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Sew – Sew musings on National Sewing Machine Day 6/13

Member Musings by Cozette M. (CozSnShine


I hadn’t thought about it until recently, but sewing machines are connected to many of my memories.  Memories of my mama, my older sisters, and my niece are all connected by sewing machines!

My mama has six daughters and 3 sons!  That meant a lot of clothes and you couldn’t just run to WalMart in those days!  While I am too young <snicker> to remember, I know my mama owned a sewing machine in the 1940’s!  I know this because of a story she used to tell on my older brother.  Mama loved sewing for her daughters and often gussied up their dresses with ruffles and lace.  When Bill was a little boy he wanted mama to put some ruffles or other pretties on the shirt she was making him.  Mama, always wanting to make her children happy, sewed ruffles on the tail of his shirt.  Daddy, proud of his first born son, made sure the shirt stayed tucked tightly in his pants!  A great use of her sewing machine and her ingenuity.

My three older sisters were/are my heroines!  They were also the best-dressed girls in high school and college.  Two of them made all their own clothes, or remade clothes that were given to them.  I love spending time with them, looking over old photographs and hearing them say, “Oh, I remember making that dress out of brown and white wool and wearing it to the homecoming game!”  Or, “I made that dress for sister when she was elected college basketball queen!”  They made good use of mama’s treadle sewing machine!  We might not have had much money, but that didn’t keep my sisters from being up to date in their styles!

Sisters in the 1940’s looking good!

I am old enough to remember having no electricity in our home, no running water and no bathroom.  But I can’t ever remember not having a sewing machine.  Just as daddy needed his equipment for farming, mama needed her sewing machines!

My first memory of mama sitting at the sewing machine came on a day of sadness in our family.  My sister Bonnie had married a soldier, had a baby and was leaving to live in Okinawa.  I remember the family telling her goodbye and my brother driving off to take them to the airport.  My mama, in tears, sat down at the sewing machine and started sewing.  Using scraps of left-over fabric, she made clothes for every doll my little sister and I had.   It was her way of keeping her hands busy while her heart hurt.  Sewing machines, yes a way of life for her.

Mama sewed all her life.  She had several sewing machines over the years and kept them singing all the time.  She sewed for her 6 daughters, for her many, many grandchildren and once in awhile for herself.

My first attempts at sewing were at my sister, Ouida’s home.  Since she was married and had a child, a great treat was to go stay at her house for a few weeks in the summertime.  She was and is a great seamstress.  One of the lessons I remember well has nothing to DO with a sewing machine!  Lesson number one – if you drop a pin on the floor you have to find it!  No matter how long it takes, you can’t give up!  With a toddler in the home, the rule was enforced with vigor.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that she told me that she taught my sister and I how to sew because she had no idea what else to do with us for weeks!     She was a great teacher but I was just a sew-sew student!

I was one of the “younger” kids, and we had more store bought clothes than the older ones.  But I had many pretty dresses made by my mother and stylish clothes made by my older sisters. I have fond memories of the poodle skirt, made by one of my sisters, that I wore in high school.   Red with a white poodle – girl I was stylin’.

In high school, I took Home Economics, where I used my first electric sewing machine.  Home Ec was taught, in those days, to almost every girl in the school.   When we started the sewing class, I thought I had it made.  I had been sewing since I was 10!   I picked my pattern, I picked my material and I was on my way.   I only halfway listened each day to the “lecture” part of the class.  I just wanted to sew on that new Singer sewing machine!  I had chosen a pattern with a sailor top.  When I got to the point of putting the piping on the collar, I pinned it on and sewed away.  Just as I was finishing, my teacher walks by and ask if I had basted the piping on.  Basted?  Surely I didn’t need to baste, I knew how to sew!  My teacher insisted that to “do it right” the piping had to be basted first.  It did not matter that the piping was on and looked great!  To receive a passing grade, I had to redo all the piping.  I refused and got a failing grade.  My parents were NOT happy.  The best thing I learned from that class is that an electric sewing machine made for faster sewing IF you didn’t need to baste first!

One of the first things my husband and I bought was a sewing machine.  I sewed many patches on his Navy uniforms over the years.  I never knew that he could sew too, until I tried to make drapes.  I liked the material I had chosen but I couldn’t get the prints to match.  I was so frustrated that I finally went to bed in tears.   When I got up the next morning, new drapes were hanging on the windows.  He had cut out and sewn them himself.  His logical mind could see what needed to be done and the sewing machine did the rest!

I almost always sewed for others and seldom for myself. I loved sewing for my niece that lived nearby.  I made her many dresses and more Barbie clothes than I can even think about!  I remember being very pregnant and making my younger sister (also pregnant) and my niece matching Christmas dresses and buying one for myself.

This is my grandniece wearing the dress I made her mother.

Since I had an only son, I didn’t think my sewing machine would get much use!  Wrong again!  He joined Boy Scouts and there were patches galore that needed to be sewn on!   That sewing machine was brought out time after time to mend, sew on patches, and repair camping equipment!

As a young adult, my son joined SCA and my sewing machine got a real workout.  He needed a cover for his fighting helmet (had to make it look medieval).  He designed some of his fighting clothing and I used my trusty machine to make them come to life.   Not EXACTLY the type of sewing I thought I’d be doing, but I loved it anyway.

Allan in his SCA garb that he designed and I sewed!

