This is my grandmother Clarice who had a lot to do with my learning to sew. She loved to sew and made all her beautiful clothes and many for my mother, sister and me. She would come for a visit and we would head downtown to the fabric store, which in Pocatello was called, simply, the Fabric Store if I remember correctly. Grandma loved fabric and we watched, in awe, as she made her choices, sniffing and humming and lovingly running her fingers over the folds of cloth. She might pause over a particular piece, close her eyes, breath deeply and declare it "the prettiest thing I've ever seen
!" then dramatically wrest it from the shelf and present it to the clerk for cutting.
She taught me to make doll clothes by hand, and eventually using my mother's Montgomery Ward brand electric sewing machine.
I don't remember how old I was when I started using a sewing machine. At some point I was given a machine of my own—a Singer Treadle, that I still have. My sewing machines have been, and are still, cherished possessions.
I asked Sofia if she would like to learn to use a sewing machine this summer. Yes! We started on Friday. My plan was to start slowly and I told her anytime she was tired or frustrated we could quit for the day.
We started with a rundown of how the machine works and what all the parts are called. She is using my Janome Gem machine, which is a real sewing machine, but small and basic. It is made for travel or taking to classes and workshops and is a reliable, easy to use machine. We started out with no thread, sewing on paper, to get a feel for it. I drew lines on pieces of paper and she practiced guiding the paper through, until she could follow the line closely. It helped a lot when I was able to slow the machine down by taping a little wedge of cardboard under the foot pedal, so it wouldn't depress to the maximum speed. Then we threaded the machine and bobbin and sewed scraps of paper together. After about an hour I wondered if she was ready for a break. No! Ready for fabric, PLEASE! She stitched two pieces of fabric around three sides, making a little bag, which she quickly determined would be a doll pillow if we added some stuffing and sewed the end closed. Then she sewed several pieces together to make a blanket, then a bigger pillow and when I figured we were about done, she said, "now we need to make a doll." We improvised a simple doll, which she insisted needed hair, so we turned off the machine and I showed her how to sew perle cotton red hair on her creation.
We spent the whole afternoon in the studio. I was surprised by her focus and patience and how thrilled she was to be using a real sewing machine. I remembered how empowering that sewing machine was to a child who loved to make things. Our first tools are our own hands, but what they can do is limited. When we can put our hands to working with specialized tools, a world of possibilities opens up. She is coming back this coming week and can hardly wait to get back to the sewing machine. I think we have a great summer of sewing projects ahead of us. I hope I can keep up!