Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Sucked into bondage by a Singer Treadle Sewing Machine


I am going to tell you a little tale about me that could be about as interesting as paint drying on the wall, so feel free to bail out at any time, if you dare.

As a wee soul of maybe eleven years old, around the time I began teaching myself to cook, I also began to teach myself to sew.  I had a Simplicity sleeveless blouse pattern I picked out at the Five and Ten Cent Variety Store, and my mom bought it for me.

But… I’m ahead of myself a bit.

Sometime in my early childhood I was gifted a rectangular woven sewing basket with a hinged woven lid and loop closing, either from my mom or my mom’s mother.  Whoever it was, the box is long gone now.

It contained an apple size pin cushion that looked like a tomato with six rays of thread pulled tight around the stuffed shape to form six quadrants.
  It would hold the pins and needles one was using for whatever project was at hand, then when finished the pins would go back into the pin box and the needles slipped back into the paper and foil package of needles.

A cloth shaped strawberry filled with emery was included to sharpen the needles, as well as a pair of sharp embroidery scissors to cut the threads and a thimble for my middle finger.  I preferred not to use it, but to push the head of a slim needle through thick fabric and have the needle head pierce one’s finger tip, well... let's just say it happened more than once, so using a thimble became an art I eventually learned.

This introduction seems to be going nowhere, doesn't it?  As cute as the idea was of a sewing basket, mine began its journey into the land of discarded items after I discovered a much improved replacement. 

Who in their right mind ever wants to hand sew, if they can bum a sewing machine off a friendly neighbor.  Mom’s best friend, the lady next door, Millie Gorden, had a third floor to their house that was filled with treasures, much like a finished attic would be.

That is where the ancient Singer treadle sewing machine was, the sewing machine dad had to bring down two flights of stairs, then out their front gate, down the street and into our gate, up the porch steps and through the front door.  I was his little “punkin”, but I think he wished I wasn’t that day.

My first project, the sleeveless blouse so simple, was sewn and worn with pride after I embroidered a few flowers on the shoulders.  I was already efficient in the art of embroidery, because I was just that kind of kid.  Mom could see the fallacy of keeping this decoration of bulky equipment in the middle of the living room floor along with a kitchen chair.

So literally, a traveling salesman a few month later sold her a used sewing machine with a cover that latched over it and must have weighed 50 pounds to this youngster.  Voila!  Dad then had to retrace his steps to deliver the antique back to the third floor of Millie’s home.  I’m sure I ceased to be his favorite child sometime around then.  As for me, I never had a second thought about it, but I’m almost positive dad did.

My setup was the portable sewing machine on a kitchen chair and me sitting on another kitchen chair opposite it in the living room, sewing away.  Not an ideal situation, but with five children, space was limited.  My accomplishments were meager with this arrangement, as the only fabrics I was privy to were the old ones stored in mom’s trunk in the basement.

There once was a photographic slide taken when my dad sneaked up on me as I was hunkered over the sewing machine, called out my name, and as I turned to look at him with curlers in my hair and pins stuck out my mouth… CLICK!  That slide came out every time he set up the projector.

When I graduated from high school, there was no extra money to buy a fancy dress, so I set to work sewing up my own lovely outfit.  I screwed up the sheer sleeve, ran out of time, and wore just my regular school clothes under my gown, too embarrassed to attend the graduation party afterwards.

Sometimes life just sucks.

I did manage to sew up a formal silk georgette dress for my popular younger sister when she left eighth grade.  It probably became trash later, as my sister had no way of taking care of it, but it was magic on her for that one special night.  That was around 1970, and I never sewed again until maybe a decade later, when I could afford a sewing machine for myself from JC Penney’s.

After I moved to Panama, Central America, I mastered the art of the sewing machine and all of its attachments to perfection, and had a wonderful wardrobe filled with many one-of-a-kind items.  I perfected bound buttonholes, French seams, and my collection of threads and fabric became quite a monster.

Then my sewing machine broke,

and I was broke…

so that was that.

Later I gained a size,

and could never, ever wear what I had sewn again.

The story ends as simple as it began –

Little things that give me a warm feeling when I enter my Writing Room

A little thing that give me a crap feeling when I sit down in my Writing Room

Austin trapped Charlotte in the cat pan 
when the screen was in place after bedtime.
She was screeching for maybe half a minute with me yelling to break it up,
as I can't instantly rush out of bed in my older age.
Whwn I sat up in bed I saw a frizzed out blur streak under my bed.
Upon investigation, little chunks of her fur were found 
scattered about in the Writing Room.
For now, the screen is not in use, and Austin is being cuddled more
to alleviate his boredom and stress.

Charlotte window Shopping.

Days of rain, then a light dusting of snow.

