31 October 2009

My first love

When I was 11, I made my first friend. Her name was Joanne Shalmo and she was in my 6th grade class at Oakland Terrace Elementary. She came from a Catholic family with stair step children, one for every year. Their house was dismal and bare with just an old couch in the living room but filled with that loving spirit called Mom. After Christmas that year, I went over to visit her and she showed me what she had gotten as a gift from her mother. Her mom had made her a black brocade skirt. I was stunned. I never knew people could make clothing. I thought machines made them – you know: fabric in one end and clothing coming out the other.

Her mom showed me her machine. It was an ancient Singer machine probably produced just after machines were electrified to aid home sewers. She asked me if I wanted to try it. I’m sure she saw the excitement in my face as she gave me a piece of notebook paper and showed me how to guide the paper under the dog feeds. As the threadless needle made a tiny perforated path along the paper, I fell in love.

I asked for and got a brand new Brother sewing machine. It was just after Brother had gone into sewing machines. It was a “combo” present a new category of gift giving I cooked up to get one big present for my birthday AND Christmas. It was from my parents and Grandparents and they paid $50. for it. That was the beginning of my lifelong love affair with sewing which later branched like lightening into wider and deeper areas of artistic expression.

When I was about 30 or so, my son Russ came home from school with a sticker of a bouquet of flowers he had earned doing some piece of school work well. I was sitting at my machine. He decided I deserved the sticker and lovingly placed it on the front of my then current sewing machine – a bare bones Kenmore. I made Russ’s coats and pants on that Kenmore and I was very proud of my clothing but now wonder if he was subjected to ridicule for wearing homemade clothes.

Today I have been sitting in front of my $3000. computerized Bother Innovis 3000. It interestingly enough is the 50th Anniversary edition of my original machine. It has a computer screen and can connect to my laptop with a USB cord. Today I am making Russ’s baby a quilt with beautiful fabrics in cobalt and turquoise. I will free motion quilt the “moons” each in it’s own design.

Now 50 years after my first foray into sewing my personal life has changed in a positive direction in so many ways and I have achieved a degree of peace and serenity I never knew existed let alone thought achievable by me. I am free to sew, bead, read using every form of artistic expression I can imagine. How fortunate I am.

And I am still sewing, true to my first love.


  1. Wonderful, Beth - an aspect of you I did not know and look forward to learning a great deal more about - now that I am a child again, too, with time and a need to play.

    But you forgot to mention about also being the Last of the Red Hot Mommas.

    Love, Nan

  2. What a beautiful story. I'm glad you shared that.


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