Statesville woman hooked, restores antique sewing machines
Jul. 06, 2018
STATESVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A collection of antique Singer sewing machines reside in the spare bedroom of Carol Leach's two-story Statesville home.
Some are heavy, some light. Some are adorned with gold paint, and the paint on others has worn off. All are covered in dust.
"These are my ladies in waiting," Leach says, smiling at her machines.
Leach, 68, points to one and browses through notes she's made on a legal pad. For every machine she collects, she writes down the model, serial number and when it was made.
"This one is a Japanese clone," she says while pointing to a teal and white sewing machine. "My sister gave me this and I liked it because of the color."
The Japanese clone is a copy of Singer's Class 15 sewing machines, Leach explains. At the end of World War II, the U.S. gave Japan the plans for the Class 15 as a way to contribute to the country's rebuilding efforts.
Leach has rescued about two dozen antique sewing machines. She started restoring them a year ago.
"There are a lot of us that love these old girls, as I call them," Leach says. "I've seen pictures and some people have hundreds of them. I draw the line."
Collecting antique sewing machines may seem like a niche hobby, but those who know Leach say she shares love and patience with everything she comes in contact with.
Passing it on
Leach calls herself a "farm girl" who was born and raised in Troutman near Perth Road. Leach's family didn't farm for a living, but she grew up gardening and her Grandma Daisy endowed her with a love of sewing.
Her grandmother left her with 20 quilt tops, which she is slowly finishing and giving to family members.
From a young age, Leach started sewing her own clothes. She wanted to pass the love of sewing on to her four grandchildren, so she decided to buy a Singer Featherweight — a sewing machine that is smaller and lighter than a typical machine — for each of them.
She said looking for featherweights "got her hooked" on collecting machines. She and her husband, Joe, attend auctions and estate sales to snatch up good deals.
Leach said she has paid as little as $25 and as much as $300 for a machine.
Most of the machines Leach buys just need to be dusted off and oiled to run smoothly again. But sometimes she involves Joe, an electrical engineer, in repairing a motor.
"He teases me," Leach says. "He said, 'You bought all these machines and you haven't sold one yet.' And I said, 'I know, but I've fallen in love with them.'"
Her favorite thing about restoring sewing machines is "the accomplishment of making them look new," she adds.
When restoring sewing machines isn't keeping her busy, Leach works on the garden growing in the lot next to her house. She grows peppers, watermelon, cantaloupe, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, cucumbers, strawberries and blueberries.
"I think I do pretty good to be 68-years-old," Leach says with a laugh.
She also grows stalks of flowers that are about 5 feet tall. She cans and pickles produce from her garden, but leaves the flowers for her granddaughters to enjoy.
"Now one of my granddaughters, if she comes we have to get flowers for her, and Nana is not going to deny her," she says.
Pat Ford lives several blocks away from Leach. He said her beautiful garden stopped him on a walk last summer.
"I saw that garden and she was out there working it one day and I said, 'I just love this garden and I just want to congratulate you on it,'" he recalls.
Ford says it's refreshing to meet someone with a passion for multiple hobbies.
Leach also is a board member and accountant for Iredell Christian Ministries.
"ICM means a lot to her because she has been involved in ICM since the very beginning," says Joy Morrison, director of the ministry. "She wants to see us succeed and it's important to her that we are living out the mission of ICM. "
In the past, Carol and Joe Leach made monthly trips to a food bank to pick up about 3,000 pounds of food for ICM. She also has brought fresh produce to ICM from her garden for clients.
"It's a joy to work with Carol," Morrison says. "I do think she has a servant heart and that what she does here is because she loves being able to help people and the community."
Information from: Statesville Record & Landmark, http://www.statesville.com/index.htm