I recently bought a sewing machine, a purchase that I soon realized was long overdue. I have been using my grandmother’s circa 1960s Singer for almost thirty years. It has sentimental weight in my life, but it was also creating some stress for me, making me dread sewing when sewing should be fun. I never knew when the tension would freak out on me. And my ability to get it working again felt completely random—more luck than anything.

I expected my new sewing machine to help me get some projects done. What I didn’t expect was that it would broaden my thinking and expose me to a whole new world of creativity. I’ve become obsessed with all kinds of sewing videos, from historical garment reconstruction, to modern pattern drafting, to bag design. There are so many possibilities!

While this is exciting, I’m left with a dilemma. When I bought the new machine, I fully intended to give away or sell Abuela Maty’s machine. I don’t need two machines. Sewing is a hobby and I don’t have space to store an extra machine. My thinking was that someone else could get some use out of her machine.

But many of the YouTubers I’ve been watching have multiple machines. (Never mind that they are much more serious about sewing than I am.) More than that, though, I’ve learned that my troubles with Abuela’s machine are probably my own fault. My lack of skill and ignorance about how sewing machines work were at least a factor in causing my frustrations. If I improve my skills, maybe I can get it to run smoothly.

The day Abuela Maty gave me the machine was sunny. She sat near the window in her bedroom, her white hair a soft frame around her quietly sad face. My aunt Vivi was there too. Abuela’s sewing machine was against the opposite wall, where she had sat down to make clothes for decades. I remember a red gingham skirt she made me, full and swirly, with a white cross-stitched pattern around the bottom. And five dusty rose bridesmaid’s dresses for Vivi’s wedding, worn by my cousins and me.

I felt bad about taking away Abuela Maty’s sewing machine. She smiled sadly at my hesitation, and looked genuinely happy that I would be taking the machine. She wanted me to take her stamp collection too. Already so many things had been packed up. She couldn’t stay in the house where she’d lived for decades. She needed too much care at that point.

So I took the machine and the stamps, and even though my abuela is gone now, I still have some of her things. Which isn’t enough. I want my abuela back.

I’ve used the machine a long time now. It took a lot for me to buy a new one. Logically, I think it would be good for me to let go of a heavy old machine that doesn’t serve me well. But my heart…

Do you have things you hold onto for sentimental reasons? How do you move on? And what do you think I should do with Abuela Maty’s old machine?

Abuela’s Singer Slant-o-Matic 500

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Kristin Ferragut
Kristin Ferragut
4 months ago

Oh, that’s a beautiful story! And I’m not a fan of sewing machines but that’s a beauty. Hard call — space or relics. I might flip a coin. Look forward to seeing where this art space takes you!

Thoughts on the creative process

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