‘Twas Christmastime, 1934.
The little lady ambled out to the drug store to pick up a copy of Needlecraft: The Home Arts Magazine. Turning the pages, flipping by the ads for Listerine and Royal Baking Powder (“I’m a Widow… with 5 Children… and I can’t afford to take chances with cheap, doubtful baking powder”, for French’s Bird Seed and Biscuit, next to menu ideas for grand yet frugal holiday dinners, she read a letter that she could have written herself.
And, when she turned the page, there was the Singer itself.
“The magic means to all the clothes her heart desires!”A few pages further, the latest fashions.
Truly, anything was possible, frills and furbelows and cute red slippers to match a swirling red hem.
I inherited my grandmother’s machine, not a Singer but a Domestic, the name stamped in gilt on its wooden cabinet, a couple of bobbins still in the drawers. She sewed voraciously, making all the clothes for my mother and her sisters. At Christmastime 1934, was she mulling over her paper patterns, thinking about that material she had seen on sale recently in her little Tennessee town?
Sewing was a way of dreaming, of making your way psychically out of the deprivations and difficulties of the time. Sewing made what was hard, soft. It still works for people who remember how to thread a needle.