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Women’s Work: Rosie the Riveter and Super Wonky Singer Sewing Machine

Craneway Pavillion and Rosie the Riveter Museum, ink  & watercolor, 8x10"
Rosie the Riveter Museum (left) and Craneway Pavillion (right), ink & watercolor & National Park rubber stamp, 8×10″

When my plein air group met at the Rosie the Riveter Museum alongside Craneway Pavilion (a former auto factory where “Rosie’s” riveted during WWII) on the San Francisco Bay in Richmond, everyone else painted the bay view on the other side of these buildings.

But as soon as I drove into the parking lot, this industrial backside grabbed me. From the row of street lights to the giant smokestack and thousands of windows, I was sold. I set up, sketched and painted in the parking lot. Then I toured the museum. My mother, RivaLee was a “Rosie” and worked in an airplane factory in L.A. where she was known as “Riv the Riveter.”

Singer Sewing Machine circa early 1900s, ink & watercolor
Singer Sewing Machine circa early 1900s, ink & watercolor & gold pen

I don’t know what happened to my sense of perspective when I sketched this early 1900s Singer sewing machine in a warehouse full of antique industrial equipment. It was very heavy, almost impossible for me to move, so I guarantee it wasn’t lifting off the table or sliding downhill like it looks in my sketch.

As I drew I was struck by the beautiful decoration and the rounded shapes that seemed to echo the curves of the women who used them. What a lovely tool it is compared to the sterile, boxy, plastic computerized sewing machines of today.

9 replies on “Women’s Work: Rosie the Riveter and Super Wonky Singer Sewing Machine”

Nice commentary on the old singer and its lovely curves. Those sewing machines were a thing of beauty compared to the utilitarian modern models. I even like the wonkyness of your sketch.


Jana, I love that you went for the factory view instead of the Bay view, a tribute to the women who work the factories. And the wonky Singer too! I have one of these lovely little Singers.


Jana,You sketch//painting of the Singer touched a nerve deep in me. I am still amazed it did. i had an aunt who raised me and she had one just like this one. She used it on an old desk that was slightly tilted. Some say words can touch the soul but it was your image that brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for the memories of a great lady. Peter


Thanks for the memories….Riv the Riveter. I also have older memories of Singer as a bottom attached with a place to put both feet and pump to make the needle go up & down to sew anything. I remember my mother (your grandma. ) making beautiful aprons. We also had a beautiful oak ice box. As a child several of us would watch for the iceman and grab a handful of ice. Too bad those items are gone or are now selling as antiques. The plane I worked on was at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica. (It was an A-20 for WWII)


lovely!! this machine is my favorite to sew on. it is a 3/4 sized machine and is a Singer 128. the decal is called La vencedora!. its a shuttle bobbin as opposed to a round bobbin. i was wondering if you sell copies of this? i would love to have one!


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