Today I pulled out an antique sewing machine, cleaned and oiled it, and tested it on some scrap cloth. It's an old black-and-gold Singer, solid metal construction, and she sews smoothly. Just a straight stitch, unless I pull out some attachments and experiment with them. Maybe later. 90% of my sewing is straight stitch. I often get annoyed with modern machines with 98 different stitches that I'll never use.
Like many makers, I like using antique tools. It's a direct connection to the past, to someone else who used this same tool. A woodworker once said that when he grasped a well-worn handle and his fingers fitted into polished grooves that he felt he was shaking hands with an earlier carpenter.
This machine is 65 years old. I picture a new mother with curling blond hair and blue eyes, sewing baby clothes for her infant son. My brother. The machine was a gift to celebrate his birth. Later she would sew little dresses for her new daughter. Me.
I remember this machine so well. My brother and me designing our Halloween costumes (no store-bought stuff for us!). My purple velvet pants. I got it into my head when I was about 10 that what I wanted most was purple velvet pants--which were nowhere to be bought. She wanted them to be a surprise, so she sewed while I was at school and then carefully cleaned up all the purple velvet scraps before I came home.
The big challenge came was when a friend built his own airplane, and she sewed the fuselage cover on this small Singer.
I remember an ever-so-sophisticated dress for my 8th grade graduation, a cream colored sheath with a floaty sheer overdress. A lavender crepe dress to be worn at my brother's wedding, carefully fitted and all the alterations noted so she could use the same pattern for my own wedding dress a few months later.
It's taken me several years to bring myself to open this box and get out the machine. I can't remember the last thing she sewed--but I know now that it used lavender thread. But the part that hit me, that had the tears rolling down my cheeks, was seeing this area where the paint and finish had been worn off.
That's where she would rest her wrist while sewing. Many hours of stitching love for her home, her family, her friends. I rest my own wrist there.
Maybe I'll sew myself something pretty. Purple velvet pants?