Saturday, May 12, 2012


A year ago today, I flew home from Halle, Germany where I'd spent a few weeks researching for my work-in-progress. Leaving was hard but being away from home was too. My mom's health had taken a downward turn while I was out of country. I knew she might be dying.  
But she rallied and we celebrated her 88th birthday in October.  This was her last birthday with us. On February 12 her body finally wore out.

I spent many priceless moments with her during those bonus 9 months - adding physical care, hygiene, and regular games of Skip Bo to my normal activities at her house.

And since I didn't have a sewing machine, I'd occasionally take mending projects along.

One day, I was using her machine when Dad (who was in an adjacent room) told me Mom was thinking of giving me her old sewing machine, the one she started their marriage with.  Mom wheeled herself closer.  "What's he saying?" she asked. I repeated it and she said rather plaintively,  "Oh, I wanted to tell you."

My mom didn't give things up easily.  She hated waste and didn't want us to clean out and throw things away.  But apparently she decided that having her old machine sitting in a spare room was a waste.  Obviously I needed it. 

I worry a little now that I didn't respond with enough excitement.  I mean truthfully, I liked bringing my sewing to their house and her newer Kenmore was predictable. I wasn't sure the vintage machine would even run. But she felt that it would, so I brought it home and let it sit for weeks before trying it.  Then one day, a month or so after she died, I needed to alter a garment.  So I opened it up.
Plugged it in and flipped the light switch!
That worked. 
I had a little trouble threading it but not to worry, Mom had kept the manual. So I got the thing threaded and found a bobbin.
She'd kept them along with some spare needles in a Sucrets lozenges tin.  
She had a tin of oil too which I just may need because although the machine runs I couldn't get things to move along as they should.  I decided to let hubby take a look at it one of these days.

I've never been a big fan of sewing.  Threads tie themselves into knots whenever they see me coming. But this is the machine I learned to sew on.  Back when I took home economics in high school, I could occasionally get Mom to finish a project for me while I did some task for her. This sounds so unlike my scrupulously honest mother that I might be making it up - but I don't think so. 

Today, hubby does more sewing around here than I do. But I'm certainly capable - especially if the machine cooperates. I have a feeling that once this thing starts humming again I am going to adore her, just because she was Mom's and has been around for 68 years. I've decided to call her Evangeline!  (Didn't my mom have the best name, ever?!)

When I tried using Evangeline, my knee kept forgetting that it needed to press a lever to make things go.

But one thing I hadn't forgotten is how nifty this is

I love the way she opens up and

tucks inside herself with all the accessories nearby.

One of these days I hope I can actually use her but honestly, if I can't, I am cherishing this. If all else fails, I can set her up and show her off. I'm kind of fond of 40's era furnishings 

Mom knew I wanted this before I did. I hope she sees now how much I love her!


  1. What a lovely way to remember your mom on Mother's Day.

  2. What a nice tribute to your mom on Mother's Day. I suspect she knows how much you like her sewing machine now and Evangeline is a great name - for both.

    And lucky you to have a husband who will sew! Good luck with Evangeline and Happy Mother's Day!

  3. Thanks, Shannon and Alex!

    And I should clarify. My hubby mends - all hand sewing. He doesn't make things from scratch or use patterns.

  4. Joyce, what a wonderful post. I actually hate sewing, but when I was younger I did some on my mom's Singer and on the used Singer I bought when I was in college. And, yes, as much as I dislike sewing, I still love both those machines. My husband (who's also the sewer in our family) has much better, more powerful swedish machines that were his mom's, but I won't let him get rid of the singer.

    My guess is that you're NOT remembering your mom finishing up the sewing projects for you, but that she loved sewing so much that she let herself cheat just a bit there for you..and her!

  5. Becky, the more I think about it the more I wonder if she just couldn't stand the thought of a lopsided zipper. She always did things so neatly!

    And of course, she got out of some work she probably didn't feel like doing also by letting me do it for her.

    Sounds like you and hubby have a great arrangement!

  6. Beautiful post. I have many sewing machine memories too..mine sound more positive than yours though. Loved the sucrets lozenge tin--that must have been a generational thing--I know I've seen them around for buttons and hooks & eyes. your "desk" when you stayed here was the machine my parents gave me as a graduation from college present. I rarely use it, but am not at all ready to give it away. I should have showed you my button collection. Sorry...I can't seem to stop responding to your post!

  7. Oh, didn't mean to make my experiences sound so negative. I can sew - especially curtains!

    It's just not my favorite thing.

    Carol, I do remember that sewing machine. I should have checked it out more closely though. That would have been fun.

  8. well, since getting a computer, my sewing machine has definitely taken a back seat to other things in my life. I think we all need more than 24 hours in a day!

  9. Joyce,
    Thank you so much for showing us how history becomes personal. I loved this post. I could relate to much of what you wrote. That's an example of good writing. The photos took me back too. Well done. I'm glad you have the vintage sewing machine and all the good memories associated with it. By the way, does you hubby give lessons?

  10. You really touched my heart with this post and your photos. My mother had a sewing machine like that one,too. One of my older sisters was the lucky one to get it. I learned to sew on a newer Kenmore that my mother bought when I was nine. Thanks for sharing your memories; yours brought back some really special ones of my own.

  11. Thanks so much, Linda and Clara. It always feels good when readers (friends)connect with our writing, doesn't it?

    Hope you're both off to a great week!

    BTW - hubby sews pretty much out of desperation. But he does kind of like it, I think. He's a fixer!

  12. Aw, Joyce, this brings back memories for me! My mother had a treadle machine and I was hopeless, cutting corners literally since sewing was not my passion. I was relegated to sewing buttons and hemming (if that).

    I'm so happy you have Evangeline and she works. She's beautiful, as is your mother.

  13. What a wonderful post, and wonderful tribute to your mom!

  14. Evangeline gave you some of herself when she passed on her sewing machine. How precious! The picture of her reminded me of how sweet she was and always smiling. Happy sewing or just enjoying. :)

  15. Thanks all! Today I moved the sewing machine into my living room which is trying to be 1940s - starting with the knotty pine walls. I set it up so that the silhouette looks kind of cool against the cream colored curtains.

    I might need some more silhouettes in that room. Fingers crossed that I find just the right vintage furniture. Not very Evangeline-ish. Mom would never change furniture unless forced to by children who buy new for her.

  16. Hi Joyce---Just catching up on blog reading. I really enjoyed this post. Of course you know I'm sewer. I have my grandmother's sewing table (the machine is long gone) that my grandfather gave her many many years ago---I think the actual date is written underneath. It is one of my most prized possessions. By the way, vintage sewing machines pre-1960s, from what I've heard, often will work just fine when treated right. Rehab can sometimes be costly but I think it depends on the model. It's the later machines, when everything became plastic, that are harder to keep going.