The Old Singer
On Saturday, my sister Theresa gave me an old Singer sewing machine. Not just any old cast iron Singer Sewing machine, but the one my Mom owned and used for decades. She had gotten it shipped to her from Colorado by my son and lovingly took it to her personal repairman who restored it as closely as he could to it's original state.
She had offered it to me before, but I couldn't really afford to repair it on my salary and I opted to let it go. Looking at it now, I'm really glad she gave it to me.
As I stared at the machine, I started thinking about all the clothing my mother made for us as Christmas gifts, birthday presents or special occasion outfits.
This was the machine that sewed the first outfit I can remember her making. I was assigned to be a fairy in the kindergarten Christmas play at Halldale Elementary. My mother bought several yards of white flannel and sewed a little dress with a full skirt that rose up when I twirled. She hand sewed silver tinsel to the hem line and cuffs so that I would twinkle under the stage lights. She also sewed little white slippers that curled up in the front. They covered my real shoes. On the night of the performance, as I was dancing around the fake Christmas tree cut-outs, one of my slippers fell off. Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed the slipper and danced behind the closest tree to put it back on before returning to my dance. Mom said everyone loved it. I only remember being so embarrassed that I wanted to die. The dress however was very cool.
One Christmas, my mother made myself, and my sisters, Cindy and Theresa red and white striped matching nightgowns and night caps [think Laura Ingalls at night] that went all the way down to our feet. Several gifts later, we unwrapped little dolls wearing the exact same nightgowns and caps. Mom was amazing.
The Singer sewed my first communion dress when I was 7 years old. I still have a letter that my Mom wrote to her mother back in Illinois in which she gives details and a sketch of the dress which was made from white dotted Swiss material that I had chosen myself at the material store. She lovingly sewed the net veil that hung from the headband of pearls that she handmade.
We didn't have very much extra money growing up even though Dad worked two and sometimes three jobs. I know Mom felt bad that all the other kids at school were wearing "cool" clothes while we wore home made or hand me downs that had been refitted. One Christmas, I accidentally caught my Mom up late sewing bell bottom hip-hugger pants for all three of us girls. There she was hunched over the machine at the kitchen table sewing long into the night to finish in time. I slipped back to bed hoping that she hadn't seen me, but that picture of her sewing into the night all alone in the darkened part of the house is forever burned into my mind. That's how I knew my Mom really loved me.
This was the machine that helped my mother create my 13th birthday dress... an orange and white geometric A-line mini dress with matching short jacket. She made the dress especially for me to wear to attend my other surprise birthday gift... tickets to see my favorite television show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour being taped in Los Angeles that night, March 10, 1966. I felt like a movie star in my new hip dress and white heels. Because she could only get two tickets, she opted to let my Dad take me to the taping. All the work she went through to get the tickets for my birthday and all the time she spent sewing my new outfit and she didn't even get to see me enjoy it. Thank Mom, you were awesome.
When I took Home Economics my freshman year, I used this machine to sew several mini skirts and blouses from an easy pattern I had bought for my class. I had one dress I made in class that I didn't really like as a dress, so after class was over, I took it home and used Mom's Singer to shorten it into a hip length sleeveless top. I actually have pictures somewhere of me wearing this top to Disneyland when my cousins came out from Illinois for vacation. It was very 60's... Blue floral paisley print with ruffles at the neck.
There were all the homemade square dance dresses that took yards and yards of material to make. It wasn't just me she was making them for either. It was for herself, my two other sisters who also danced and myself. As I recall, I had a full three layered petticoat, 3 skirts and at least 3 full square dance dresses all to myself. I can't even begin to imagine how many hours these all took. She even made dresses for other ladies in the square dance club.
Not a single Halloween went by that my Mom wasn't making either a costume or a prop for us to go with our costumes. She had made so many costumes over the years that she kept them in a large suitcase in my brothers closet and every year we would drag it out to decide what parts we could use to recreate a new costume idea.
This faithful machine sewed my first prom dress in 1971. It was a white lace empire waist with powder blue trim at the waist and cuffs. I remember how hard my Mom and I searched to find a pattern that would look as good as the store bought prom dresses that other girls would be wearing.
In 1972, my Mom took my white prom dress and re-worked it to be my wedding dress. We didn't have much money for the wedding, so my mother made 3 other dresses for that wedding; my friend, Donna's Maid of honor dress and my two sister's bridesmaid dresses. No easy task considering we had to also do all the other wedding preparations.
Even after I was married, I would come back to my Mom's and sew things for my son, Chris until I was able to get my own sewing machine... a Singer.
I am so thankful to have this machine again. I am going to start creating new memories. I think my first project will be a quilt. Someplace on the quilt I am going to embroider my Mom's name in memory of a truly amazing person who loved me and who I loved very much!