Growing up, we lived in an older farmhouse that had two little rooms off of the living room. These weren’t large enough to function as bedrooms. In fact, they served mostly as places to store various items, but one was designated for my dad and the other for my mom. In my mom’s room, one wall was consumed with large wardrobes, except the last few feet. That’s where she had her sewing machine.
This was the 1970s and my mother’s sewing machine was nowhere near as sophisticated as today’s models that have automatic thread trimmers and buttonholers (if that’s what interests you, check out http://www.sewingmonster.com). Rather, this was a basic machine that did what she needed to be done.
What I remember most, though, was the time I spent with my mom in her sewing room.
We were a typical middle class family in terms of socioeconomic status. Both of my parents worked, but being a creative frugal-minded person, my mother found interesting ways to stretch the family’s dollar. One of my least favorite memories in this regard was serving us a concoction of powdered milk, water and a touch of “real” milk. One of my most favorite memories, on the other hand, is my mother making her own clothes.
On many an evening after the family’s dinner dishes were cleared, my mother would retreat to her room to sit at her sewing machine encased in a cabinet. Here, she would stitch together blouses, skirts, dresses, and pants. Because of her self-taught sewing skills, my mother had an extensive clothing collection that cost little in comparison to what it would have if she’d gone shopping—at that time, purchasing patterns and fabric was very affordable.
Of course, my two brothers, sister and I benefited, too. The outfits I remember most fondly are our Christmas pajamas. For years, on Christmas Eve, we were treated to new nightclothes. My brothers usually received something with a nature theme, such as deer or forests. The designs for us girls changed often. One year, she made us pajamas with large vertical stripes and ruffled collars and cuffs, much like a clown costume. Those were my all-time favorites.
While I appreciated the final outcomes of my mother’s sewing projects, what I value most about those memories is the time I spent with her in that room. As she sat at the sewing machine, I played with my Barbie dolls or I listened to 45-rpm storybooks on the record player. Then again, there were nights or weekend afternoons when we just talked over the hum of the sewing machine. I don’t remember what we talked about, maybe issues surrounding friends or school or complaining about my older brothers, but we talked.
Although my mother still has that very same sewing machine, she has pretty much retired as a seamstress other than the occasional mending task. Every time I see it, though, I’m brought back to those childhood days of watching my mother in her sewing room.