It was an old sewing machine, not an antique, not passed down from one generation to another. It was just an old sewing machine.
So why was I crying as my husband and I drove to deliver it to the woman who had agreed to buy it?
I had bought a brand new Husqvarna-Viking machine as a birthday present to myself. I had been wanting a new one for several years. The old one was kind of clunky, it made uneven buttonholes, and it didn’t sew delicate fabrics very well. A new sewing machine was a good thing.
The old machine, a Signature from Montgomery Ward, was a workhorse that had never needed repair. My parents bought it for me when I was sixteen.
My grandmother criticized the first thing, an apron, I had made on my new machine. It upset me because I was only sixteen and I was so pleased with myself. To me, it was a momentous occasion, the completion of that first project, and to have my grandmother focus immediately -- and only -- on its faults was a blow. My mother soothed my bruised feelings, telling me that Grandma believed that the inside of a garment should look as good as the outside. My apron did have some raw edges on the back side of the waistband, but Grandma, didn’t you see the pretty decorative stitching I put on it? I learned from the criticism, though, and began to do better.
My floor-length senior prom dress was pink dotted Swiss, with an empire waist, a pink grosgrain ribbon sash, and puffed sleeves. I had flowers in my hair and my handsome fiancé at my side. Senior prom was the night we all got to stay out as late as we wanted. After a breakfast at Howard Johnson’s, I got home around six a.m. My mother was up and getting ready to go to work. I managed to see the frown of worry slip off her face as we arrived looking tired but safe.
Not long after that I made my wedding dress – the first one, that is. It was white crepe, knee-length, and it had long sleeves. I think I made it from the same pattern as the prom dress, but I added a ruffle of lace to the scooped neckline. I was the very picture of purity. The marriage didn’t last long. I was only eighteen and far too young to be married. I gave the dress to one of my close friends, who shortened it to a scandalous length and wore it dancing.
Oh, well, not every story ends with happily ever after.
In college, I made a golden-brown wool skirt, calf-length with a center slit to the knee. I wore it with stylish brown leather shoes, dark-tinted stockings, and a tailored, high-necked blouse, the kind that would later be used to make women’s power suits more girly. The outfit was pronounced “smart” by one of my fellow dorm-dwellers. It was certainly more dignified than the blue, bonded-knit hot pants (how’s that for a double-barreled blast from the past) which I wore with black-tinted stockings, black patent-leather high-heeled boots, and a tight black turtleneck sweater. Hair to my waist and half again as much jewelry as I really needed completed the look. I got whistled at. Back then, that outfit did not make me look like a streetwalker as it would today.
Having survived my college years and entered the workforce, my sewing slowed down somewhat. I had a job where I could wear jeans and t-shirts, and I seldom wore anything else. I had heard talk of the walls caving in if I was to show up in a dress, but I did now and then and the walls are still intact.
At some point, and I don’t remember what triggered it, perhaps the offerings in the fabric stores, I began to make tropical print shirts for my father. He always liked the Hawaiian aloha shirts, but he never went to
In the 1970s, I made the obligatory hippie skirt out of a pair of jeans. I opened the inseams and inserted gores of a faded burgundy denim that I had. I embroidered important things on the skirt and added an eyelet ruffle at the hem. If I could still fit into that skirt, I would wear it. I’ve kept it for sentimental reasons.
Another item I kept for sentimental reasons is a quilted jacket I made for my mother. It was mostly black and cream with multi-colored panels of fans down the front. The look of pleasure when I gave it to my mother was the most rewarding moment in my sewing-for-family efforts.
I got married again, and this time it took. I have made a few shirts for Richard. One that he has practically worn out is made of dark blue cotton with little Golden Retrievers printed on it. That is significant because our dog, Brandy, a Golden, was a big part of our life. Brandy is in doggie heaven now, but Richard still has that shirt. I also made him a shirt with tools printed all over it. Richard is a woodworker, so the tool theme fit perfectly.
Can you see why I was weeping when we were transporting the old sewing machine to its new owner? I made memories on that sewing machine.