2012-09-14 / Front Page

Antique sewing machine back home

Thread of events lead to safe return after accidental sale
By Emily Elliott
Staff Writer


Lucy Hardy, left, Jeanne Gomez and Jill Miller, display Hardy and Miller’s twin Singer 301A sewing machines. There are subtle differences between the two machines. The handle to the case for Miller’s machine is still at her house, waiting to be reattached. Hardy’s case is intact with handle attached. Miller has the original pedal for her machine with two buttons, whereas Hardy’s needed a replacement pedal. (Emily Elliott photo) Lucy Hardy, left, Jeanne Gomez and Jill Miller, display Hardy and Miller’s twin Singer 301A sewing machines. There are subtle differences between the two machines. The handle to the case for Miller’s machine is still at her house, waiting to be reattached. Hardy’s case is intact with handle attached. Miller has the original pedal for her machine with two buttons, whereas Hardy’s needed a replacement pedal. (Emily Elliott photo) When a prized antique sewing machine was sold at a church yard sale earlier this summer, the owner had no idea her mother’s machine was gone.

A perfect storm of coincidences and connections led to the machine finding its way home, more than two months after the sale.

When Jill Miller, 60, of Kennebunkport, lent her sewing machine to Jeanne Gomez, 57, also of Kennebunkport, neither had any idea that it would be sold at a church yard sale.

Gomez borrowed Miller’s 1950s Singer 301A sewing machine for about six months, from January to June, she said. She borrowed the sewing machine to sew a shroud for the Taize mediation service at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Kennebunk.

“I borrowed the machine, and came back to get the walking foot for it,” Gomez said. “I had to use [Jill’s], because my [sewing machine] foot eats the fabric.”

When it came time to return the machine, Gomez brought it to the church along with a load of items for an upcoming church yard sale Friday, June 29. When the things were unloaded from her car, the sewing machine was mistakenly placed in the church with yard sale items.

Gomez thought Miller would pick up her sewing machine from the church vestibule, and had considered it returned. She was surprised to see the machine in the yard sale, but didn’t think much of it when Lucy Hardy, 55, of Wells tried it out and purchased the machine.

“When I saw the machine at the yard sale, I thought it had arrived with a batch of Jill’s husband’s stuff,” Gomez said. “I sold three sewing machines that Saturday. I remember another woman bought a sewing machine to sew things for Haiti.”

Hardy went to the St. Andrew’s Church yard sale Saturday, June 30, and was really excited to purchase a machine that was identical to her favorite machine at home, a 1950s Singer 301A in a brown and tan case. The machine didn’t have a handle, so Hardy found a belt to wrap around it and take it home.

Hardy is a lifelong seamstress, and teaches sewing River Tree Arts School in Kennebunk. In high school home economics classes, Hardy said she could vividly remember having to wait in line to use the one sewing machine.

Hardy said she was excited about finding the Singer machine because she could teach two students at a time. While Hardy had the machine, she used it for several projects, including mittens made from old sweaters.

When Hardy’s niece, Kristen Thompson, brought her girls, Kadie and Kambrie, over for a visit, she told Kristen about buying the new machine at the church yard sale. She said she was excited because she could give each girl the same instructions.

A short time later, when Miller asked Gomez to return her mother’s sewing machine, Gomez panicked. She remembered Miller’s machine at the sale, but also remembered selling three different sewing machines at the St. Andrew’s yard sale Saturday, June 30.

She asked amongst the parishioners at the church, and tracked down the other people who bought sewing machines that day, but no luck. She called around the local churches to try and track it down, but “I couldn’t find it anywhere,” Gomez said. “That’s when I had the idea to run an ad in the local papers.”

The ad ran in the Kennebunk Post and Making It at Home, and read, “Sold by mistake at St. Andrews Church Yard Sale: Desperately seeking Mom’s Sewing Machine accidentally sold at St. Andrews Church Yard Sale June 29/30th. Will trade for newer model. Reward!”

The Singer 301A sewing machine was very important to Miller as her own mother had taught her to sew on the machine, which it was the only sewing machine she had ever used to make clothing.

“My mother made many of my and my sister’s clothes on that machine. She gave it to me before she passed away,” Miller said. “I’ve made a lot of things on it from clothes to quilts.”

As soon as the newspaper ad ran, Gomez began getting many phone calls about the Singer 301A machine. Instead of being the right machine, mostly the calls were from people trying to sell her their fancy sewing machines, she said. Everything from brand new, top of the line machines to gold plated.

A few days later, Thompson got a post on her Facebook page from her friend Emily Gallant, of Kennebunk. Gallant placed the Kennebunk Post missing sewing machine ad on her friend’s page with a comment: “LOL. Never seen anything like this. Someone’s in trouble with someone or some money is hidden inside this machine.”

Between the Facebook post of the ad and her conversation with her aunt, Thompson put two and two together and gave her aunt a call. Hardy called Gomez, and Gomez asked her several questions about the machine to make sure it was the correct sewing machine.

At first there was some confusion as Miller remembered the color of her machine wrong. It all came together for Gomez when Hardy mentioned leaving with the sewing machine case held closed with a belt.

Having located the machine again, Gomez picked up the Singer 301A and returned it to Miller, the rightful owner.

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