Hand sewing has often been seen as a “superior” expression of sewing skills. Once upon a time, we learned handsewing from a grandmother or auntie who lived nearby or under the same roof. An older generation who perfected their hand sewing skills over many decades and taught you patiently. or so the story goes.
But that vignette was not part of my sewing journey. My grandmothers lived on opposite coasts, with me west of center and no nearby older relatives. One was an editor for a national publishing company who had given up sewing as quickly as she could! And both had given up sewing before I arrived. My mother was a fantastic seamstress, but with 9 children in our household by the time I was 10, there was no time for sewing lessons.
I started hand sewing around 5 years old out of sheer stubborness, graduating to a machine by age 13 or 14. Making clothes of shop remnants became my passion. This began my love affair with sewing machines. My first machine was a vintage, deep blue, metallic Brother. My second machine, bought on layaway, was spanking new White. She served me faithfully for over 40 years.
Now, 56 years later, I can confirm that there is little or no distinction between myself and whatever machine I am using for my creations. My machine is myself and I am the machine when we are all together…a single organic unity of sewing fervor.
“My identity is lost in a million stitches. Somewhere in those stitches in my beginning and my middle. I still have time to stitch my end. In all that work is my love, my losses, my fristration, my joy, my loneliness, my yearning – my story. Out there somewhere in a million stitches.” However those stitches are formed, by hand or machine, or whatever combination thereof, we pour ourselves into their formation.
I love them all…Sophia, the 1919 treadle that sat in a friend’s garage for 20 yrs and that hubby and I refurbished. Betty, the sorely neglected Singer 15 that I dissembled to her very bits and rebuilt. Tula Pink, my Bernina 350 SE whose blanket stitch transformed my applique journey. Ms Peacock, my Bernina 480 SE, the first machine I bought new in 45 years and who is my closest companion. Cassandra, my Tiara who brought FMQ into my life (and who just hit 9.7 million stitches!) and Coco, my serger. Together, we are a single bionic woman of sewing! 😉
Isn’t it time to reject the notion that there are “superior” or “inferior” sewing methods and/or machines? We are all on a journey of exploring and creating. We have differing skill sets, different sewing experiences, different aesthetics and differing physical limitations. Another limitation is time…having just turned 70 years old, there are so many things I want to make and so little time left to make them! My hard working machines are critical to my efforts to create as much as I can while I am here. And there is that fabric stash haunting me and begging to be used!
A machine cannot do its work without our tens of thousands of hours of planning, fabric agonizing, pattern selection, designing, bursts of inspiration, cutting, piecing, placement, thread selection. The ripping and binned losses, the failures that our successes built upon: the multitude of tiny tasks that go into our creations. We cajole, we scold. We oil and clean and feed them shiny needles. We understand their strengths and weaknesses, their moods and …am I anthrophomorphizing? Well, yes! In many ways our machines are beloved and we think of them as living entities. Under our hands, they spring to life.
At the moment, I have Ms Peacock (Bernina 480 SE) set up for applique and Tula Pink (Bernina 350 SE) set up for 1/4″ seams, which means hopping between machines as the mood strikes to work on two different types of sewing tasks. I need to do this type of sewing multitasking more often. It is time saving having the two set ups and means less time changing needles and threads and bobbins.
Where would I be without my sewing machines? It does not bear thinking about. They have been my constant companion throughout my life and I love each one that has graced me with their presence.