the daily doyle


Osama’s Dead!
May 3, 2011, 12:19 am
Filed under: Good stuff

Have you heard of Osama’s demise? Of course you have. So there is no way I’m writing about it. Actually this is an article about sewing.

My mother was a seamstress. A struggling single mom of three, she worked hard to provide for us. Luxuries were few. We didn’t have a car. Which worked out well because she couldn’t drive.

Mom made her money a dollar or two here and there, for hemming a dress, fixing a rip in the seat of some man’s pants and on and on. Our house was a parade of townspeople stopping in to get fitted or to make sure she’d let out the pants enough so they could put on another ten pounds without straining the seams. Any day of the week, our house was Grand Central Station. There would be a knock on the door. I’d get up to let the person in, go find her and say, “mom, Madge is here, or whoever” and she would carefully lay down the garment she was working on and come out to greet them. I’d go back to watching television, feeling that I was sort of on display so they had something to watch while they were standing around getting pins in their clothes.

And so my childhood went. More than once my bedroom was filled with cheerleaders in various stages of undress trying on their uniforms. Of course I had been ordered outside! Damn.

Since mom sewed, I sewed too. I loved my mom. To a degree I wanted to be like her, so I learned. Or maybe she just thought I should learn and encouraged me. I really don’t remember. But I could sew as well as any teenage boy could be expected.

I also learned most of my mechanical engineering skills from repairing sewing machines. We couldn’t afford or even find the spare parts, living in a tiny coal-mining town in Eastern Kentucky, 60 miles from the nearest shop selling sewing machine parts. So I made do, with some pretty clever solutions using whatever materials we had around. And I oiled the machine seemingly every day. Some folks remember their house spelling like apple pie or bacon or some scent that really feels like home. For me, the smell of 3-in-1 oil really brings me back to those good old days.

“One has to look out for engineers – they begin with sewing machines and end up with the atomic bomb.” -Marcel Pagnol. I have no idea who that person is, just found the quote on the Internet and found it intriguing. I’m sure I will never build an atomic bomb, but if I did, some of the skills required would have been learned on a Singer sewing machine.

Sewing machines truly are a marvel in their design, dozens of moving parts meshing in perfect sync. In those days, sewing machines were largely metal, beautifully machined steel parts, shiny, heavy and tough. I remember a time when I could barely lift one to put it on a table. Today though, a trip to WalMart or wherever will get you a much lighter machine, with plastic parts and aluminum, just not the same. I have a sewing machine right now, one of the last heavy iron and steel models built in the 80s. It’s mostly metal, save for a few plastic parts here and there, like the cam that used to make it zig-zag before it disintegrated. Damn plastic.

It means a lot to me to know how to sew. Not that I ever use it. I haven’t actually touched the thing in a least a year. But it’s a nice feeling to know that I could make or repair something if I needed to. I taught my son how to sew, his idea, not mine. And maybe I’ll teach my beautiful granddaughter how to make a dress when she’s a little older, and tell her about the great grandmother she never got to meet.

I think I’ll go find something squeaky and put 3-in1 oil on it.

And oh yeah, by the way, Osama’s dead.

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5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I like your priorities. And if you want to teach your granddaughter how to sew a ruffle on the bottom of a dress wrong-way-to, take it off and sew it back on right-way-to, especially if it’s at 3 AM, I’d be glad to help with that lesson.

Comment by KarenH

PS You can come 3-in-one my cranky windows. (Pun, get it?)

Comment by KarenH

Dang cranky window! I’m on my way. And that’s funny about the ruffle. Thanks for the comments! I hate to toot my own horn but I really think mine is THE best story about Osama’s death by far.

Comment by doylemills

Such a moving story. Too bad you never saw my sewing machine. I used to complain how heavy it is. Now I will appreciate

Comment by Je

We had a treadle Singer that had been my grandmother’s. You know, with the footpiece you had to pump to make the needle go. We actually sewed with it a little before we got one of them-ere newfangled machines.

Comment by KarenH




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