The Seamstress


I call her Marjorie.

Twenty-nine cast iron pounds of gorgeous gleaming black enamel and shiny silver metal.  Plus, she has motor driven spiral gears, and an oscillating shuttle on a horizontal axis.  (Or so the instruction manual tells me.)

My 1950 Singer sewing machine.

I’m left to wonder about you, though-my fingerprints layering atop your fingerprints as I trace Marjorie’s elegant ebony surface, threading spools of Belding Corticelli mercerized cotton, or guiding, with practiced hands, exquisite material under her high grade carbon steel needle.  Paradise colored 40’s barkcloth.  Autumn plaid Pendleton wool.  Postwar raw silk-a gift from a friend. I’m wishing I’d been allowed to make your acquaintance, a kindred soul, who decades ago sat as I now do.  Back hunched in aching concentration as eyes intent on witnessing perfection oversee that seams are straight.  Raw edges evenly matched.

If I could, I’d love to ask-did you also find Marjorie to be temperamental over fiber content? (she hates anything synthetic).  Difficult to oil, but indefatigable in the face of  even the most strenuous endeavors?  Did you ever cry as you worked-over mistakes you made in stitches, or in life?  (And did you, at any time, sew through your own thumb?)

My mind wanders.  Travels back over miles of fabric, and the distance of long ago, to what we’ve shared.

What matters.

I may not have known you, but you were here.


“Time is the longest distance between two places.”
-Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie



13 thoughts on “The Seamstress

  1. This is beautiful, Valerie. Makes me remember my old Singer, although it was new to me. It has been passed on to someone else now and maybe one day in the future someone will be thinking your same thoughts. I wonder what they will name her. 🙂

    • Jayne-thank you! What most impresses me about those old sewing machines is that they never wear out, so they can be lovingly passed on, and on-guaranteeing that seamstresses in the future will be able to wonder about those of us who came before:)

  2. I love when you take me into the past and weave it with the story, urging me to think in that old fashioned way, or a time long ago.

    My great grandmother had a sewing room in her house, upstairs, straight down the hallway. The floor was slanted and the room didn’t have a door, just a curtain hung to separate it from the rest of the rooms…patterns, fabric and dust mingled on a long, cutting table and her sewing machine (I don’t know if it was a Singer) sat in the corner of the room by the only (small) window overlooking the backyard. In summers, i would play on the swingset, or run around the grassy yard, sidestepping broken, dropped apples and look up to the coal piles across the street and hear the buzzing of that machine, wondering what my grandma was making me for Christmas pictures.

    that is what I felt reading this. THANK YOU for those memories. xo

    it’s a beautiful piece.

  3. Wonderful. It take a genius to writing a compelling piece of fiction about a Singer Sewing Machine.

    So I hereby declare you a genius. As well as a Pirate.

    Can I be your parrot?

    Ally 🙂

  4. How lovely! I have no use for an old sewing machine, but it made me wonder what it would be like to type on an old typewriter, to imagine the other fingers that clacked away at the keys.

  5. Amazing imagery-loved the warp & weft of this fabric of imagination Val!You always manage to take your readers on unique journeys-this was no exception:-)

    Meanwhile, I still haven’t the foggiest about what to write,lol!

  6. You should know this story would be a favorite of mine — I always like the stories about our connections to the past and how they remain tangible in things we have — like your sewing machine.

    I loved these words, “I’m left to wonder about you, though-my fingerprints layering atop your fingerprints as I trace Marjorie’s elegant ebony surface, threading spools of Belding Corticelli mercerized cotton…” It’s such a nice visual to imagine fingerprints from the past and the present intermingling as you share Marjorie. It makes me wonder if sometimes when you sew with her, if you don’t kind of feel another’s hand, guiding your own.

    BTW I envy you. I never learned to sew, but enjoy watching others do it. I’m sure I could learn the skill, but not the talent. I’ve seen what you sew and it’s beautiful.

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