There are faint memories that bounce around my head involving the sound of a sewing machine. My grandmother could work that pedal and make that Singer sing. It was a melody that had its own cadence and tone. The sound was unmistakable and the workmanship undeniable.
Somewhere along the way, this skill became unnecessary. Ready-to-wear and mass-produced clothing became a mainstay to a more mobile and affluent middle class.
Ever seen a sewing kit? Straight pins and safety pins would be ready when needed as they waited in the pin cushion. Also in the kit would be a tape measure, a thimble and definitely a pair or two of sharp scissors. Bobs of multi-colored thread would definitely reside in this kit. A few different-sized buttons would also be there. All the essentials needed for a quick repair or to fasten or attach something.
According to our history books, sewing has been around since the Stone Age. Cave dwellers used a sharp bone instead of a needle, and maybe an animal’s sinew, instead of thread, to patch together pieces of hide.
Even if they were grunting and gesturing to communicate their cave-like preferences for suitable cover-ups, sewing has always proven to be cheaper than therapy.
A newspaper ad recently caught my eye that offered sewing classes for the beginner. It’s a one-night class that lasts 21/2 hours. It costs $32 and is held at Spacecraft Studios in West Ashley. The class size is limited to 10 because that’s how many sewing machines they have.
What does the class look like? Older and younger women, mostly. Occasionally, an older man or two joins the class. Some of the women say they were taught a little thing or two by their grandmothers, but don’t remember much of it. Some admit to taking a home economics course when it was taught in high school, but never used the skill when they entered adulthood.
For the most part, the men acknowledge never learning how to sew at all.
So there they sit with their foot on the pedal — 10 people, 10 machines and an instructor who promises that by the end of the class they’ll leave with some knowledge and an actual finished product they can claim they created.
Allison Merrick, 39, is the owner/director of this studio. The little Avondale craft shop is designed to be a place where people can make things. “The way people spend their time is what tells us who we are,” Merrick says. When people make things or repair things, they feel empowered, she adds.
In the sewing class, they learn different terms along with the anatomy of the machine. Whether it’s a seam or a stitch, the fabric that holds this group together is a desire to learn something new.
Another aspect to the experience is having the ability to personalize our own space. Bit by bit, all of our areas are looking the same. What happened to the little knick-knacks, needlepoint, crocheted doilies, or even the bird feeders that made our grandparents’ houses so loved and lived-in? What are we going to pass along? The menu of programs available for cable TV?
We probably all should be doing more with our hands. I applaud those who feel they’re not too old to learn.
A recent greeting card I saw stated that “the soul is fed with needle and thread.”
The whir of my grandmother’s sewing machine always signaled something new was being created or something old was being repaired. Sometimes, we’re far more focused on the fabric without understanding that it’s really the stitches that hold it all together.
Which made me think of an analogy in these trying times.
Our community’s reputation and resolve has been profoundly tested and examined in recent days. How could we possibly stay together in the face of such a loss of innocent lives?
The nation now knows that we’re Charleston strong. Here’s why: The Lowcountry’s fabric is both durable and pliable, but its people are the stitches that will ultimately hold our faith and our futures intact.
Reach Warren Peper email@example.com.