My Machine; Myself

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.

Tula Pink came to sew with me in the fall of 2017. She was my entree into beautiful applique work.
My first applique project with Tula Pink! How could not adore this machine?
Tula’s lovely stitches.

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! 😉

Ms Peacock, my first “new” domestic in 40+ years. We sew together nearly every day,
Ms Peacock’s incredible tiny blanket stitches, forming a perfect gold edge around these blooms.

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!

Sophia! Looking gorgeous at 104 years old. My goal is to be able to FMQ with her, but I have yet to practice sufficiently!

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.

Cassandra, my Tiara 1, doing her thing and helping me quilt!
Betty, “before”…She had been used as a hallway plant stand for decades.
Betty’s tension assembly! Yikes! This was the scarey part.
Betty, a 1948 Singer 15-88, all shiny and ready to rumble!

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.



  1. Good blog! I like the idea of jumping or hopping between two machines. Though I have a Bernina which I ❤️ it is already ten years old and I’d like to upgrade her. I’ve also a Juki, which I bought for FMQ but struggle with moving the quilt. The embroidery machine is always available but all machines have been collecting dust as l struggle with life issues. In the closet I have another three machines: Featherweight I was given on my 60th, a vintage Singer in a beautiful wood box, and the Elna my parents bought me when I turned 14. I do have my mother’s Singer in a cabinet that my DH stores for me. They are all precious to me. But I still hand sew!

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  2. I remember playing on my mother’s Singer machine. I think it had been my grandmother’s before her. No foot pedal, she used her knee to control the speed of the needle. I liked that machine; it was just the right size. When I was 9 or 10, Mom traded it in for the latest and greatest Singer with cogs for all the different stitches. I wasn’t allowed to touch that one until a few years later. By then, I didn’t want to anymore. I took Home Ec in HS, kicking and screaming-no other electives were offered.
    Fast forward to the late 1980s and I got a pretty basic machine, but I did begin to sew and in 1994 I found quilting and a Viking 415. I’ve been quilting since then with a few different machines, but haven’t gotten back that initial joy I had when I finished a top. Like you said, in the time left, I want to do as much as I can.


  3. Hi, you are a master with machines. Great to read your story very interesting and love the machines you have and have had. No wonder your a great quilter .

    Liked by 1 person

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