The machine was old when I bought it, and I’ve had it for more years than I want to remember. It came to me in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I was living at the time—a California girl who followed her boyfriend home. Duh.
That is another story, one of those memoirs stitched together by trauma and guilt and big time fights—physical ones. Oh, no. I’m not going to write it. Not today anyway.
But the Pfaff is out of its box and sitting on a portable table in the “library” of the house in which we are consigned to spend our golden years—and our cash. As I said, the sewing machine is old. I think I paid $300.00 for it. Every big item I bought in the 1970’s cost $300.00. A 0018 Martin guitar that I gave to the ex because I owed him money. (I told you I don’t want to tell that story). A Nikormat SLR camera that began to fail on my first ever trip to Great Britain and Italy. And the Pfaff. Still working.
This sewing thing is in my blood. Grandma was a seamstress. Now there’s an interesting word. The Internet tells me the word is derived from Middle English seamestres.
Dressmaker. Tailor. She worked in Milwaukee and Oakland, California department stores. She made, and tailored, clothes for her three granddaughters, and our dolls. She was the only one who made pants that fit my prominent behind. To this day store-bought slacks, uh, ride down my back a bit when I bend over.
My new school clothes were the only things I liked about school.
So, we all learned to sew. I think interest in our sewing our own clothes came not from us, but from my grandmother, who believed deeply in independence.
I sewed my own clothes from junior high into my 30’s. I was never really very good at it, keeping to basic styles and avoiding shirts requiring button holes. Or sleeves. And never collars. These complex procedures had been performed by Grandma, and I knew how, but I found them frustratingly complex.
I excelled at skirts, pillows, nightgowns and curtains. Slacks were hard. I made some pretty chill table cloths, too. One year I sewed bags for all of my family and friends’ Christmas gifts.
The last things I made were dog beds. Our dogs generally viewed their beds as toys and reduced them to fluffy piles with astonishing precision. My bright idea was to buy yards of canvas and bags of shredded foam. I made three large dog beds. They lasted for about a week.
The Pfaff has patiently been waiting in our basement. I had even forgotten where I stashed it, and in looking through stuff to take, give away, or trash, I found it. It came to our new home with us and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
It probably needs a tune-up, tender care and oil. I don’t remember how to thread it but I still have the manual. It has an abundance of accessories for fancy stitches, including a button-holer that even I can use.
While searching for vacuum cleaner bags for one of our vacuums—we didn’t know that bagless vacuums have supplanted the baggy ones, because the Miele we bought uses one, and its only two years old. We didn’t find the bags but the last shop we tried sold sewing machines and sergers as well as vacuums. The shop lady who felt very bad about not having our bags over heard me say I wanted to check out the Pfaff stuff.
“Oh, you have a Pfaff?”
It was not easy to explain how old it was, because I don’t really know. She showed me a booklet and it wasn’t represented there. It was she who told me it would probably like an oil and lube. A day at the sewing machine spa.
Modern machines are computers that sew. They resemble the sewing machine shape but that is all there is to the relationship between mine and these stitching bots.
Sewing, for me, has been a painful passion. I cut corners—literally. I don’t measure myself or adjust my patterns. I’m a pretty lame sewer. Sewing takes time. Of that, I have more than ever, now.
So, the Pfaff has come out of her suitcase. First project: curtains out of an old table cloth. A tablecloth out of a store—not one I made. But I might make one. Some day.