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Celebrities & Their Sewing Machines

Posted by James Wolfensberger on

Apparently knitting is something that celebrities love. Just Google "celebrities knitting" and you'll see a surprising amount of famous faces. I'm told that knitting is a unique task that does not distract the knitter from paying attention to his/her surroundings, once the technique becomes second nature. It's easy to imagine such a task being suitable for in-demand celebs who need a soothing, creative "fix" with zen-like qualities. Russell Crowe supposedly knits to cope with his anger issues.

But try finding the rich and famous even standing near a sewing machine, and good luck with that. It took three of us to compile these photos, and for the most part we were able to focus on images with vintage sewing machines. Enjoy!

America's Sweethearts

Mary Pickford (1892 – 1979)

She was the original "America's Sweetheart." Canadian-American film actress, writer, director, and producer Mary Pickford set the early standard for a powerful figure in the film industry. She was a founder of United Artists film studio as well as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Judy Garland (1922 - 1969)

Vocalist and actress Judy Garland had a career spanning more than 40 years. Her performance of "Over the Rainbow" in her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz has been recognized as the number one song of the twentieth century by both the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Film Institute.

Likely a publicity image, we're wondering why she's seated behind the machine. Maybe a thread nest that caused her to move to the other side of the needle?

Patty Duke (1946 - 2016)

With an illustrious career in film, television, and on stage, Patty Duke is most remembered as a teen star thanks to her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and her role in her own sitcom The Patty Duke Show in which she played identical cousins. Otherwise, her acting credits are extensive, including a role in Valley of the Dolls. Married four times, many events of her life including romantic affairs and paternity disputes, drug overdoses, and alcohol abuse pepper her career with textbook Hollywood "scandal." In 1982, it was revealed that she suffered bi-polar disorder, and she went on to devote much of her life promoting awareness and advocacy regarding mental illness.

Tina Louise (b. 1934)

Having starred in Gilligan's Island for 98 episodes, most Americans will likely remember Tina Louise as "Ginger" in spite of an otherwise robust career as a vocalist, actor, and writer. Some may remember her in the generally well-received 1975 film The Stepford Wives.

Um. We found this:

Britney Spears (b. 1981)

Never dubbed an "American Sweetheart," Spears nonetheless enjoyed tremendous fame in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The site Critic of Music tells us that she possesses a soprano vocal range of three octaves and two notes, and she is granted a D-list vocal rating.

Incredibly nasally voice that gets thinner as it gets higher. Smoking has damaged her voice over the years, which is shown by her heavy reliance of auto-tune and lip-synching.

A questionable voice but great hair! (As evidenced below, in spite of having shaved her head during an emotionally distraught period in 2007.) Five years later in Europe for her Femme Fatale tour, Britney's wardrobe team gave her a sewing lesson.

More From Hollywood

Edith Head (1897-1981)

Edith Head designed clothing for many of the biggest stars in Hollywood - the list reads as a "Who's Who" and includes Mae West, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, Natalie Wood, and Jane Fonda, just to name a few. She even designed wardrobe for Steve Martin. So renown in the industry, she herself has a star on the Walk of Fame. Here we see her with her miniature sewing machine collection.

Joanne Woodward (b. 1930)

 An Academy Award-winning actress, Joanne Woodward starred in many classic and critically acclaimed films, sometimes starring alongside her husband of 50 years, Paul Newman. The Hollywood power couple appeared together in such notable productions as The Long, Hot Summer. She is also respected as a producer and activist.

Paul Newman (1925 - 2008)

We just listed his wife, Joanne, so even though Newman isn't at a sewing machine, this image of him sewing is possibly surprising.

Donna Reed (1921 - 1986)

Donna Reed's career spanned 40 films over about 40 years. She was awarded an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as Lorene Burke in From Here to Eternity. Another well-known classic role was Mary Hatch Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life.

