them in a moderate oven for about ten minutes.

Leave them to cool.
When they are completely cold sandwich them together with the filling.


30g(1oz) softened butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

1/2 cup icing sugar ( confectioners sugar)

1 teaspoon milk, approximately.

Beat together the butter, vanilla and sugar and then add enough milk to make a spreadable mixture.
If the butter has been out of the fridge for long enough and is soft enough it is easy to make the filling in a 1 cup measuring jug just using a fork to squish and mix, less washing up that way.

Oh and an Australian tablespoon is equal to 4 teaspoons.

Now today is St Mark's Church fair so once Kate has dragged herself out of bed we will wander up there to snare a bargain or two on the trash and treasure stall and the cake stall and maybe on the garden stall.

Have a great weekend.