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?

 

 

 

 

Perfect moments can be had

Hot air balloon among the red rocks of Sedona

A life is like a garden.
Perfect moments can be had,
but not preserved, except in memory. 
Leonard Nimoy

The setting of BLOOD IN TAVASCI MARSH

Autumn Cat tails at Tavasci Marsh

The most frequent questions I get about the title of the second
Pegasus Quincy novel are:

How do you pronounce Tavasci?
That one is easy: Tah-vas’-ski

AND,

Is Tavasci Marsh a real place?
It certainly is!

I’ve lived in the Verde Valley for many years, and Tavasci Marsh is one of my favorite places to visit.

In addition to all those golden butterflies hovering around the rabbit brush, over 245 species of birds have been found there, making it one of the premier birding areas in Arizona.

The marsh has an interesting history. With only 10-12 inches of rain per year, Arizona counts any water source as precious, and Tavasci Marsh is the largest fresh water marsh in Arizona outside the Colorado River Basin.

It was formed when the Verde River formed an ox-bow, a sharp, almost U-turn in the river, and, then capriciously, returned to a straighter course. The water left by the abandoning river created Tavasci Marsh, which continues to be fed by Shea Spring and by underground seeps from the river.

The marsh was a food source for the Sinagua Indians who built a large hundred-room pueblo on the top of a nearby mountain, now managed as Tuzigoot National Monument. Their first dwellings were dated about 1000 AD, and it wasn’t until almost 900 years later that the first white settler arrived.

He was a cattle farmer in the 1890s, whose name, Tavasci, was given to the marsh. He drained the wetlands so that he could raise beef cattle to feed to the copper miners working in the nearby boom town of Jerome.

The owners of these copper mines, which stripped incredibly rich copper ore from Mingus Mountain, eventually acquired the marsh. The huge copper smelters in Clarkdale were only a few miles beyond the marsh on higher ground. This geography, coupled with the fact that mining operations were so imprecise in the early days, caused Tavasci Marsh to become highly polluted with heavy metals, from slag and tailing run-offs.

Even today, there are high levels of arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead and other poisonous metals in the soil and even the insects of the marsh. A restoration project has been proposed to change this unfortunate state of affairs!

Spring cat tails at Tavasci Marsh

When the mines closed down in the 50s, the land reverted to a more natural state, and beaver had a renaissance. Their dams turned the dairy farm lands back into a wetlands marsh.

The desert mesquites and acacia trees were drowned by the rising waters, but they provided an ideal environment for cat tails. Today, much of the marsh is inundated by these tall marsh plants, so much so that open water is increasingly rare.

Doug van Gausig has been called the Bird Man of Tavasci Marsh, and sometimes hosts field trips to Tavasci Marsh during the annual Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival, affectionately known as the Birdy-Verde, each year. Here you can find a number of migrating waterfowl, raptors such as the brown and golden eagle, blue and green herons, and animals such as river otter and, of course, beaver and muskrats.

Doug has ventured into Drone Photography, and has several great YouTube videos that give you another perspective on Tavasci Marsh:

In this one, you can see a river otter investigating a water sampler:

 

In short, Tavasci Marsh seemed the perfect place to stage a murder, so I did!

Every now and then I get an email from a reader with a picture of Flycatcher Road or Tuzigoot Monument, saying “We found it!”

I hope, someday, that you will, too.