Tag Archives: sewing machines

Why I Gave Away A Bit of My Mom’s Memory

27 Dec

It is five year’s since my Mom passed away on December 27, 2010. I hold on to her memory, and I have to be honest I have been holding on to items that belonged to her as bits of her, as memories I cannot share but mean so much to me.

Singer Featherweight

My Mom’s Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine, now known as Frances.

Included in these memory items was her 1947 Signer Featherweight sewing machine. I think she got it as a high school graduation gift, as she graduated in 1947. So when I had items of my parent’s shipped from New Jersey to Kansas, I included the sewing machine in its carrying case with my shipment.

My siblings thought I was a little crazy. We had not used that sewing machine for years. Why did I want it? Sentimental attachment was my answer.

I learned to sew on that sewing machine. I have many hours of memories locked up in that case. When I was a freshman and sophomore at North Bergen High School, I took sewing classes. I actually loved learning to sew.

At school I used a modern machine, but at home my Mom took out her Singer sewing machine, and I quickly took using it. It was great. It did not take up much room in the closet, and I could easily set it up on the kitchen table when I wanted to sew. I loved using the foot action to make it go slow or fast.

To be honest, I went pretty quickly. It only could sew in straight lines. But it did really good straight lines! So why not zip through them! I can still here the quiet ‘varoom’ of the motor when I hit the foot pedal and gained speed.

I eventually bought a zipper attachment so that I could put zippers in dresses and pants. I should say my parents bought me a zipper attachment.

With that sewing machine I made dresses for my sister, my mom, my grandma and me. I zipped up curtains for our home in New Jersey, and eventually made curtains for my parent’s bungalow in the Catskills. I will never forget that yellow and white and brown pussy willow fabric. I made 18 panels of various sizes to fit all the windows in the kitchen.

When I was 16 my parents bought me a new, in a cabinet, sewing machine that could make buttonholes and had embroidery patterns. Wow! I loved that. I could do so much more with this new machine: zigzags, borders, shirring.

The old Singer Featherweight was not neglected. It moved up to the Catskills for when I needed to sew up there. I mended shirts and pants, I was the queen of hemming. That sewing machine got used weekly during the summer, especially on a rainy day.

I never had to worry about either sewing machine breaking down, as my Dad started his career as the owner of an embroidery shop. He knew everything about sewing machines and keeping them going. He cleaned and oiled and fixed that old Singer Sewing Machine and my new one. Even after I married, he would come yearly and do maintenance on my newer machine.

The Singer Featherweight stayed in New Jersey. Whenever I came to visit my Mom or Dad would ask if I could hem something or fix something. And sometimes I did. Other times, I would recommend that they go to a tailor. When I came, I came with two children, and I often did not have the time to sew.

Eventually the Singer machine got put into a closet and did not come out. After my parents passed away, I found it. And I needed it. So I brought it to Kansas to sit in my closet. But I felt good knowing it was there.

But something happened. Two years ago, I wrote a blog about my newest sewing machine. My children got me one for my birthday because the machine I got when I was 16 had stopped working. I complained bitterly, but I did not go out and get a new one. So my children took action. I put a picture of my Singer in the blog.

Around the same time, I had some Hanukkah placemats and other items made by the sister of a friend of mine. The sister is a big time quilter. She goes to quilting events and has an entire room set up in her home devoted to making quilted items.

And she needed, wanted and desired a Singer Featherweight sewing machine. It seems that these machines are very popular with quilters because they make great straight lines, and they are easy to carry. Quilters take them on location to craft meetings. And my friend’s sister wanted one with all her heart. When my friend saw my blog and my Singer sewing machine, she told me how much her sister wanted one.

But I could not part with my Mom’s sewing machine. I thought about letting it go. But I just was not ready. However, last week, when I went on school vacation, I started cleaning closets. I saw the sewing machine case just sitting there, covered by other items. It was forlorn. It needed to be use.

I told my friend, “Why don’t you ask you sister if she wants my Singer Featherweight sewing machine. “

Her sister lives about 90 minutes from me, so I thought she would come sometime after the new year, when she had other reasons to come down here. I was wrong. She came that day, within four hours of the phone call. She wanted that machine.

