Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Cranky

Do you know what a cranky is???  I have to admit that I was not familiar with that term before The Best of the Valley Quilt Show last Sunday.

I have SEEN them, but I had no idea what to call them...

What am I talking about you ask???

A cranky is what collectors call a pre-electricity vintage hand crank sewing machine like this one.

I LOVE vintage sewing machines.  I have a featherweight, a treadle, and a few toy sewing machines too.  I have always wanted a non-electric machine that I could actually use if we ever went off-grid (a future goal).  I am not coordinated enough to move the treadle pedal with my foot and sew a straight line though.

At the show we met vendors Ginger and Mike of SewCranky and their wonderful working antique machines.

There were several brands and models.  We saw the familiar American brand Singer, a few British brands, and even a few German machines.  (These machines were all imported from the UK)

Back in the days before in-home electricity, these portable hand crank machines were more affordable and more common than big bulky treadles for rural people.  I imagine that the cost of transportation for a big, heavy cast iron treadle influenced this fact.

The crankies were remarkably EASY to use. My hubby Jerry and I tried them all out.  I had no problem sewing a straight stitch as I cranked away.  That was a pleasant surprise.

the little hamster wheel in my head was turning...

All I could think about was how practical one of these little machines could be.  No more power outages ending a sewing session... or a glamping excursion in a tent.  I could really enjoy demonstrating its use at a primitive rendezvous re-enactment (another adventure I hope to enjoy someday). Heck, I could enjoy sewing with one of these little babies anywhere.

Willpower kicked in long enough to allow me to finish viewing all the wonderful quilts and vendors; and to go have a bite to eat and say goodbye to our friends.

Before I knew it my hubby offered to take me back to get one.  Our 23rd wedding anniversary is coming up in a few months and he didn't want me to let this opportunity go. I might not see one again. We headed back to the show after lunch.

As we struggled to find a parking space a few blocks away from the actual show (it was that busy) my heart was fluttering.  We almost did not get a machine because they had just about sold out in the short span of time it took to eat and say our goodbyes...

Somehow, this machine was right there waiting for me upon my arrival.

I had fallen in love with it earlier.  It's a German machine by Frister and Rossman that was made in the early 1920s.  Notice the unique decorations.  After the opening of King Tut's Tomb, the world was enamored with all things Egyptian.

The quilt show was great fun.  You can see pictures of a few of my favorite quilts HERE.  I saw a few old friend's quilts and met one of my longtime quilting heroes, Nancy Rink.  I cut my quilting teeth on her patchwork patterns back in the day.  She is just as friendly in person as she is in film.

So goes my cranky adventure.  I plan to break it in this weekend.

Do YOU have any old treasures you love?


  1. Do you know Missy? She has a hand crank too and knows lots about them. You can find her at I don't have one but I'm not sure I would be coordinated enough! I have a treadle that works but needs to be cleaned and the new belt put on. I have not sewn on it yet.You can see m y machines here, most are from family. I did get another last church rummage sale so it's not pictured here.

  2. How fun!! I have an old treadle machine that belonged to my best friend's grandmother. I can sew with it, as long as it's not too complicated. LOL!! I would think it would be hard to crank and have to guide the fabric using only one hand...

  3. What an adventure! And a thoughtful husband! Can't wait to see what you "crank" out on your new machine! I have my husbands grandmothers treadle machine. She had 3 daughters and non of them wanted it ~ my gain! It needed a new belt and we bought that in Honduras at a uniform shop ~ 6-8 guys all sitting sewing school and work uniforms on treadle machines...quite fun to watch and they loved posing for pictures! Have fun with your new toy! Donna

  4. I have a treadle and a hand machine. A few years ago we were without electricity for six days and I sewed merrily through each day. I confess to feeling pretty smug at the time!

  5. I have 2 vintage sewing machines....I "SO" enjoyed this pun intended!

  6. It is beautiful! Congratulations and what a sweet husbnd.

  7. I've used a crank machine in the past, but I hated to sew one-handed! It did do a great job though, and these are perfect for going off the grid. Definitely something to put on the "keep an eye out for" list. :)

    1. Since I brought it home I started looking online and have found quite a few available on Craigslist too BoPeep. They're out there. The off grid part is the allure for me. I wanted a power free option. Still working on pasture development, but I also hope to bring home a few animals for fiber too eventually.

  8. Great article! I wanted to share my quilt block with you.

  9. That was a great show. I love the hand cranks. I wonder how many kids had to turn the handle while mom sewed.

  10. China still makes treadle machines under the Butterfly brand name. They're beautiful machines. Of course, I love the designs on the old hand-cranked ones, too. I remember their going for a song when I attended auction sales as a child. (Some time ago...) I suppose no one wanted them then.


My email address is