Channeling Grandma: A Gift from the Past!

Over the last month, I’ve thought about my maternal grandmother a lot. She is someone I definitely miss having in my life, despite the fact she’s been gone almost twenty years. You see, I have been sewing masks or PPE using her old SEARS Kenmore sewing machine.

This machine, which I’ve owned for a large part of my adult life made many, many articles of clothing when my grandmother owned it.  Most of the clothes were for my mother, my sister, and me.  My grandmother was an expert seamstress. She was able to make everything from winter coats to bathing suits, including prom dresses, bridesmaids dresses, Santa Claus suits, and even Barbie Doll clothes.

Everything, I mean everything, held up. It was made with love and caring and a huge heaping spoonful of skill. During the time grandma was in my life, she no longer worked outside of the home. But, in her younger days, she worked at Bonds – a menswear clothing and shirt factory in Rochester, New York.  Unfortunately, I know nothing of her time there except that I am sure it is where she became an expert with a needle.

Before I inherited the machine I now have, I had another machine of my grandma’s. It was a cast-iron machine. It worked well and helped me make most of the window treatments in our first house in Buffalo, New York.  Grandma upgraded to the machine I have now, and I got my first sewing machine from her which was the cast iron machine.

The Sears Kenmore machine was her last. It is special to me because I can close my eyes and see her working at it in the corner of the small spare bedroom in my grandparents home.  It has “cams” which fit into the machine to make it stitch designs such as ducks, Christmas trees, zigzags, and more. All of my peasant tops and dresses of the 1970s had this embellished stitching. It was very professionally done and made me feel special when I wore pieces with the stitching. I knew it took more time for grandma to make the piece than just sewing straight seams and hems.

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Grandma donning a dress for Easter made with the Cam feature on her Sears Kenmore Machine. Era: The Late 1960s.

 

As I make the masks, I have been thinking about my grandma – a lot. She took care of her sewing machine and now I understand why – keeping it in good working order helped her to take care of us. She kept busy with her sewing hobby that at a different time could have been a flourishing home business due to the extreme quality of her craftsmanship.

 

I cannot make any claim to maintaining grandma’s sewing machine like she did. In fact, I think I took for granted that I had it, until now. Up until a month ago, it sat in the corner of our storage room with lesson files, and our laser printer piled on top of it.

 

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I can only tell you that the printer and lessons will not be returning to live on the cabinet of the sewing machine. It will stay open, used, and loved. My sewing is not the caliber of my grandma’s but it makes me feel good that I am using something of hers to do good. I now find myself clipping my seams and pressing them open – just like she taught me to do but like any teen, I didn’t see the point. I do now, grandma. Thanks for teaching me well.

My grandma was one of the best people I’ve ever known. If she had prejudices, I never knew it. All I knew was love. It feels good to have such wonderful memories and be able to use them to do some good in the world. Thanks, Great Graham Cracker (my nickname for her).  I love you.

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