Friday, 18 September 2009

Gold on Black

My mother had a Singer sewing machine just like this.

It sat in the alcove of the bedroom
and if she turned her head
she could see out over the river
and the rising fields on the far bank.

I can remember the smoothness of the hand wheel
and the heavy cast iron treadle;
the solidity of the wooden table
and the little drawer which held bobbins and shuttles
and was always slightly dusty;
the dull shine of the base plate
and the intricate lettering, gold on black;
the uneven rattle of the treadle
and the clip sound of scissors.

We played with fabric scraps while she sewed
and absorbed her experience and belief
that she could make anything if she wanted to.
In time I made clothes with my own machine;
it did not occur to me that it might be difficult.

My daughter, of the Facebook generation,
so confident with iPod and netbook,
who can even set the video-recorder,
thinks that sewing is very tricky.

I think I might have failed as a mother.


  1. I don't think you've failed, in any way. Miss M can make beautiful beaded butterflies - I've seen them!

  2. I take it that you are feeling sew sew after your recent illness ?

  3. My mum and I just started doing sewing projects together a few years ago, so there's still plenty of time!

    I find sewing very tricky, too. I think the problem is we (girls) no longer sew in school. I had an entirely academic curriculum, which prepared me very well for university, but not so well for life at home...

    K x

  4. You have certainly not failed as a mother. It's just a different generation with different priorities not helped by our throw away culture. But things will come round and there is still time.

  5. One day she'll feel like making something and then it won't seem so hard.

  6. It's never too late to have a go

  7. Jocularity aside isn't it interesting how as mothers we acceptthe guilt of parental 'failure' so readily?

    Thus concludes today's philosophical question. Now discus ....

  8. I laughed at the bit about even being able to set the video recorder! I wonder if she will decide one day to give the sewing machine a "go", in just the same way that we mothers have given technology and of course, "blogging" a "go"......

  9. She'll get to it. In her own time. My grandmother was an amazing seamstress. My mother wasn't... I'm still having nightmares about a banana yellow PE sweatsuits she made me, and I had to wear to school... brrr.

    And I have stumbled upon sewing only after having children.

    There's time.

  10. It can be tricky at first but after a bit of practice she will be a pro!

  11. My elder daughter asked to be shown how to use the sewing machine when she was about 18. She has made bags and patchwork quilts and 3 years ago made new curtains for her brother's bedroom.

  12. We can't all sew; or adore sewing, no matter what the blogosphere would have us believe.

  13. we have the same sewing machine but I can't even sew a button.
    Are you telling me my mom failed too?

  14. Au contraire: perhaps as a mother teaching a daughter the important skill of sewing -- but there are so many other life skills, of which that is just one.
    And sewing she can learn. If and when she chooses. Succeeding in the world, that is difficult to learn on the fly!

  15. Not in the slightest! Besides which, I never got into doing crafty stuff properly until I left home and didn't have my mum doing it around me all the time - the absence made the heart grow fonder and the brain go "if she can do it, I'm sure I can"

    (the brain was wrong - my mother is a genius and I am very much the student not the equal!)

    ps word v = adddehel - surely far too many 'd's together in one word...

  16. Well, I absolutely hated sewing at school, but love it now, and my thesis was all about needlework and the construction of female identity, so there's hope for her yet. And remember that in the end, your children don't do as you say, but do as you do .. quite frightening really!

    Pomona x


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