Notes from an Old Sew and Sew

I’ve decided to start sewing again.  When my children were little I sewed all the time. It was a hobby borne from necessity. The kids needed clothes.  The budget was limited.  It made perfect sense to buy fabric at discount prices and sew what they needed.


In the early years we had a three room apartment.  I sewed in the living room, among toys and books and the TV set.  Abby played with her Barbie dolls.  Elizabeth stood in her play pen, throwing blocks across the room.  Gabriel perched himself on the back of my chair, hands on my shoulders, as if standing watch from the helm.  We listened to Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers while I stitched and clipped.  It was warm, cozy, peaceful.  


When Abby started first grade, she needed school clothes.  I had a budget of thirty dollars to provide her with a full wardrobe and new shoes.  Undaunted, I marched all three children to the closest Walmart, where I found a pattern for multiple jumpers, fabric remnants for a dollar a yard, and a package of little boys’ white tee shirts.  I sewed three jumpers, decorated the tee shirts with coordinating embroidery floss, and fashioned matching friendship bracelets.  I even stitched hair scrunchies and matching bows for her socks.  With a pair of pink shoes bought from a “Lucky Size” sale rack, she looked every bit the first grade fashion diva she was.  Her teacher asked me what boutique I shopped.


I continued to make clothing for my family.  “MC Hammer” pants for Gabe.  Dresses and shorts for the girls.  Flannel pajamas to keep everyone warm through snowy New Hampshire nights.  I sewed in the afternoons when the kids were awake.  I sewed in the evenings while they slept.  It was an outlet for my creativity.  An opportunity for me to paint the world in the colors and patterns I chose.


Sadly, as the years passed, my ingenuity faded.  Once I went back to working full time, there was little time for sewing.  The machine gathered dust, only to be used to repair split seams and fashion Halloween costumes.


But now that the kids are grown and I am finding myself with quiet, empty evenings, I have the desire to once again make something. Create something new. My sewing machine beckons from the living room.  Here is my chance to repaint my life once again. I bought fabric and a pattern, and set aside a full Sunday to begin.


To my disappointment, I could not get the bobbin to wind.  I tried over and over, but it just sat there. Empty.  I took apart the housing, cleaned it, and replaced it. I tried different thread.  I tried sewing machine oil.  I tried prayer.  Finally, I gave up, exasperated, and began to search on line for new sewing machines.  Mine was, after all, at least fifteen years old.  The new ones are far more technologically advanced.  It would be nice to have something shiny and new.


Something inside be balked at the idea of giving up so easily.  I often complain that our culture has become such a “throw-away” society.  Television home improvement shows tell us that entire kitchens and bathrooms need to be updated every fifteen years.  Smash the old cabinets. Put up new ones.  Replace perfectly fine white appliances with stainless steel. 


 How often have I made a trip to the cobbler, rather than buying a new pair of shoes?  When was the last time I washed out a peanut butter jar instead of buying a disposable plastic container to hold leftovers?  My gosh- I even buy plastic bags so I have something new and clean to dump my trash into.  Didn’t I start this whole sewing thing out of a necessity to live a more frugal and resourceful lifestyle?   With great effort and resolve, I decided to try to fix the old machine, rather than buy a new one. 


Locating a repair shop was easier than I anticipated.  Yes, they do repairs.  Turn around time is about three days.  I could anticipate a cost of seventy dollars. 



 Ugh. Seventy dollars! For a fleeting moment, I considered closing up the machine and donating the fabric to charity, or worse yet, giving in to holiday sale flyers from the local Singer center. 


Instead, I gathered up the machine, and lugged it to the repair shop.  It has gotten heavier as I’ve gotten older.  Sweating, I heaved it onto the counter and sputtered, “The bobbin won’t wind.”    


He took a quick glance, rolled his eyes, and said, “I can tell ya what’s wrong already.  Whatcha got here is the wrong bobbin.”


Being the sophisticated elocutionary master that I am, my response was,  “Shut up!”


Now, I have no idea where the wrong bobbin came from.  Or where the bobbins I used in the old days have gone to.  But the man at the counter sold me two new ones for a dollar apiece.  I lugged my machine home, plugged it in, inserted the new bobbin and tried it out.  It wound the bobbin effortlessly, then zipped along as I sewed a trial seam, making perfect stitches. 


For two dollars.


Sometimes we have to retrace our steps to remember who we are.  Sometimes it helps to remember how creative we can get when the situation demands that we find an alternative route. I liked that resourceful young woman who took scraps of fabric and pieced them together to fashion a dress for her little girl.  I think I will spend some time with her and see what we can create together.  

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  1. cliffwinston

     /  November 19, 2008

    I feel like I’ve heard this story before… =)


  2. Jenn Schock

     /  November 21, 2008

    I love your writing! It’s beautiful!
    And YAY for resourcefulness! =)


  3. Beth Bower

     /  December 3, 2008

    Hi Garrie, Beth Bower here. I remember the 3 room apt, and the sewing (you not me, I was never creative). It brought smiles to my face to read your story. Occasionally Abby’s name comes up on Caitlin or Leah’s facebook, so I kind of “keep tabs” on her (not in a creepy way, but nostalgically). It was cool to see this from you. 🙂


  4. Thanks for this article



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