This sewing machine was my father’s present to me, a couple of years before he died. He saw this machine advertised for sale in the local Border Mail and thought it was about time that youngest daughter- of -his, had her own decent, sewing machine to work with. He cleaned it up, serviced it , added a few new bits and delivered it, unannounced and unceremoniously to my door, in Melbourne.
Dad was, by trade, a mechanic. Not a mechanic of cars and trucks, even though he serviced and maintained all of our family cars with ease and skill, but an industrial machine mechanic. He met my mum while they were both working in knitting mills in Landsdowne, Cape Town, South Africa. As well as fixing and maintaining industrial sewing machines at those knitting mills, he also had to maintain and fix the ironing presses. Ironically, while this job helped him to find the love of his life, it was also, in the end, responsible for his death. While fixing these ironing presses dad came into frequent contact with deteriorating asbestos linings inside the machines. This is where he is most likely to have contracted asbestosis, that lead to mesothelioma and his death, many years later.
Mum is a dressmaker. A fairy-godmother -of -a -seamstress who could whip up: beautiful dresses; outfits for special occasions; tailored suits; bathers for the summer holidays; the most amazing costumes for dancers and performers; as well as curtains and soft furnishings. She patiently taught me how to sew when I was a kid.
Mum doesn’t sew anymore. At 83 , her eyes can’t cope with threading needles and precision. My sister often relied on mum to make or adjust clothes. We realised that we had lost the much relied on convenience of mum’s sewing skills a couple of years ago. My sister wanted mum to finish off a quilt that she had made for a new, great nephew. Mum had just had some eye surgery done and I was staying with her at the time. Reluctantly, I had to step up and finish off the quilt under the guidance and supervision of my mum. This was a hard thing to do. My mum was such a talented seamstress. When I was a kid I used to sit with her in the sunroom, amidst all the beautiful fabrics , sorting boxes of threads into colour lots and watching her work. Unfortunately very little of mum’s talent rubbed- off onto any of her daughters. I tried to learn as much as I could, but was never disciplined enough. I am better singer than seamstress! ( no pun re: Singer machines intended!) Nonetheless, the baton was passed that day. But, my sister doesn’t ask me to make or adjust clothes for her. She is a wise woman!
I have dabbled with sewing all my adult life. I use fabric and sewing techniques in much of my artwork. I have used this skill to keep myself employed, as a artist’s studio assistant on more than 1 occasion. It’s the kind of thing that I might hesitantly suggest is in my blood… as if, skills could be somehow, magically morphed and embedded into our genetic code. Imagine that!
So, with a bedroom of the north east Vic house awkwardly decked out as a make-do studio for now, the sewing machine is out again! It’s predictable that, when I feel a little displaced, unsure, lost for direction and inspiration, I drag out the sewing machine. Some artists reach for drawing tools, I reach for the needle and thread.
Music turned up (playlist = jazz divas)…foot to the pedal and voice ringing out above the rattle of the machine’s motor…here’s what I’ve been dabbling with. A new bag for myself to carry crochet projects and needles in, and a couple of other bags that will probably end up as gifts. :)
About this blog
many roads... ...on the journey words follow me, push me forward, and sometimes, overtake me.