So Much More Than A Sewing Machine | 71-Year-Old Antique Stitches Generations Together With Lost Love Note


Last Updated on October 26, 2023

How could a simple household item, a sewing machine, mean so much to someone?  

Where most would just see spools, spindles, bobbins and needles, others see memories and family bonds that have been stitched together over time.  

Kim Payne, 62, pictured with her Singer sewing machine

That was the case for Kim Payne, a 62-year-old Oklahoma woman who was eagerly searching for an antique Singer sewing machine to honor precious memories. 

“My grandma sewed all the time. She made clothes for all of us grandkids. I was probably around 10 years old when I learned from watching her,” Payne recalled. “I just sewed constantly. I couldn’t even sleep at night. I couldn’t shut off my brain because I just wanted to get out there and sew.” 

Kim Payne (right), pictured with her late grandmother (left)

Payne says she always felt an affectionate draw to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps. Just as she absorbed her grandmother’s passion for sewing, she also spent her career as a wedding cake maker, just like grandma.  

Years later, after her grandmother had passed, Kim had retired and felt the itch to reignite her love of sewing, but learned the old Singer had been sold in a garage sale. “That broke my heart. I tried to track it down in my area on Facebook, and I wasn’t having any luck at all.” 

After months of disappointment, Payne’s fortunes changed. She was excited to find an ad for an antique Singer sewing machine exactly like her grandmother’s. The ad was placed by Tia Dunlap of Caring Transitions – a company that specializes in senior relocation, downsizing, estate sales and more.  

“We were doing a large estate sale that was for a family where the father had passed and the mother was moving into memory care,” says Dunlap, franchise owner of Caring Transitions Western Oklahoma. 

“We were opening up and Kim pulls up to the gate and asks, ‘Can I get in early?’ She instantly went straight for that sewing machine. Her husband looked at me and said, ‘All she’s talked about is this sewing machine,’” Dunlap explained. 

Tia Dunlap and her husband, franchise owners of Caring Transitions Western Oklahoma

“I went straight to the machine and I stood by it. I even put my hand on it because I knew I was going to buy it and how happy it would make me,” Payne said.  

Caring Transitions reconnected Payne to heartfelt memories of her past and her grandmother. Instead of being thrown away, the 71-year-old machine once again had a place of prominence, and of meaning. Another household filled with the familiar whirr of the straight-stitch Singer.  

“I made a shirt first. I think of my grandma when I wear the shirt, I think of this sewing machine, and I think of Betty, the original owner, who I know loved it too,” Payne said. “I know this machine has made a lot of people happy, and it continues to make me happy. 

“I just love old things. I look at them, I put my hand on them, and I try to imagine the story they could tell if they could talk to me.” 

But there was more, something completely unexpected, a message from the past that touched the hearts of Payne, and everyone at Caring Transitions. 

“About a week later, I got a letter in the mail from Kim and there was nothing but a small, green piece of construction paper that said, ‘I love you’”, recalls Dunlap. “Kim sent me that and said ‘When we were cleaning the machine out, this little piece fell out from the drawer.’” 

“It looked like a child had written it,” Payne remembered. “I could just visualize some grandchild writing that note and giving it to her while she was sewing. I said, ‘Can you get it back to the family?’ I just thought that love note would trigger a memory deep down inside on one of her good days.” 

Dunlap took the note to the nearby assisted living community and found the original owner of the sewing machine, Betty, who was enduring a struggle with memory loss. Dunlap discovered the love note was written years prior by a grandchild.

“She just kept rubbing that little piece of paper with her little fingers,” Dunlap recalled. “To me, that tells me that we’re doing exactly what we need to be doing because maybe it wasn’t that day, but that small little note from a grandchild that said, ‘I love you’ maybe triggered a sweet memory for her another day. 

“Our name, Caring Transitions, just speaks volumes. We care about what we’re doing. Every day we are touching lives.” 

Honor Generations of Cherished Items No Matter Where You Live

While Payne found her treasured sewing machine at a local estate sale, there are loads of prized possessions to explore on Caring Transitions’ online auction platform, CTBIDS

“It has really started to intertwine the generations again,” says Carrie Coumbs, Senior Strategic Advisor for Caring Transitions. “CTBIDS is a way that you can honor generations now, past and in the future, because these memorable items that are shared on the auction platform, they just bring new memories to life. 

“Do you know who benefits? The senior. They were able to pass along these memories and items to people who would love them and cherish them, and the funds that are raised go towards the care they need in a very important time of life.” 

Whether it is a specific item you’re after or just to browse for the perfect gift for a loved one, CTBIDS is full of thousands of prized possessions that can have a lasting impact on families across the country. 

To read more stories about life’s transitions, go to

This article is featured in the Fall 2023 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.

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