Common Sage in double-walled planter.

Living in the crack.

Winter Savory in planter

Common Thyme in planter

Christmas Fern in rain garden.

Just Hanging Out

Winter weedy ground cover

Not sure about this 'weed'

Dead Nettle 'Weed'

I think this is Bittercress.

Buttercup 'Weed'

Lyre-leaf Sage

Ghostly seed heads of Hairy Sunflower

Chimes and Chickadee nest box


of course, 

there is always more to this story.

I often called sewing my hobby, but I’m pretty sure a hobby is doing something you really love, and the only thing I ever loved about sewing was the finished piece of clothing at the end of the day.  

I still preferred hand stitched hems on some pieces of clothing which created extra work, and although I struggled to finish any project I began, I enjoyed being stylish too much to stop.  When one project was finished, there was always the next one to start.

I think the passion of sewing never entered the picture for me, so in the end, I began to hate the tedious work that always required perfection.  That I accomplished so much of it, I guess, is a nod to my perseverance, but now… when I could scrape the funds together to buy another sewing machine, I hesitate.

I love myself too much.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

January Blues


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

When I was a youngster, I thought everything would be within my reach at some stage in my life.  Then I became immersed in the sea of job hunting, and feeling like I was sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

I could sell myself well in interviews, so while I was expected to jump right in as a seasoned employee, I was not a seasoned employee.  The struggles were immense to overcome, but it was the only way I could get jobs that paid me enough to survive with a roof over my head and food.

It was a crap way to work, but I was on my own with help coming from nowhere.  I worked hard, was sometimes out of my depth, but lucky; and it was the best I could do for myself.  I suppose that is all we can ever hope for.

Dreams were downgraded year after year until any that were left became sand sifting through my fingers into oblivion.  I improvised.  If one door closed on me, another one was found that I could enter.  I never settled for less, I settled for different.

Was this ideal?  Probably not, but I worked my butt off with what I had to use, and that’s as good as it gets.  I suffer bouts of depression these days from feeling like I should have been able to do better.  It’s such a lonely place… this feeling of despair, and such a deep hole to dig oneself out of.

So… I guess this is your middle of January gloomy doomy blues of a post to fit the season.  I let go of the last dream I clung to ages ago, so maybe that is why life sometimes feels like a barren field frozen with snow, but never a broken-winged bird.

I have cats to soothe me and a garden to dream about.  I also have Peperomia houseplants waiting to be repotted, a sister, a niece, across the street friend and a cross country schoolmate to keep in touch with.  It’s a small world, but a rich world.  It’s the best I can do, so I guess it’s enough.

As I step out onto my front porch with birdseed in hand, the eight-inch-deep snow is more like four-inch puffy clouds of snow still melting in this deep freeze of sometimes minus F. temperatures.  Next Monday we begin to thaw.

I will not miss the fear of electricity going out, but I will miss this lovely phenomenon of dry snow, when at the moment the burden of its own weight on a tree bough becomes too much, it falls like a sheet of fluffy white to the ground below… at times on its own and other times with help from a bird.  Mesmerizing!

Sometimes I end by saying ‘stay warm’, but it is also nice to brave the cold and let it immerse you with the spirit of winter and all its complexities.  The cold’s beauty can rival any spring day, for minds that are wide open.  Take care.

Photos including sunset taken week before Christmas.
Other photos taken in January.

Invasive English Ivy (green leaf) (above photo)

Native evergreen wild ginger, Hexastylis arifolia (below)

Some type of winter annual

I believe this is a Cooper's Hawk.
I opened the front door just as this hawk swooped in 
between the house and porch post and flew past my face 
and out through two more porch posts, to the street 
and back again to perch on the dogwood tree 
by the front door steps.

After maybe a five minute stay, it took off 
and flew out between the tall juniper tree and redbud tree 
to hunt elsewhere. 
A breathtaking experience!
(Photo taken through storm door glass, so not the best quality)

The garden out front had a peachy glow,
so I knew there was a pretty sunset on the backside of the house.

Winterberry fruit that is cracked open on a rainy day.
The other seed is from the White Ash tree.

Empty Black Walnut half shell left by squirrel.

Coral Berry or Buck Bush with its berries that last most of winter.

Front of house on a sunny day.

An old type of Narcissis that comes up early,
but waits until it begins to warm up before blooming.

Maybe a House Finch,
 taken through a screened window during snow storm.

Winterberry in snow storm

After 8 to 9 inches of snow has fallen.
We will be seven days below freezing 
with sometimes single digits or minus digits 
in the evenings.

Since this week is never above freezing, 
except a short time one day
this slight snow melt is due to the sun shining.
Some days remain cloudy with no snow melt.

Beautiful male Cardinal

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