When I was young, the neighbor lady on the corner took in sewing. After school I’d often go over to her house and play with the scraps of fabric she collected just for me in a box she kept beside the machine.
Some of my earliest memories are of the clickety-clack of her treadle moving up and down. She didn’t seem to mind my being there, and my mom would call when supper was ready. “I’ll send her right home,” Mrs. Peak would say.
Fast forward to my graduation from high school. I’d longed for some fancy present, but instead, my mother gave me…a Singer featherweight. And then taught me how to use it. The Singer featherweight was first made at the onset of the depression, as a way that women could sew clothes for their family during those difficult times.
Weighing in at 11 pounds, it did only one thing–sew a straight line. Singer stopped making them in 1964, but they were so well constructed there are many still around, now collectors’ items that still operate as designed.
And yes, my daughter got one when she graduated from high school to take with her to the dorm room!
When I got married, a new sewing machine seemed just the thing for a bride in the 60s. I can’t remember my first machine, but when I traded it in on the next model, I was quite disappointed that this baby above didn’t have a life-time guarantee like my first one did!
Nevermind. It had all sorts of built-in stitches, and fancy ways of doing new things with a myriad of attachments. All you had to do was push a button. Of course, I bought it way before the year 2000. That year seemed impossibly far away in the future.
Then I drifted away from sewing for a while. New machines like sergers using those huge cones of thread appeared. My favorite fabric stores closed and for a while, all that was left were quilting stores with six thousand bolts of cotton fabric in every color and pattern under the sun. Not my thing.
I stayed busy with career and family over the years, but something was lacking. Like the mystery of gardening, where you started out with a blank yard and a packet of seeds and ended up with something wonderful, I missed those bolts of fabric with all their magic potential.
Recently I found inspiration in a blog by Sarah Gunn. Called Goodbye Valentine, hello needle and thread, the blog chronicles her journey in 2011 foregoing purchasing of Ready-to-Wear clothes for a year and making her own. Her results looked pretty darn good.
I loved her motto: “If you can read a recipe, you can read a pattern. If you can drive a car, you can operate a sewing machine. If you can shop, you can SEW.”
Now the machine she uses, the Pfaff Creative Icon, is way beyond my league. It’s a computer that talks to your iPhone and tells you when it needs more thread. And the embroidery it designs is simply amazing.
But in a way, it got me to thinking.
And not too long ago, I found myself wandering into Jo-Ann’s. Winter was coming, and they had put out rows and rows of fuzzy material. At 50% off!
How could I resist? I picked up one color. A second. And then a third. With my arms full I walked up to the measuring table, a big smile on my face.
Once home, I dug my old Singer Athena out of the closet. It hummed to life when I plugged it in, and my fingers traced the still familiar path of the thread through the loops and openings and fixtures to the needle.
I hadn’t forgotten this most basic of skills. I could still sew! I think that Mrs. Peak would be proud of me.
What are your earliest sewing memories?
Do you still visit fabric stores?