When she came into the house she was so excited she had tears in her eyes. Wow! It made me feel so happy. I knew I was doing the right thing. To be honest it was good that she came that day, if I had time to think about it I might have changed my mind. I sold it to her for $100, much less than the going price that I saw on line. I am donating the money to charity in my Mom’s name for her yahrzeit.

I feel like I am doing two mitzvot, good deeds. My friend’s sister gets the sewing machine she so desires, and a charity gets a needed donation.

For me the best part is that my Mom’s Singer sewing machine is now with someone who really wanted it: someone who will use it; someone who cares about it almost as much as I do. As an added bonus, she names all of her ‘antique’ sewing machines. She is going to call this machine after my Mom. My Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine is now Frances.

I might have given away a memory of my Mom. But I have created another memory with it. Now the sewing machine will have another life, and Mom’s name and memory are attached to that life.





My Birthday Sewing Machines

29 Jan

For my birthday my children bought me a new sewing machine.  I had been saying for two years that I needed one.  I would pass them in the store, see them advertised in a flyer, but do nothing about it.  It was an emotional decision.


The first sewing machine I used was a 1947 Singer portable that belonged to my Mom and Grandma.  It only could make straight lines.  In the beginning of my sewing career, it was fine; but as my competence grew, I needed something better.

My parents purchased a sewing machine for me as a sweet 16 birthday gift. I was so excited. It even made buttonholes! They also purchased a cabinet, so I could leave the machine out while working on a project. It was the best gift!


I used this sewing machine to make clothing for my grandma, mom, sister and me.  Once I had children, I made clothing and Halloween costumes for them.  I made curtains and drapes. I mended clothing.  Whenever my parents came to visit, they always had clothes that needed hemming or altering.

As the machine aged, my Dad would keep it going for me.  Once a year he took the machine apart, oiled every part and then reassembled it.  It was the best machine.  Then my Dad died.  And my machine broke.  And I could not sew anymore.

I talked about a new machine. But how could I ever replace the one that meant so much for me?  It had memories; it held love.

I took two sewing classes in high school. I learned to match plaids and design my own patterns.  I learned to make special seams and clean, well- sewn garments.  The lessons I learned in Mrs. Kilkenny’s sewing classes at North Bergen High School were the most practical. I have used these skills for my entire adult life.

My mom and I had a deal, whenever I made an outfit for her or my sister, she would buy me more fabric to make my own clothes.  I hated buying store bought clothes. They were never made well enough for my standards.  Where were the French seams, the good tight stitches?  I hated frayed fabric.  So instead, I made prom dresses, pant suits, even the dress I wore for my sister’s wedding.

I made dresses for my Grandma Thelma. She had scoliosis as a child in Europe and it was never corrected.  So one side of her torso was two inches shorter than other. I made her dresses so that no one ever could tell.

I made curtains for my Mom and Grandma.  And when I moved into my house, three months pregnant, I made all the curtains and drapes for my home!  I was crazed. I understand now I was nesting. But then it was an obsession.  And my sewing machine was there for me!

I made some of my maternity clothes. But once my children arrived, most of my sewing focused on them. I made dresses for my daughter and costumes for my son.

I made projects for their classes.  For a long time on the wall of the first grade class was a quilt I put together. I had each child sign their name on a square and quilted it for the teachers.  I made reading pillows, as well as, vests for a program.  If sewing needed to be done for school, I did it.

Then there was my son and daughter and their imagination. My daughter wanted to be gypsy or a princess.  My favorite costume for her was the Indian Princess, Tiger Lily, from Peter Pan. She watched the Mary Martin version over and over again.  And had to be Tiger Lily. So a costume was created.

My son needed to dress up as Pokeman as a dragon or a lizard. I was constantly making new outfits as his imagination soared.


When he was four, we took our children to see “Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat.” My son was entranced. He was Joseph. I had to make him a Technicolor Dreamcoat. He wore it all the time!! I have saved that one.

There were new curtains for their room to match the changing décor as they aged: purple for my daughter, green for my son.

My sewing machine never let me down.

The last large project I finished was valances and shades for the basement family room/rec room.   I was working on new valances for the family room when my machine broke.  When my parents died.


But now I have closed up the cabinet that holds my broken machine. And on top of it I have placed my new portable sewing machine that my children got me for my 59th birthday.  Now I can sew again.

Two sewing machines purchased 43 years apart. But both purchased with love.  I am so lucky.