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My Mother’s Old Sewing Machine

October 17, 2021

Another Way October, 2021

My Mother’s Old Sewing Machine

Mother’s old sewing machine cabinet and bench.

I have a new/old companion in the room where I usually write these columns. It makes me feel like Mom is with me right here. I wish she was.

She used to come here and use this bedroom/office as often as once a year or at least every other year. She travelled by car or plane or train—and to Florida to visit my brother by bus or air—many adventures I’ve shared here.

Mom had a fall in February breaking her shoulder (yes, she also had one last February, 2020, breaking her femur just before the world first closed down, so to speak). This May, we had to help her move out of her independent apartment after her fall, which she loved so much, where she lived for the last 17 years. Actually, it wasn’t the apartment, it was the people she loved so much, who also lived in the complex, many of whom she counted as dear friends and conversation partners. I have not shared many details of her journey this year to protect at least some of her privacy!

But back to the sewing machine. The reason it is so reminiscent of mom is that for the last 17 years it sat in the guest bedroom in her apartment, and so it always welcomed us when we got there after driving 625 miles—sometimes taking 11 hours, and in recent years, usually stopping overnight to visit our daughter’s family in Ohio.

The machine is electric, built about 1945 or so. My grandmother Ruth had a treadle sewing machine which I got a kick out of trying to use. But Mom’s machine saw me all the way through high school and college and even my first year working in terms of my sewing many of my own clothes. I’m ashamed to say I don’t do much sewing anymore—and actually don’t buy that many clothes either. At this age, we wear what we have in our closets, right?

Mom and Miss Hooley at Middlebury Junior High school (Indiana) taught me to sew and it’s kind of fun to see how old skills—such as how threading up the sewing machine with all its little crevices, hooks, and openings—come back to you.

Sewing seemed to experience a revival of sorts last year as people, men and women, took to sewing cloth masks when factory-made masks were in short supply. Unfortunately, I lost two lovely homemade ones—made by a daughter and a neighbor of my brother-in-law. I was quite upset over both losses, but things happen.

There were many sewing “notions” as they are called in that tip out drawer and bench. Mom didn’t like us messing with that stuff until we were much older.

But back to the sewing machine: my mother used that machine to make us countless dresses, skirts and blouses. She did not make a lot of slacks or shorts for us, because we weren’t permitted to wear them for many years. One summer she made matching shirts for our whole family to wear once a week or so when we traveled out west for six weeks. We made quite a picture—I wish I had the picture. Some of us were somewhat embarrassed when we wore them, but it certainly made spotting your whole family easier in a store, crowd, or national park!

Epilogue to this post:

This blog post/newspaper column is particularly poignant now for me. Many of you know my mother died on October 11. I actually wrote this particular column over a number of weeks, before she left us. Her obituary is here. I will likely be sharing many other thoughts and stories and memories in the days ahead.


What objects, clothing, or memories does this bring to mind for you? We can have too many heirlooms but we can’t have too many cherished memories.

Send your stories, comments or condolences to me at or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. All Mennonite women had sewing machines, from treadle to electric. Mother sewed our clothes, and we seldom had store-bought. I’m sure my Grandma L. did the same though I saw her in middle-age and older sewing for “relief,” garments dispersed through MCC to the world’s needy.

    Again, my condolences to you.. I’ll read her obituary now. This is a sad time. . . .

  2. Thank you, dear blog friend! I think most Mennonite women in the congregation I grew up in in Indiana had sewing machines and sewed, but I’m not sure 100 % did! I think of one friend from church who seemed to mostly have store bought clothing. Of course we were not as conservative in dress in Elkhart Co. Ind. as Lancaster Co. Pa. Not to argue, but I thought I would soften that just a bit. 🙂 And hugs to you for your prayers, sympathy, and for knowing what it’s like.

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