On Saturday afternoon, sitting at my kitchen table behind the whirring of a borrowed sewing machine, I smelled something that transported me back to my childhood.
To be honest, I don’t know much about sewing though I’ve survived a handful of projects. (By “a handful,” I mean enough to make me more confident than I should be, given the circumstances.) Because I don’t know how to use a pattern, I rely on my creative instincts and my editor’s eye for layout design work. Basically, I’m no Martha Stewart, even if I can make a basic panel curtain.
As the sewing machine sporadically stopped and started–I hadn’t perfected the steady pressure on the foot pedal either–I sat back in my chair, stunned.
There it was all around me, something slightly mechanical and smoky. It wasn’t burning fabric or an overheated engine, but a gentle warmth, like an old kitchen or maybe a pile of dried leaves.
The sewing machine smelled the same way my mom’s sewing machine used to smell.
Maybe I was imagining it, but I could suddenly see my mom sitting at her old machine. Hers wasn’t anything like this portable Singer my friend had let me borrow, but rather one of those that is hidden down inside a table. The kind you don’t see unless you’re a kid crawling underneath it, and you bang your head on the metal part.
But it smelled the same way.
My mom made me jumper dresses, a Pocahontas costume in elementary school, a clown costume in high school for a random ministry project. She’s made quilts and curtains and pillows. When we went to a quilt show together last Spring, I was surprised to discover how much I had to say about an arena full of quilts.
It’s in my blood, I suppose.
That same sewing-machine smell took me back to my grandma’s sewing room, piled high with quilt patterns and pieces and rolls of batting. Though she hand-stitched her quilts on a big heavy wooden frame in the basement, she pieced them on a sewing machine in this room. She had boxes full of quilt scraps that I was allowed to play in, learning slowly to quilt by hand, making misshapen, mismatched pillows.
I sewed one of my first projects directly to my favorite turquoise corduroy pants.
My grandmother passed away over two years ago, and I think about her a lot. I’ve got a bell from her bell collection, which I ring on Easter morning, and two of her hand-made quilts.
So there I was on Saturday, thinking about my momma, remembering my grandma, chuckling about those corduroy pants, and thinking to myself, Somehow I need to write this down.