Friday, January 30, 2009

The Sewing Machine -- jcarolek

Perseverance. I learned perseverance from an old Singer sewing machine.

I believe I was in 9th grade the year my sister received a sewing machine for Christmas. I'm not sure whether she'd asked for it, or whether is was one of those gifts that Dad and Mom just decided was what we "really" would like, instead of the silly wish list items we'd documented in that annual ritual. Nevertheless, under the tree was a Kenmore sewing machine. As I recall, on the card, "Santa" had suggested that Jeannie might consider sharing her gift with her mother and younger sister (me).

Mom had an old Singer sewing machine... the kind with the knee control. It was not fancy, but it got the job done. One major headache with this machine was doing button holes. So, Jeannie was very kind and allowed us to use her machine to do our button holes (for a price). Actually, my memory tells me she offered to DO the button holes for me for a price... I'm not sure I ever got to touch her machine.

Now, this might come as a huge surprise, but I really DON'T remember sewing much before Jeannie received that beautiful new machine. Seems to me, I took sewing class at the convent in England and made a skirt and a scarf, and stitched through my finger on at least one occasion. No matter, once Jeannie had her machine, I wanted one too. Understandably, Dad assured me I would be able to get my own sewing machine, if I proved I had a need for it. This, I took to mean, required demonstrating that I "truly loved to sew." Well, of course, I did NOT love to sew, but I loved that machine. So, sew I would.

Up in the attic I found some old (hideous) black and white floral drapes... where they had hung, I had no idea, but they were to soon to be transformed into a blouse, a skirt, etc. I used patterns that Mom had, and I followed her instruction on laying out the fabric, pinning the pattern pieces to the fabric, cutting the pieces, marking the marks with thread, etc. With much frustration, I struggled through the creation of the ugliest clothes on earth.

Nearly every day I sewed something. And eventually, I ran out of hideous attic fabric and had discovered I could actually create clothes that LOOKED like clothes. My next step was to start buying fabric... the fabric I selected was cheap, 3 yards for a dollar, but MUCH more palatable than the attic offerings. I branched out with my sewing, stitching shirts for my four younger brothers, and eventually, their friends. I knew I had "made it" when they started ASKING for shirts.

Throughout high school, I continued to sew on that old Singer machine, using Jeannie's still new looking Kenmore for the button holes. But by this time, the boys preferred the shirts with snaps and Jeannie's fee of 10 cents per button hole (did I ever pay? I kind of doubt it) was no longer a concern for me. I was a whiz with the snap tool!

I had honestly forgotten about my desire to have a new sewing machine by the time Christmas of my senior year rolled around. Maybe I asked for one. I really can't recall. I do know that I was surprised and thrilled when, on Christmas morning, I opened the envelope Dad took out of the tree and handed to me. Inside was an IOU for "one sewing machine, when they go on sale after Christmas."

And so it was that I had persevered, three years with the archaic Singer, bartering for button holes, producing, producing, producing.... I needed to show I needed a sewing machine. For my trouble, a few days after Christmas that year, I got my very own Kenmore sewing machine. That machine traveled to college with me and back and the pastime I had once forced myself to adopt was truly one I found I enjoyed.

Through the years I made clothes for my husband, children, and friends, and even worked for a while in a custom made clothing/tailor shop, making suits, dresses and such. Today I rarely open the machine. Everyone has grown up and moved on. I use it for special projects that catch my fancy, or to make a bridesmaid's dress or the like, but I still have that same trusty Kenmore, dented from a rough landing on my flight home from college when I graduated, but still working well.

When I look at the sewing machine, now sitting in my office vying for attention with a couple of computers, I understand the lesson I learned from that rather unsophisticated Singer machine, and Dad's requirement to "demonstrate a need." Perseverance. OK, and maybe just a TOUCH of obstinacy!

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