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?

 

 

 

 

Women’s revolution, Part II

Grandma. The Matriarch.

I am seeing an interesting phenomenon in my professional work: women of the Boomer generation entering their later years with the same independent attitude they’ve had throughout the last several decades.

Women of the forties, my mom’s generation, became the traditional housewives of the 50s. Daddy, the breadwinner, knew best, and mama stayed home with the kids and put three square meals each day on the table. Roles were defined and while women grumbled a little, they still gained (some) satisfaction keeping a spotless house and ironing all the shirts and trousers of the male family members. Their daughters were taught to do the same, and their sons (often) were treated as privileged beings.

These women devoted their later years taking care of Grandma and Grandpop, often taking them into their own homes to do it.

In contrast, the women of the “boomer” generation stormed the board rooms, got their own degrees (real ones, not the “Ph.D.–Putting hubby through school” variety), and became a potent force in the workplace. They divorced when necessary, not always adhering to the “stay together for the sake of the kids” mentality.

Their kids learned to be self-resilient, often taking care of themselves after school, sometimes being raised by a single mom. These women expected that husbands take an active role in the housework, cooking, and child care.

Not always a good thing, but just what was. And I am speaking in general terms here, not specifics, understand. There are always exceptions.

Fast forward to retirement age. In the past, traditional wives would put their own lives on hold, becoming the 24/7 caretaker to ailing husbands–often ailing because they had neglected their physical health in service to working to “provide for the family.” At least that was the rationale, although I still assert that smoking cigarettes and not exercising is a personal choice.

Are we seeing a different pattern with the “boomer” ladies? I think we are. They have gone into their marriages wanting an equal partner. They do not have a willingness to buy into the “wait on me hand and foot, especially when I’m ill” mentality. And they are getting  angry when they feel forced into that role. At least the ones I am talking to are.

So my question this morning is: who is going to take care of the “old guys” if the “wise women” stand up and start saying, “Where’s mine?”

I am thinking we might start seeing some older husbands (and some younger ones) step up to the challenge, turning into caretakers for their own maturing spouses, even as they chose to become more active co-parents when the kids were little and both parents working.

At least, I hope so. Otherwise, we’re going to be seeing a LOT of very full nursing homes!