Sew…

I hadn’t planned to write about disease today. I’d planned to write about sewing. You see I recently bought a Singer Start from the classifieds in my town. It was $50 (good deal). It came with a bin filled with sewing supplies and tools. I bought it from a really nice woman on a cold, snowy day (back in the good times before early spring hit, boo-hoo).

I started sewing when I was four and my mom had mending to do. She sat me on the love seat in the spare room and showed me how to thread a needle and stitch things. She lectured me on why long stitches don’t hold well. I sat beside her and sewed lines on strips of cloth while she mended.

It’s one of the sweetest memories I have of my mom.

My grandmother Beall had taught her to sew. Over the years I learned that my mom adored HER mother and followed her around all the time. My mom’s sisters let me know that my mom really wanted to be grandma’s favorite but the odds weren’t good in a family of 7 girls, a family living by subsistence farming. But with my mom hanging around all the time, my grandma had to teach her to sew and I learned that sewing with mom was, in my mom’s mind and heart, a mother/daughter bonding thing. I inherited my grandma’s sewing machine. The most lovely thing about it is the drawer my grandfather repaired. ❤

Time passed and various home-ec classes starting in sixth grade. By then, I’d I’d long graduated from making pot-holders (our class activity) and had sewn a dress for myself. By the time I was in high school home-ec, I was making most of my own clothes.

My mom took sewing classes at some point in my childhood and learned all kinds of cool short-cuts for marking fabric that my home-ec teachers took issue with until they realized that the result was as good as their methods.

Sometime in the 1980s I quit sewing. Discount department stores like Loehmann’s made buying nice clothing easier than sewing it, and the ever rising cost of fabric made the stores cheaper. But the last two shirts I made, well, I wish I had the patterns.

I made this blouse in the 70’s. I loved it. Photo from 1979.

Lately I have thought that I don’t want to forget things that I know. I also don’t think I have any more books in me, and I’ve learned that, as a retired person, I’m happier when I have a creative project. Sewing doesn’t require a lot of inspiration, but writing and painting do (for me). I began to see sewing as a project that could yield some good stuff without requiring the same mental energy as writing and painting. Besides, my friends here sew. It’s something to talk about and share. That matters to me now as it never did back when I had no real time for social friendships. I’m also a little disgusted by the buy and throw out trend in our culture. I’d like to mend towels and sweatshirts I love rather than tossing them. I’m not made of money, right?

My Aussie friend Elizabeth inherited bins of fabric from her mother-in-law. Once I got my machine she and I spent a great afternoon going through this stuff. I brought home a bunch of free material and imagined what I could make. Among the fabrics are flowered patterns, with pansies. These are my step-daughter-in-law’s favorite flowers. I thought of making her a table runner, but then I decided to make my step-granddaughter a skirt. I got a pattern, cut it out, experiencing all kinds of weird memory things like I automatically, without a ruler, marked the seams with straight pins at 5/8s inch. The whole experience has been full of stuff like that, like my hands and unconscious mind have this under control.

But I hate my sewing machine. I’m sure it’s an “improvement” over older models of Singer Sewing machines, but I find it annoying. It’s hard plastic, things are “simplified,” so much I have less control over the machine than I’m used to. The pedal is so lightweight that it almost flies around there on the floor instead of staying put. Yesterday I actually went on eBay and bid on a machine just like that on which I learned. This would be a 65 year old machine. There was a real bidding war over that and others of that model sell for more than new machines on eBay. I found that informative.

A machine just like my mom’s from the mid-fifties, like the one I didn’t win.

Ultimately, I succeeded in doing what I had to do, but I’m still (kind of) hoping to find an old machine. And the skirt’s coming along well. It’s just waiting for the waistband and hem.

15 thoughts on “Sew…

  1. Sewing looks so relaxing, but I never took to it in Home Ec. I made a dress, but I don’t think I ever wore it. My daughter has my mother-in-law’s Singer sewing machine that is similar to your grandmother’s but more basic. Many years ago I did learn to use it to sew a straight seam using the knee pedal. All mending was done with a straight stitch…no matter what. Until my daughter learned to use it and took over, making quilts and doll clothes (which she sold at church fairs). It made her feel closer to Nana. Your fabrics look like they will be fun to create with 🙂

    • My mom made me sew on my grandma’s treadle machine. I’d use it now but I don’t think the belt is any good and I’m sure it all needs oiling. I just wish I had brought my sewing machine from CA back in the day rather than all those boxes I ended up throwing out!

  2. I hope your step-granddaughter enjoys her beautiful and unique skirt!
    I still repair stuff by hand when seams tear or holes appear – socks, t-shirts, gloves, sheets, blankets, dog toys. It’s nice to keep things useful.
    I also learned to sew clothes on a machine, in junior high, and had that sewing machine through all my college years to repair stuff. I sold it at a garage sale before one of many moves in my late 20s; wish I’d kept it.
    Although honestly, I’m happy to repair stuff by hand; it’s meditative.
    The only thing I can’t do by hand is repair something stretchy. Luckily there’s a woman in the community who takes in sewing repair work!

  3. I have 2 old machines – one is my mother’s which is in a beautiful mahogany sewing cabinet. It still works but the plug in the cabinet is frayed and a fire/shock hazard! My mother was still using it up to the day she gave it to me!! Then I have the one I got as a HS graduation gift from my parents. I use it all the time – it is “portable” if you can dead lift 50 pounds! I found some fabric at a garage sale and have been using it for sewing crafts for the last 10 years. I’m now down to a small bin’s worth.

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