I tend to avoid the TV shows that send half the country into a frenzy, like being stuck in a jungle eating spiders, baking stuff so that judges can take enormous bites from what looks like an art installation or competing to make the biggest patchwork quilt in the world.
So all the fun of the sew off last year, or whatever it was called, was lost on me. I tend to take pictures of the intricacies of a spider and it’s web, or pop down to the Co-op and buy a slice of cake. As for sewing I have just spent hours altering a skirt by hand.
It’s true I once bought a computerised sewing machine but, oh dear, it has been on a shelf unused for two years now. Although I glare at it every so often it just smiles back at me. Admittedly I’ve even been tempted with a ‘getting to know your sewing machine’ course which are made to sound like a coffee morning with neighbours. But having to stagger up flights of stairs, with my own machine under my arm in an effort of get chummy with its soul just doesn’t appeal.
Yes, I know good natured tutors would come around to show me how to do things in a nano-second, but on returning home my mind would once again be blank. I’d never get it. I am definitely a slow learner, I was once sent back to my seat at school to unpick my hem stitch on an apron because it wasn’t neat enough!
Why oh why did I get rid of my old Bernina machine? Admittedly it weighed a ton and often went wrong and needed spare parts but, like my ancient hand Singer even threading the bobbin was an art form. Real joy was to be had from mastering it’s mechanical intricacies and licking the cotton to go through the needle! I actually made things!
I’m even tempted to get the old Singer (like the ones you still see in charity shops) out of the loft, stick it on a table in the spare room and once again experience the joys of winding that bobbin, adjusting the stitch size, turning the handle and seeing if it really is so redundant after all!
Prose poem added Jan. 1917 from ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’
Grandma’s treadle sewing machine marked out her status and her territory.
Her body fitted perfectly, the rhythm of her feet on the plate clanking as it coaxed the whole thing into action. She loved buying materials in the January sales, savouring the moment, placing the paper pattern on the cloth, pinning, cutting, tacking, threading until the intricate garment emerged. I can see her now in the hallway hurriedly putting the final touches to our holiday dresses as Dad was revving our old Standard ready for the journey.
She bred blue budgerigars in a spare room, seven cages of screeching pairs
with dark eyes and sharp beaks. She checked the nesting boxes each day, replacing the sand trays, filling pots with clean water, full of smiles when a scrawny baby bird with hooded eyes had pecked its way into a fragile world.