For my inaugural Love Thursday post it seems fitting that Karen posted today about the love of a parent. My post is about my mother’s sewing machine and her legacy. When my parents came by for Thanksgiving last week, my mother brought me her sewing machine. This was a momentous event that I’m not sure she or I appreciated it fully. You see, my mother is a master seamstress. That woman could make a gorgeous dress, costume, plaything out of the measliest scrap of fabric. She used her seamstress skills when she and my father were starting out in their marriage. They were poor by today’s standards and her sewing supplemented the small stipend my father received. She created wedding dresses, party dresses and brought a little cushion to their newlywed lives.
Sewing was perhaps my mother’s favorite hobby and I remember many an hour spent at her side. I remember her taking us to the sewing stores and getting out the pattern books for us to look through. We would select our Halloween costumes, Christmas dresses, communion dresses, later our prom, and even my debutante dress. Some of my favorite outfits growing up were made by my mother. The quality stood the test of time and my daughters have worn those very same outfits. My mother sewed decorations, including all our Christmas stockings. She even hand-embroidered my sister’s stocking. When I started my own family, she sewed stockings for, first, my husband and then our two children. I wouldn’t think of ever buying a store bought stocking. It broke my heart to realize that my sister and brother never took their stockings with them when they started their own families. Nothing could be more beautiful than those stockings, made from scraps of fabric used to make our dresses, school clothes; the fabric of our lives.
I remember pinning fabric and helping her lay out each type of fabric. I know most types of fabric by sight thanks to my mother. Her hands sewed countless dresses over the years. That sewing machine certainly got a work out during high school when my mother lovingly sewed each party dress for me. She “volunteered” to make performance outfits for my entire dance team. Man, were they cute. I also remember selecting the pattern and fabric for my debutante dress. It would not be a stretch to say that she spent days hunched over that dress. I didn’t appreciate how complicated that pattern was, it was a true princess dress. The material was a very fine ivory with little dots all over and a hem detail that was gorgeous. Like most 18 year olds, I wanted a princess dress, and this one had ruffles and details galore. I fear that I will never be able to recreate those sleeves, how she made the ruffles stand up and meet in a ‘V” in the back? Talent. True, raw, unadulterated talent.
My sister and brother were never as interested in her sewing as I was. Looking back, it was a bonding time for my mother and me. We needed that bonding when I was in my teens. I was a stubborn, strong-willed child. Maybe the hours of sewing prep helped calm me and calm our relationship? Our last project was making “mermaid” skirts for my daughter's 4th birthday party. We made beautiful felt crowns and tulle skirts. In reality, she did most of the making. I did what I’ve always done, I cut, I pinned, I pressed, I snipped. But she did the heavy lifting. She did the creating. Hours of work poured out in hours of love for her child’s request to make this birthday gift for my child. And, those party favors were amazing.
I was always amazed at how easily my mother created gorgeous items where before there was only fabric, buttons, and ribbons. For years I have wanted to learn to create just like my mother. I wanted to continue her legacy and share her gift with my daughters. I noticed a few years ago that the sewing machine wasn’t coming out as often. I noticed that she was choosing to buy my daughters dresses, rather than making them. I noticed that I was the only adult child treasuring the things she made for her grandchildren. It rocked me to the core. This huge piece of our childhood was fading and no one seemed to give it the respect it was due. My mother’s talent was going softly into the night and I wept at that passing. My mother is getting older and, at first, had trouble with her shoulder and the machine, and now, her eyesight is hindering her. Since my mother is a master seamstress and anything sort of perfection is unacceptable. I asked her for a sewing machine for my birthday, intending to learn at her side. Time, aches, and pains got in the way. So, when I completed my sewing lessons at a craft school, my mother discussed giving me her sewing machine.
That was it, just a passing comment. But, I felt the gravity. My mother would no longer create. There would be no more shared projects. How would I learn to make a proper buttonhole? Who could teach me how to pleat? How would I learn to make those ruffles? Less than a week later, the machine came to me. No ceremony, just my dad putting it on my table. The baton passed. Quietly. I haven’t gotten the courage up to take the machine out yet. I am daunted by the legacy of my mother. I want to create just like she did. I want to sew with my daughters. I want this machine to transform me into more than a seamstress. I want to sew love into every piece I make.
One day soon, I will open the machine. I will create, and I will pass on the legacy before it is too late.
Mom, this is my promise to you- I will treat your sewing machine with the love and respect it deserves. Thank you for trusting me with your machine. It is far more than a machine to me. I love you. Happy Love Thursday everyone.