Sew Many Stories

The Singer Sewing Machine Company is having their 160th anniversary and to celebrate, they’re collecting sewing machine stories. Everyone who writes one is entered in a drawing to win a new machine. If you want to add yours, I think you have until December 31, 2011.

My mom told her sewing story …

In 1941, when I was in the 5th grade in a small town in Central Illinois, my mother showed me how to use the Singer treadle machine. I learned how to sew and miss my fingers while concentrating on the treadle action. The next summer, I was enrolled in a 4-H club. We all made dresses to enter in the Champaign County Fair. My dress was a lovely blue with pink flowers. The dress buttoned down the front to the waist. There was a scalloped front where the buttonholes were. It was hard to do and my mother was sort of particular that it be done right. I remember having to rip and redo the scalloped edges, as they had to be turned correctly to make a pretty edge. When we were satisfied that I had done my best, it was entered in the competition. I remember getting a ribbon and having a really good time at the fair. I loved that dress and for the next Christmas I received a pair of knee sox in the same color as the flowers on the dress.

My dad gave Mom a new electric Singer and I learned how to use that. It was much easier than the treadle. On St. Patrick’s Day, 1942 at our Catholic School, we were told to wear something green. I had nothing green, but on the shelves that held all the jars of canned food preserved from our Victory Garden, hung a green and white gingham drape. Mom took that off the shelves and made it into a gathered skirt for the next day. I was so proud of it! Almost like Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With The Wind.

My parents moved the family to Colorado at the end of the war. They sold all their household goods, taking only the things they really wanted to keep. The new electric sewing machine was at the top of the list to make the journey, above family and clothes. I entered St. Mary’s High School as a freshman and had to re-learn how to use the treadle machines in the sewing class. I didn’t do so well.

When my five daughters were old enough, I taught them to love sewing too. I still do a bit of sewing for donations to various organizations. My mother would be so happy to know she was represented on-line.

My sister told hers …

Just this morning I found a photo from 1977. In that photo I’m wearing a new Easter outfit that I made for myself on my new Singer sewing machine. I sewed occasionally when I was growing up, but could never do as well as my mother did. I can’t count the number of outfits she made for me and my sisters. She made my wedding dress and 3 bridesmaids’ dresses.

When my daughter was born, I began making clothes for her. I learned smocking, buttonholes, and how to make pockets. It was such fun, I graduated to making clothes for me: wrap skirts, peasant tops, summer shifts, house robes. When my daughter was 4, she was a flower girl in my sister’s wedding and I made her an ivory eyelet dress and blue eyelet pinafore. (By the way, my sister made her own wedding dress for the event as well.) A few years later my daughter and I joined a living history association that needed authentic 1830-50 period clothing. At that time my son was 18 months old, so I had a lot of help making her prairie dress, apron and bonnet. I think I sewed every seam of that dress (including pockets) at least twice with his help.

My trusty Singer is still chugging along, used now mostly for making stuffed toys and quilted items. Since I only have grandsons, I don’t have any girls to sew for. I wouldn’t trade my machine in for anything. It’s sturdy, solid and does everything I want it to. If I were to win a new machine, it would go to my mother. She still loves to learn new things at age 80 and maybe I’ll get another new outfit from her!

And I told mine …

I stole my mother’s sewing machine. I didn’t mean to and I’m very sorry. But it’s her own fault. When I was a kid she was always busy with her hands — sewing, knitting, crocheting. She could do the most amazing things and made them all look easy. Like daVinci doing a paint-by-number. Blindfolded. I wanted to learn to sew too, so she taught me. With lots of practice, I learned how to do all the basics. But I can’t remember how many times I had to learn the right-sides-together lesson. My seam ripper was my constant companion. And I never quite learned how to match my stripes and plaids very well. I am proud to say, though, that I only had to learn once about running over my finger with the needle.

It’s funny that my mom told the story of her mom coming to the rescue on St Patrick’s Day, because my mom did the same thing for me. The day before the wearin’ o’ the green, I was dismayed to find nothing green in my closet. When I got home from school, there was a green dress laying on my bed. I wore it for one of my school pictures — maybe 4th grade.

I made most of my own clothes all through high school, maybe because my mom made it seem so easy. I’m still grateful I knew how to sew so I could work in fabric stores rather than come home stinking of burger-and-fry grease from a fast food job.

When my daughter was little, I’d create tops and skirts for her from my husband’s shirts. He’d get some grease on his sleeve and I’d whisk it away to my sewing room. I lost track of how many times he’d marvel at the coincidence saying, “I used to have a shirt with that same fabric!”

Alas, I never taught my daughter to sew and if I won a sewing machine, I’d rectify that for her.

I should give it to my mom, however, seeing that I swiped hers. Maybe I should explain that I’m not really a thief. I was noodling over a purse-making project a couple of years ago and asked my mom if I could borrow her machine, since mine had long ago gone to Machine Heaven. (I should add here it was not a Singer!) She kindly allowed me to take hers, since I explained it would only be “for a little while.” What I didn’t explain was my definition of “a little while.” I still have her machine. But don’t feel sorry for her for having such a bandit for a daughter. Okay, feel a little bit sorry for her. Rest assured, however, she was only without a sewing machine very briefly because her husband surprised her with a new one not too long after I stole, er, borrowed hers.

The remarkable thing about Mom teaching me to sew — and why I enjoyed it so much — is that she never yelled. She’s quite zen like that. I am not, which might explain why my daughter does not know how to sew. But I bet I could learn one more thing from my mom.

Do YOU have a sewing story? Have you ever been happy to get a pair of knee socks for Christmas? Should my sister be thwacked with soggy noodles for not sewing for her grandsons?

One thought on “Sew Many Stories

  1. Pingback: Sew Many Stories – layingofhandsblogs

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