My sewing machine took a vacation for a few years.  It languished in my closet and was only brought out for a scattered mend or two.

Then my darling grand niece decided she wanted to BE a princess for Christmas.  She didn’t want princess things, she wanted to BE a princess.  OH MY!  I dust off my sewing machine and get to sewing.   Princess dresses are not exactly easy to make!  But. . . the look in her eyes when she wore those dresses were worth the nights of sewing and fussing and sometimes weeping I did.  She got to BE both a fairy princess and a winter princess!

Back in the closet my sewing machine has gone, waiting for the next opportunity to bring smiles to someone.   It may be to the little girl above, who is growing up way too fast or it may be for a someday grandchild.  But one thing I know – I may be a sew-sew seamstress but I know how to use that sewing machine to make smiles!

The Sewing Room

Sew Deadly

The Seamstress: A Novel

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12 Responses to “Sew – Sew musings on National Sewing Machine Day 6/13”

  1. Kathy W. (Nellie) says:

    Great story, Cozi. Thanks for sharing that. I wish I had learned to sew growing up. It’s something I tried but never could get the hang of.

  2. Marie Nachman says:

    How wonderful to hear your sewing stories! I was taught to sew by my Aunt Rose who lived downstairs. She was a sample maker in a dress factory and didn’t want to teach me because she was afraid I’d end up in a factory like she did. Instead I made my own clothes, costumes for the plays in high school and was the costume designer for the senior play. I did some of that in college too, then the sewing dwindled, but I have always had a sewing machine that I treasured. A 1978 Elna replaced that old Singer of mom’s and is still my stable work horse! It sews a straight stitch better than most and has some bells and whistles that i still haven’t used. It is a wonderful thing to wear something you made and are proud of. I still remember being a starving college student in NYC and staying inside for most of two weeks in winter until i finished making a winter coat! I bought the leather belt that closed it at Bloomingdale’s and wore it with pride for a decade. It may still be in a garment bag here somewhere!

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I’m a huge fan of Threads magazine and their great sewing tips and treasure my sewing books. You won’t find me swapping those!

  3. Maria (SassenachD) says:

    What Great Memories Cozi! Sewing is as much fun as reading! You can get lost in a project and the final outcome can leave you totally enraged or completely satisfied. My brother knows how to sew, my mom taught him before she passed. He found out later while raising a young sister, he needed to sew! You and your sisters did look very sporting back then!It is fabulous to have a one-of-a-kind outfit, LOVE IT! I love your son’s costume/outfit. I am sure he really appreciated all the effort you took into making it for him. Next time you come out..bring your machine and we shall whip something up!

  4. James L. (JimiJam) says:

    We had a sewing machine when I was young, and it’s one of the few things I wish we still had. It’s around, but hasn’t worked in ages, and I just know, deep down, that I’m missing out somehow because of it. I’ve always liked the idea of making my own clothes. They’d fit better, and I could make sure they’d last longer. Plus, there’s just not comparing the difference between purchasing a thing and making it yourself. There’s love in the outfits pictured in this musing, woven firmly into the fabric, secured by every single stitch. Thank you for sharing, Cozi, it’s a really touching tour of the wonderful sense of nostalgia with which you view your life. At least up until “sew-sew seamstress”; that caught me off guard enough to send me out of my chair with laughter LOL

  5. Mary S. (kilchurn) , says:

    I can’t tell you how many times in my adult life I’ve wished I could sew. My mother made almost all of my clothes until I was 7 or 8. Since then she’s made Halloween costumes and the occasional bridesmaid dress. Her current project is my sister’s wedding dress. How I envy her skill!!! Maybe it is time for me to sit down with her and take some lessons.

  6. Cozette M. (CozSnShine) says:

    Thanks for the kind comments.
    My DIL sews costumes for her nephews. I love knowing that sewing will be passed down to another generation!

    My baby sister never learned to sew. She always said she didn’t have to since all her older sisters sewed for her. Yes – she was/is spoiled rotten! lol

  7. Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty) says:

    I wish I had learned to really sew. I still have a flower girl dress I wore back in the 60’s that my Mom made. Such lovely memories. Thanks Cozi!

  8. Becki (beebs) says:

    I loved reading that, Cozi. I haven’t sewed in years, but you make me want to open up the sewing machine cabinet and make my machine hum.

    What a great trip down memory lane – even though the road was paved with your your memories, it awakened many of mine. That was sew sew sweet.

  9. Sue C. (sues) , says:

    Thanks for sharing your memories, Cozi. My grandmother always sewed beautifully. My older sister always sewed beautifully, too, and still does. My sister tried to teach me to sew a number of times, but I never seemed to get past cutting out patterns, lol. I recently bought myself a sewing machine because, I guess, hope springs eternal(ly).

  10. ANNA S. (SanJoseCa) says:

    Cozi, I loved your family stories. You have inspired me to get out my sewing machine again!

  11. Deana F. (PBSDeana) says:

    What a wonderful heartfelt story. Thank you for sharing. I’m another one of those that never learned to sew but always wanted to.

  12. Ouida Wyatt says:

    Cozi, thank you for making that available; your writing is great. You can tell a good story like so many others in the family. It was so much fun to read and to remember. I remember that you liked big skirts, mostly made of circles or half circles. I still have the poodle skirt of yours that I used for years as a Christmas tree skirt and a scrap of material from one of the dresses I made you.

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