Sewing machine tractors a unique exhibit at fair

LISBON – Many people have a tendency to throw away antiques like sewing machines and typewriters that are considered useless, but Gary Little has a better use for them.

The Hermitage, Pa. truck driver found a way to put together a new use for sewing machines with his love for farm machinery, and he has made several sewing machine tractors, which are now on display at the Items of Yesteryear building at the Columbiana County Fair.

“I’ve been always mechanically inclined,” Little said. “Those machines are just so fascinating with the steering wheel and the contour, and things just fell into place. I love to work on stuff like that.”

Little said he came up with the idea when his brother worked as a furniture repairman at an antique store and was tossing out a Singer sewing machine. Little had other plans than seeing it scrapped.

“One day I took one and set it up on my workbench,” Little said. “I put some lawn mower wheels on it and I said ‘It’s got so much potential it’s funny,’ and then I saw the steering wheel and one thing led to another.”

Little’s collection at the fair consists of designs similar to Massey-Harris, but those on display aren’t the only ones in his possession.

“I’ve got about probably 20 more at home,” Little said. “I’ve got John Deeres at home, I’ve got Fords at home, maybe someday I can bring them all. I might bring one tomorrow.”

Many of the sewing machines Little used were Singer sewing machines from the 1930s and 1940s.

“Singer made so many of them, hundreds of thousands of them,” Little said. “There’s different manufacturers, there’s probably 200 other manufacturers. They’re all retired now.”

While the sewing machines were used as the engines for the tractors, Little also used other items like spatulas for seats and even an antique typewriter to resemble a combine, and Little’s sister, Janis, also helps out with the making of the dolls on display. He said he enjoys tinkering around with the tractors.

“It’s my hobby,” Little said. “They’re like my kids. It’s my pride and joy.”

Just as important as making the tractors for Little is also displaying them. While he has displayed his work at stores, he has never done the Columbiana County Fair, and he said he is excited to have the opportunity to showcase his tractors in a bigger venue.

“They asked me to do the fair, and I couldn’t turn it down. This is the first time I did the fair,” Little said. “I just love it down here.”

The greatest thing Little looks forward to this week at the fair is seeing people and discussing his sewing machine tractors.

“I just want to make people happy and enjoy what I made,” Little said. “That’s the main thing.”