Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Life and Times of a Sewing Machine

     This is an essay I wrote back in March for a writing assignment about an inanimate object. It is one of my favorite things I've written because I love sewing and my determined little sewing machine. I thought I'd share :)


     My name is Athena. I am not the Roman goddess; I am better than she ever was. I can create beauty better than she ever could; I can make something out of nothing, which she never did.
     My full name is Singer 1200 Athena, but I just go by Athena. I am a sewing machine. I was built in 1976 and am still going strong, because of course, I am an Athena. No other sewing machine works as well as I do. No other sewing machine is even a valid machine. They all refer to themselves by their middle names, which is a bothersome practice. I know a machine named Singer 2250 Tradition, and he goes by 2250. Does he really think I’ll go through the bother of remembering all those numbers? (The Traditions always were an odd family, so boxy and plastic, not sleek and shiny and sturdy like me.)
     I am a warm, buttery yellow color with stylish brown panels and buttons and shiny silver knobs. My peers say that white is in vogue for machines now, which is positively ridiculous. Just seeing all those vain machines flashing their shiny plastic shells of pure white is laughable. How else do you say “Made in China”? Honestly. Butter yellow might be a little… vintage, but it practically screams dependability. I am no plastic shell. I’m built of sturdy steel within, with just one piece of plastic on the top to cover my, ahem, machinery. I have ten different stitch options, which include a leaf pattern, numerous zigzag stitches, and even one that looks like the Golden Gate Bridge. I also have multiple accessories: a clear buttonhole foot, a bulky blind hem foot, and several silver needle plates. I am as beautiful as my namesake, the Roman goddess Athena. Well, even more beautiful, because I can actually do something.
     I can create dresses and blouses and skirts, curtains and pillows and purses. I can alter outdated clothing and repair broken seams. There is nothing I can’t do. Just last week, my Seamstress and I worked on a new dress for her. The fabric she chose was simply beautiful: a turquoise and white floral print that takes me back a couple decades. Very retro; I liked it. This was a pleasing pick from my Seamstress; she has a lot of sense. While 2250 and his Seamstress are using gaudy polka dot prints and neon color blocks, my Seamstress and are sewing with red floral calicoes, feathery white muslins, and delicate ivory lace. My Seamstress clearly has as good taste in fabrics as she does in sewing machines.
     This turquoise cloth was for a retro dress she’s working on; I think she said she was for a 1940s dance she’s going to. It has a high waist, crossover bodice, fitted sleeves, and a gored skirt. She bought the pattern off the internet about a year ago and has made two other dresses from it, but the poor thing had no idea what she was doing when she worked on those dresses. Any merit those things could possibly have is because of me. The skirts were too long, the bodices too baggy, the waists too tight. My Seamstress, bless her heart, thinks she’s good at this stuff. (She was so proud of her first invisible zipper. I didn't have the heart to tell her that the only reason that zipper is invisible is because I've been doing zippers since before that girl was born.) At any rate, this time I did my best work to insure that the dress turned out right. Of course, my Seamstress thought it was all her own skill that made the dress so beautiful, and I let her think it. That’s the way to keep Seamstresses happy; let them think they are better sewers than they actually are. It isn't much fun at the time but in the long run they are more confident and patient and gentler with their machines.
     There is nothing better than the sheer thrill of sewing. I love the gentle hum of my gears as they turn faster and faster and the pressure of my Seamstress’ foot on the pedal as my needle punches up and down, up and down (the sound of it doing this used to be so smooth, until one day my Seamstress got impatient and put me on full speed. I think she sprained one of my belts, and now my needle makes a clackity sound when it moves. I’m still trying to forgive her for this).
     My favorite part of sewing, however, is the stitching itself. Every time is like the very first time I sewed, back when I was a young machine. I love the feel of each fabric as it speeds under my presser foot, as I punch the stitches into it, sturdy and tight. Silk is slippery but luxurious. Cotton is common but has so many colors. Linen is hardy and lovely. Knits are soft and cozy. Voile is a dream. Tulle is a nightmare. Each piece has its own feel and flavor: creamy silk from China, succulent brocade from India, sugary satin from the USA. Old fabrics, new fabrics, modern prints, and vintage ones. I can travel the world just by working with its cloths. They say that clothes make the man. Well, I make the clothes.
     So you see, I am much better than the Roman goddess.

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Comments on older posts are moderated, so be patient if it doesn't show up at first. Thanks for sharing! :)