My relationship with sewing machines

Singer treadle sewing machine

Singer treadle sewing machine – All sorts of wonderful things were kept in the drawers on the sides!

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.

Singer featherweight

A Singer featherweight, weighing in at 11 pounds

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!

Singer athena 2000 sewing machine

A Singer Athena 2000 sewing machine–lots of buttons to push

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.

Pfaff Creative Icon

The Biggest-Brightest-Newest Pfaff Creative Icon

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!

Warm fuzzy PJs in the latency stage

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?





Finding peace in a frantic world

West Fork Trail, Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona

West Fork Vista, Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona

“I want to be able to live without a crowded calendar. I want to be able to read a book without feeling guilty, or go to a concert when I like.”
Golda Meir

Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel for ten years and active in public service all of her life was described as strong-willed, straight-talking, gray-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people.

She used to say it was a blessing to be born plain; that the pretty girl had a handicap to overcome, because people saw the beauty first, not the person. She also mentioned the lament of all working mothers: when you are at work, you feel guilty about your children at home; when you are home, you feel guilty about the work left behind.

Time, then, is precious. But time to do what? For Golda, it was time to read a book whenever she wanted, or to attend a concert. I like to think a walk in nature may be the very best use of time ever, but reading a good book comes in a close second!

When we are doing what we want to do, whether it is spending time with our children or pursuing a hobby with passion, time slows down to accommodate us. It obligingly stretches and conforms to the task at hand, giving our creativity not only time, but space as well, so that true joy can be expressed.

How would YOU spend your time, if you had enough to do exactly
what you wanted?



The added dimension of cat-ness

Foxy enjoying fall

Foxy’s favorite fall pastime

I’ve lived with cats all of my life.

When I was little girl in South Dakota, I would coming running home after school to see the kittens.

My mother forbade us to touch them until their eyes opened, about ten days after birth. That ten days seemed to last forever! Finally eyelids would open to eyes of the deepest blue, and tiny kittens would sprawl about the birthing box. I was entranced.

My mother was a stay-at-home mom, always looking for ways to gather in more income to supplement my father’s modest salary. One year she determined that the best way to do this was to breed Siamese cats. The two kittens she picked were elegant, but before we could see what the resulting litters might bring, my father was transferred overseas, where my pets were not cats, but rather three partridges that we kept in the back yard in Tehran, Iran. And that’s the subject of another story.

But when I was first married, my young husband and I actually did breed Siamese cats. We were starving college students at the time with no extra money. To feed our cats, we made trips to the local meat packing plant for “offal,” specifically kidneys that we ground and cooked with corn meal. This concoction we fed to our rapidly burgeoning family of felines.

At one point we had four simultaneous litters of kittens, their respective moms and one magnificent stud cat wandering about our small two-bedroom house. And then the landlady we were renting from discovered our small business venture and told us we had to leave–immediately! We sold the kittens, gave away most of the moms, and kept one or two when we packed the U-Haul and moved to different digs.

Leaf retreats to his coffee table bunker when he feels insecure

At this stage in my life, I am down to two cats.

One, Foxy (above), is a diminutive brown tabby who has been my inseparable companion for the past nine years. She is, in fact, sleeping next to me as I write this post.

The other, Leaf, is a dark gray-and-white mega-male, some three times larger than Foxy, and seven years younger. I acquired him about a year ago, when a good friend became ill and could no longer care for him.

They are ill-matched in terms of size and age. And both are used to being only cats. I was concerned when Leaf entered the family, but they have developed an elaborate system of cat etiquette.

Leaf gets to eat first, and Foxy watches. Foxy sleeps with me at night, close by my ear, while Leaf sleeps at the foot of the bed. When I lay down for an afternoon nap, the prime position of nap companion goes to Leaf. He watches in fact, and jumps up on the couch before I do. But if Foxy should happen to wander by, he immediately gets down and relinquishes his spot to the brown fur ball who cuddles close. Each has their own nest basket on my writing desk, and neither invades the other’s.

They don’t like each other, but they seem to tolerate each other’s company. I think one would be lonely without the other, like an old married couple that fights all the time but would be desolate living alone.

How did they figure out this arrangement? I wish I knew. But it seems to work for them.

What about you? Are you a cat person or a dog person?
What richness enters your life because they are there?