My mother is an incredible seamstress. When I was a child, we were so poor, she would make our clothes. At the time, it was the most horrifically embarrassing thing that could have ever happened to me. In retrospect, she was so talented.
She had this cast iron, mint green, industrial sewing machine from the 70s. It weighed around 40 pounds. It was loud and terrifying. When she would turn it on, the machine would somehow interfere with our rabbit ear television reception. Even though I am talking about it in the past tense, she still has it and uses it.
I hesitate to think what was going on with that machine. I am actually pretty convinced that the machine was involved in some kind of nuclear waste disposal. That cast iron body was protecting us all from radiation sickness. Or mutations that would give us amazing superpowers. Hmm….
Anyway, in sixth grade I took a home economics class. It was a required elective. I wouldn’t have been caught dead in some bullshit ‘womens’ class. But I did want to learn to sew. And my mother’s machine was too intimidating. The ones at school were newer white plastic and comparatively whisper quiet.
Unfortunately, they were still powerful enough to pierce my thumb on my right hand.
I think I was never meant to have the tip of that thumb. You may remember that I cut off my thumb in a car door. But that same year, before I cut it off, I once stapled it with one of my dad’s industrial staple guns. I was playing with it, fascinated with how it opened and closed. And the extra staple storage, and bam! I stapled my finger.
Once I cut off the tip of my thumb, I had a lot of scar tissue built up. I don’t really have much feeling in that fingertip anymore, so sewing it in class didn’t hurt. But it was disturbing. Even more so for the other girls in the class that didn’t know I had no feeling in my thumb. Or the teacher that was overwhelmed by the amount of blood.
I was able to get out of finishing that stupid stuffed rabbit, though.
I never wanted to have anything to do with sewing and sewing machines for a long time after that. I was scared. If I had so little feeling in my finger that I could accidentally sew it, what else could I mistakenly do? I needed my other fingers. And my hand. I stayed away from fast moving needles for a while.
But then, I went to this quilt show. There was a raffle for various prizes. And that’s when I saw it. The most beautiful sewing machine ever. It was an old Singer hand crank from the early 1900s. I knew I had to own that machine.
I think I spent about $20 on raffle tickets for that machine. But I didn’t win.
At the end of the show, I was exhausted (this was during my heart surgery phase) and hanging around the raffle table, trying to catch a glimpse of the bitch that got MY machine. But instead this sweet old guy came over. He had donated the machine and wanted to talk to the raffle winner too.
Instead he and I got to talking. He had dozens of machines. He took me back to his table that I had somehow walked past several times. And I fell in love for the second time that day. With another machine.
I wound up buying it for myself for Christmas that year. It is a hand crank Singer from 1919 and was in Europe for WWI. It is the most beautiful sewing machine in the world. It is silent and every piece and part to this thing is gorgeous and sleek and sexy. It is all polished wood and gold gilt and brass bobbins.
I am still not much of a seamstress. I can’t read a pattern if my life depended on it. But I can do tailoring. Sewing buttons. Normal things. I can also sew my own invented creations, but I will admit, I have not explored much of that. Someday, I intend to spend a bit more time making freaky creatures out of plush fabrics.