Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Grandma's Sewing Machine

Whether it was nesting instinct, restless boredom, or too much HGTV, I felt the need to rearrange furniture yesterday.

We 'downsized' with our last move, only the house turned out to be smaller and the items we could part with less than we'd hoped. So we have a small house with too much stuff. Periodically I throw something away and reshuffle what is left in hopes that it will fit better.

Yesterday was a reshuffling day.

I tried moving the little love seat in our bedroom closer to the desk. But I liked it centered on the window, so I moved it back. Then I moved the little table that held the computer tower (beside the desk) and returned it to its original intent as a side table by the couch.

Much better.

My husband could just bend down a bit to turn his computer off and on.

The round table that sat beside the bed just wasn't working. It was wobbly at best and the cover I had over it was actually a curtain. So out it went. But what to put in its place?

I almost bumped into my grandmother's old Singer sewing machine as I carried the table out to the dining room where everything I didn't know what to do with landed. My collection of books that had overflowed the five book shelves, the overstuffed chair that I thought I would recover -- and hadn't. And the sewing machine.

We'd adjusted to walking around it. But maybe it could work as a side table in the bedroom. So I wheeled it in and much to my surprise it makes the perfect dressing table. It was intended for someone to sit at it and all of those drawers on either side -- perfect for make up, etc.

I unwrapped a mirror that had remained swaddled in bubble wrap from our move, hidden behind the bedroom door. I propped it atop the sewing machine and it worked. Add my favorite vase of philodendron and Mom's hand mirror, a knit scarf, it looked good.

It didn't hurt that I cleaned up the clutter, dusted and vacuumed, and made the bed.

But I look at that sewing machine that probably hasn't sewn a stitch since Grandma died and wonder. What if I could get it working? What would it be like to sew an heirloom on it? That old treadle sewing machine stitching twenty-first century thread into antique cloth to make something that my Grandmother would have appreciated and that maybe a future generation might treasure.

I've seen a similar machine used. It was in the 1960s, the summer, 4-H sewing projects. My good friend, Regina, sewed her award winning clothes on an old treadle Singer machine. She and her sisters and her mother did all of their sewing on it. Did I mention that there were nine children in that family? I thought she was the luckiest girl in the world. All of those sisters and brothers.

And when she came to stay at my house, she thought I lived in heaven. How could I find anything wrong with being the only kid. Not sharing my room with four sisters and my bed with two of them. Meals were another issue for her. She learned to eat fast and had what Mom called a boarding house reach. At our table she couldn't believe that we actually had leftovers and Mom offered her seconds. No one said, "Don't hog it all."

Funny how looking at that sewing machine reminds me of Regina as much or more than it does my grandmother. I never saw Grandma use it, but I had seen Regina pump the treadle and thread the needle.

The thought won't go away.

So maybe if I make an especially good dinner tonight -- I'm thinking roast beef and mashed potatoes with gravy and corn on the cob....maybe my husband will tinker a bit and see if it is possible to resurrect the old machine.

It's only been fifty years since it last took a stitch. It would be like living in two worlds, two eras, at the same time, to sit at that machine and sew. What spirits would surround me....


Ruth D~ said...

I love how you resurrected the old machine, Dawn. Phil, or whatever the name of the author was who wrote the clutter book would be proud of you. And getting it to work would be wonderful.

Rick Bylina said...

We have the same sewing machine in our living room. Though it still works, it is on display only. Neither my wife or I sew. It's being stored for my niece whenever she settles down. It used to be my wife's grandmother's. A 25-year-old Christmas cactus sits on a rotating board on top of the machine (obviously it is enclosed below). My b-i-l, born in Cuba, came by one day and said that he remembers using the same machine in the 50s to sew his pants. His mom's way of making him take care of his clothes I guess.


Dawn said...

Rick! We have an heirloom Christmas cactus, too. Mine belonged to Grandma as well, Mom kept it alive and I've managed to not kill it. It's about 100 years old give or take.

I love comments, they so often lead to other memories. And glad this sewing machine sparked a few for you.

And Ruth, I have to read that book! If I actually did something right about organizing, it was an accident. :)