Finding Myself at My Sewing Machine

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Finding Myself at My Sewing Machine

Postby David » Wed July 23, 2014, 4:09 pm

My Mom was a perfectionist and never really did "enjoy" sewing although she did sew and did a nice job. When I was 13 and in 9th grade Home Ec I was seriously worried about the sewing part of Home Ec. Melva Hamilton was our Home Ec teacher and the rules were a bit relaxed in that class. I remember sitting down to the sewing machine with sweaty palms. My first project was a little doggie face pillow . It turned out nice. I was like I had been reborn. I just knew how to sew and was very comfortable with any project. I actually completed 6 outfits (1 was a blazer and skirt) by the end of 9th grade home ec. Back then a pattern was .25, a lot of fabric was .25. Mom would give me money to go to Connie's Cotton Shop on the corner of Spring Street and High Street and I would be in heaven. For whatever reason Mrs. Hamilton was out by 10th grade Home Ec and Myrtle Stogner took her place. She was a no nonsense teacher. She taught "The Bishop Method". That is where you baste, press, stitch, press. She made me remove my collar off my shirtdress 7 times. I was fearful the dress would be worn out before it was finished. I had "offended" her for trying to show her a much easier way to put in a zipper. That did not fly well with her. I had never learned to read a guide sheet and if I didn't do it to the "t" I was in trouble. I made several outfits that year also. I cleaned my locker and took my supplies home. The day of our final exam I did not have a needle (hand sewing) in order to complete my exam. I went to her and asked if I could borrow a needle and I guess she chose that day to "teach me a lesson" and would not let me take my exam. I gathered other classmate's supply list and she had not put a needle on the list. Everyone else still had their stuff at school. That was the only time Evelyn (Mom) went to school but they did let me take my exam that afternoon. I was never interested in home ec after that. I had a fashion taste that you couldn't satisfy in a store. I loved bold and bright colors....my favorites were lemon yellow, orange and purple......things you couldn't buy in the store, so sewing allowed me to be me. I created 2 evening gowns and made the sarongs and shorts the waiters and waitresses wore for The Hawaiian Paradise prom the Junior class gave the seniors. I had 2 friends who use to ask me to help them make something KNOWING FULL WELL I would take it and finish it. You know who you are and you know I love you. Sewing was always a very big part of my life and I got a great a sense of accomplishment using that gift. I made the childrens' clothes and sold fabric crafts for about 25 years through consignment shops and craft fairs. I was very active with The Christmas Loft in Virginia and had a shop that carried a few of my items in Colonial Williamsburg. My best things during those years was the wrap-around skirts and Bermuda bag covers I personalized by painting the fabric. I had a presence in a few shops in the 1984 Worlds Fair, The Delta Queen gift shop and various shops in The French Quarter. I had a pretty hot business in my living room for years in Virginia, Louisiana, South Dakota & back in Louisiana. I was licensed for home manufacturing and paid my taxes. In 1984 I started a 13 year love affair with a band saw and folk art painting. The sewing went to the wayside. It was more like a "hit the wall" thing. To me cutting wood was much like sewing. So this is the history of my sewing machines: I used Mom's Singer 1950s straight stitch vintage. I put a lot of miles on that machine. Mom use to say she sure hoped I didn't drive like I sewed (fast). Oh well. When we married I didn't have a machine for about 1 1/2 years. I bought a Singer in Raleigh (I think it was $89.00) and it DID NOT sew in reverse. I used that for many years and then bought a Kenmore that I literally wore out. I had traded the first one with Grandmama for her treadle machine. Grandmother sewed on it as long as she sewed. I kept that for many years and it is now safely tucked away at my cousin Annies in Texas now. My next machine was a Singer Industrial U-20. I think it was about $800.00 and it is a straight Zig Zag stitch machine but faster than the wind. My sewing machine repairman was on Richard Petty's pit crew and I used to tell him "If you can take care of Richard, then I imagine you can keep my machines running". It was at this time I found and fell in love with the little 11 pound Singer Featherweight workhorse. I had seen one my friend, Grace Miles, used to use. JC and I used to scour shops looking for one of them. I found a 60's model in Houston back in 1981...now I had 2. Quilters love this machine because they can travel with it with no problem. I sold the 2nd one I bought in 1983 and always wished I hadn't sold it. I then bought another Singer portable a few years newer than the Singer Featherweight and sold that to my Sister in Law (who owns quite a stable of machines in Texas). I used the industrial exclusively for many years. We were in FL once and I wanted to do some sewing while here so I bought a cheap Brother machine at Walmart. I don't suggest that. It worked though. My next machine was a Singer Heavy Duty Commercial I bought in Metairie LA and it had a nice selection of stitches. I was sewing for grandchildren by now and added a Singer Serger (plastic and bounces on the table) to my machines. I took a class one weekend at Hancock Fabrics. I stopped by the home of a friend to show her my projects and she said someone had given her one to put in a yard sale so she gave me this very nice iron head Baby-Loc Serger, so I kept one threaded with dark thread and the other one with white. We moved from Louisiana to Tampa in 2010 and the machines came with me. I took my little heavy duty one down to a repair shop in Sun City Center and there was this precious Singer Featherweight sitting in the window and JC blessed me with that for Valentine's Day 2011. A friends daughter sold me her Singer Featherweight she had in the garage because she just never took up sewing. I found a Toyota Serger last year in a neighborhood yard sale and bought that. It had belonged to the ladies Mother who had passed away. My latest aqusition was 2 weeks ago when I bought a Singer 1725 which had never been used. It only weighs 15#. I have been letting my 8 year old granddaughter do some sewing and it may belong to her if she learns and shows an interest. I guess that sounds crazy to anyone who doesn't sew but it is perfectly normal in my circles......

written by Jean Raby Nelson

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