Also widely known for her television work, she played Donna Stone, a mother and housewife in the long-running Donna Reed Show in the 1950s and 60s. She established a prototype for a more assertive mother and wife character. Many readers will recognize her character's machine here:

Emma Watson (b. 1990)

Best known for her character Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film franchise, Emma Watson is a fashion model, actor, and women's rights activist. Her list of awards and nominations includes dozens of titles, including multiple Teen's Choice and MTV awards. Within her activist role, she was photographed sewing in Bangladesh.

Kate Winslet (b. 1975)

Aside from an impressive filmography, Kate Winslet will be forever known as Rose from her sixth film, Titanic (1996). She was not filmmaker James Cameron's first choice, and he considered her "an Audrey Hepburn" type, unsuitable for his film's role. She lobbied hard to become Rose, even calling Cameron to say "I am Rose! I don't know why you're even seeing anyone else!"

Nearly 20 years later, Winslet starred in the revenge comedy-drama film The Dressmaker as femme fatale Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage, who returns to a small Australian town to take care of her mother.

The Humorists

Lucille Ball (1911 - 1989)

American icon Lucille ball was best known for her self-produced television comedies I Love Lucy, The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy, and Life with Lucy. She began her career as a model and transitioned into acting and comedy, and ultimately became an entertainment executive. In 1962 she became the first woman to run a major studio, which produced a variety of programs including Star Trek.

Having listed her party affiliation as "Communist" in 1936, Lucy ultimately survived the red scare in Hollywood in the 1950s, convincing investigators that her grandfather had forced her hand when first registering to vote. Husband Desi Arnaz was known to have quipped, "The only thing red about Lucy is her hair, and even that is not legitimate."

Jamie Farr (b. 1934)

As the cross-dressing Maxwell Klinger in the television series M*A*S*H, Jamie Farr began as a recurring character and evolved into a significant and beloved player in the series. With Klinger as his most widely known role, Farr was a welcome personality on a number of game show panels that followed a trend of featuring celebrities - The $25,000 Pyramid, Super Password, The Gong Show, Match Game, Hollywood Squares, and many others.

Klinger's cross-dressing was a ruse intended to convince military officials to discharge him from service during the Korean War. Naturally, a well-dressed "lady" must be prepared to sew her own gowns in a war zone.


Hillary Clinton

This isn't an endorsement, but I don't think it can be denied that Hillary Clinton is the undisputed reigning Queen of the Democratic Party in America. Fans will enjoy this candid image. Her opposition may wish to use Photoshop since the possibilities seem endless.

Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926 and is possibly immortal)

It's good to be queen - for 64 years and counting. She is pictured below with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh - her husband of 69 years. In 1965, as a matter of ceremony, Queen Elizabeth was gifted a sewing machine by the Singer company's youngest apprentice.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex (b. 1975)

Daughter-in-law to the Queen, Sophie was not born into royalty and was considered middle-class. Her father was a tire salesman and her mother was a secretary. Sophie studied to be a secretary and transitioned into a successful public relations position. She met Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex in 1993. They were married in 1999. Following tradition and the expected exercise of power, Sophie is active in many charitable endeavors as a representative of the Royal Family.

Our Favorite

John Lennon (1940 - 1980)

Just imagine...

Now What?

Hopefully you've enjoyed this! If you have another moment and you know a quilter, check out our Quilter's Stash Box in this brief video:

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  • Enjoyed looking and reading comments on each sewing machine. I am interested in purchasing a machine in about 4 months.

    Tommie ilg on
  • I can think of two more from TV. There is one or two episodes of Father Knows Best where Jane Wyatt is seen sewing. I’ve also seen a photo from an episode of Jack Benny, where Rochester is working a treadle that is hooked up to around six or eight other machines. Just an observation, as a Rocketeer owner, is that a Slant machine Donna Reed is using above?

    Tate on
  • My favorite was on TV a couple of years ago while watching a football game (don’t ask me who was playing) and on the sidelines one of the staff was busy using a sewing machine to fix a player’s uniform!

    Quilt Mouse on

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