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Small Talk: Sewing is such sweet sorrow

I am having approach-avoidance syndrome with my new sewing machine. I am thrilled to have finally gotten it, but I really wish my mom was here to show me the ins and out.

We all know I will never sew a fine seam. I would have made a lousy member of the queen’s entourage back when ladies-in-waiting had precious little to do but stitch and mend.

I blame it on my poor eyesight from the age of 3, but it’s probably because I’m shamefully impatient.

The whole story is that more than a decade ago, I inherited my mother’s pride-and-joy, her Husqvarna Viking do-everything-but-tie-your-shoes sewing machine. She bought it in Germany in 1960 and it was top-of-the-line. It is seriously vintage now but she made that puppy sing. She created gorgeous couture for me on it. But it was a one-man dog. The minute I touched it, things went pear-shaped — needles broke, the bobbin wouldn’t stay in and my seams were anything but straight.

Repeatedly I would take it to the sewing machine expert, who would tidy it up and tell me what a wonderful machine it was. Then without changing any settings, or even breathing on it, he or she would sew a perfect seam to show me how well it worked. I would then take it home, set it up and try to duplicate that seam.

Without fail, it refused. It might tease me by working for a week or two, but then, only needing it for occasional mending or costume making, I would ignore it for months. I didn’t so much as replace the thread color, but when I went to use it again, disaster followed.

I would scour the manual trying to find the right combination of tension, stitch-length and such to make it just sew a simple seam. It apparently spoke another language … the language of women who sew. It would not respond to my sewing-impaired pleadings, and I swear I could hear it laughing.

So, while I am sad to part with something that was such a part of my mom, I finally admitted it needed a good home. It needed to live with someone who has the gift and would love tinkering with this 60-year-old beauty. I dragged it into work and to my delight, the first teacher I shared it with was a seamstress, and fell in love with it. It made my heart happy, and I know it made my mother smile, knowing it would again be used with skill and joy.

Meanwhile, I am about to sit down with my most basic of Singer sewing machines and see if we can be friends. Since I am its first owner, I’m feeling optimistic. Do you train a sewing machine, or does it train you?

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer looking for serenity in her sewing. Contact her a [email protected]