Sew Many Memories

In the early days of the 2020 pandemic, COVID-19, thousands of people dragged out unused sewing machines or put existing sewing projects aside in the quest to make the facemasks recommended by the CDC. Grassroots efforts had sewers creating thousands, if not millions, of masks as cities across the country implemented mandatory masks orders. Since creating a cloth mask was the only proactive thing we were told to do to help slow the spread of the virus, we were inspired to create, using supplies on hand.

My 7-year-old Bernina is always at the ready, so in-house mask production began. When stores were finally able to reopen, I had logged enough stitches on my machine that it needed to go into the shop for annual service. Because of the backlog of service work, I was told it would be in the shop for five weeks. Now what? New sewing projects were calling to me.

Backup plan: my mother’s 1959 Singer.

Oh. My. Goodness!

Sew Many Memories!

The instant I sat down at this machine, I was transported back 50 years. It was an unexpectedly powerful experience.

My Mother

My mother was an aspiring fashion designer. She sewed her own clothes through high school and college. She studied art, eventually getting her Masters and was working toward her Doctorate.

She was a remarkably talented woman. I’ve often said that even if she were not my mother, I would want to be her friend.

Here are two of her fashion illustrations, created during her freshman year of college.

I remember the dresses she made. There was a white eyelet Easter dress what I wore in an Easter parade. A brown corduroy reversible jumper with a green dress underneath. A “hot pink” Alice in Wonderland dress and pinafore.

Three more little girls were born into the family and then she sewed not only for herself but also for the four of us. We all remember late-night sessions as she worked feverishly to complete Easter or Christmas outfits.

I remembered the first thing I sewed: a 4-H 1 yard apron, made from white background cotton with tiny pink rosebuds scattered throughout. I got a red ribbon. Mama hadn’t actually taught me to sew – my grandmother was supposed to have supervised that first apron but she actually left me to my own devices. Mama evidently wanted something more than a red ribbon, so my second project was another apron – this time a coral and white tiny stripe so that I could guide the machine along the edge of the stripes in order to improve the straightness of my stitching.

Source: Nebraska 4-H Sewing

I remembered all the clothes I made for myself. I was tall and thin and ready-to-wear clothing just didn’t fit. She taught me to alter patterns. She taught me how to examine “ready-made” clothes and learn their construction techniques. She taught me to sketch the designs I had in mind and how to combine pattern elements to bring my ideas to fruition.

I remembered the appliqued quilt I was making for my not-yet-born-first child. It was a large fake fur teddy bear applique and my Sears machine just couldn’t handle it. I took the project home – a 6.5-hour drive – sat at my Mama’s Singer and sewed beautiful satin stitches. (My daughter still has this quilt.)

Most of all I remembered my Mama, her talent, her skill, her willingness to teach her daughters. I remembered how much I enjoyed her. How much I learned from her. I remembered. My Bernina is back, but I haven’t had the heart to put Mama’s Singer away.