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?

 

 

 

 

What’s on my bookshelf right now

As we move into fall, weather is getting cooler and days shorter. A great time to read! Here are five that make my list for a good seasonal read:

Cooking like a Master Chef by Graham Elliot

 

Cooking like a master chef by Graham Ellliot. Although I do most of my reading on a Kindle, get this one in hardcopy: the photographs are marvelous. Elliot delights in tweaking American recipes.

For example, his version of the banana split features caramelized bananas foster, hazelnut crunch instead of peanuts, and coffee-chocolate sauce. Yum!

 

 

Plainsong by Kent Haruf 

Plainsong by Kent Haruf. Kent is a master wordsmith, creating in the small town of Holt, Colorado, a place so real you can taste the snowflakes on your tongue.

He tells the story of two young boys trying to make their way in a farming community with small adventures and challenges that lead to lives fully lived.

To be savored, like fine wine.

 

 

Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller

 

Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller. This is the sixth in a series of mysteries about Bell Elkins, who Michael Connelly has called “one of the most fully realized characters in fiction today.”

In this mystery, Bell deals with a harrowing 24-hour opioid crisis in the small West Virginia town where she lives.

Not to be missed!

 

The life we Bury by Allen EskensThe Life We Bury by Allen Eskens. In this intriguing who-done-it, Allen gives us a harried English major with a term paper due, meets a killer recently released from prison.

Well crafted, humorous in places and suspenseful throughout, this mystery was an Edgar finalist, an Anthony Award finalist, and won the Left Coast Crime Rosebud award for Best Debut Novel.

You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

A Wilder Rose Susan Wittig Albert

A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert –Because I grew up in South Dakota, the novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder were required reading!

Little did I know that the books were actually co-authored by Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was a world-traveler and published author in her own right.

Although a fictionalized biography, this novel is based on the diaries and letters of both women and deals with the American depression and the conflicted relationship of two strong-willed women.

 

What are you reading right now? What is your absolute favorite book?

I’m turning into my mother-in-law

2012-09-08 - Apple Cobbler Insides - 0015

Some women have a worry of turning into their mother, especially during stressful times. I have found through a quirk of fate that I think I’m turning into my mother-in-law instead!

She was a simple, though intelligent woman who died many years ago, a traditional homemaker who raised a large family in the 40s and 50s and never worked outside the home.

But as I review my current, semi-retired lifestyle, I find it remarkably similar to hers. For example: She rarely went out, except to the grocery store, the hairdresser and the bank. (Hand raised. Just got back from all three.) She had one good friend. (Hand raised).

She loved to cook Southern style, what we’d call today, whole foods, slow cooked: Home-made biscuits, fried chicken, apple cobbler, all made from scratch. Because I am mostly vegetarian and gluten sensitive, my style is different, but the same.

Right now I am cooking applesauce with apples from the frig, and I make my own almond milk, because many of the store-bought brands list sugar as the first ingredient! But I experiment–cooking beans in a slow cooker is the only way to go, and I have a chayote squash waiting for tomorrow’s supper. I notice I have shared her joy of discovery of a new recipe, the pleasure in the process and the pride in the final product. A nice feeling!

She was intensely interested in both her neighborhood and nature around her. She usually had a small vegetable garden and grew roses, even in the shortened growing season in Flagstaff. For me it’s the new covey of baby quail living under the Russian sage, and the pecans I harvested and shelled from our tree out back.

The fire that blackened Mt. Elden north of town was right at the top of her street. She felt the horror at that destruction much as I am living through the aftermath of the Slide Fire.

She loved afternoon TV and could quote you chapter and verse of the Phil Donohue show. For me it is books–I’ve currently embarked on an round-the-world cruise. Right now I am “in” Canada, and loving it!

But most of all, when I went to visit her, I loved the predictability. When I was in my thirties and forties, a full-time working woman, I’d rush to her house and let out a sigh of relief at her rhythm of life. The pineapple crocheted doily was always on the kitchen table, the same picture always hung over the couch, and the coffee (always Folgers) was brewing in the old Pyrex percolator that she’d had for decades.

I used to wonder, back then, what on earth she did with her day.

Now I know.

 

 

 

 

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