By Diane Forrest
Twenty-five years ago when I moved to my current city, I remember going to Wal-Mart to the sewing department. There were 2 rows of tables with stools there. You could pull up a stool and look through books and books full of patterns from Simplicity or McCall’s. Once you picked the pattern you wanted, you would go to the long filing cabinets, pull out a drawer and find your pattern. There were rows and rows of material, and bolts of material stacked on tables. There were even two ladies working back there to help cut your material and answer any questions you had.
I would get all my supplies, take it home, cut out my pattern and pin it to the material. Cut it out and set about sewing on my mother's old Singer sewing machine. I could even make some things just by designing it in my mind. I made all of my son's Halloween costumes, recovered an old couch a few times, and made several throw pillows with that machine.
As the years passed by - the sewing department at Wal-Mart has gotten smaller and smaller. Today it hardly exists at all. The country has seen a decline in the use of the sewing machine that was once a standard in every household. Most of this generation has never even seen a sewing machine, much less know how to operate one. Sewing has become a lost art, with people buying premade clothes and home items, and where alterations can be done at a laundry/dry cleaning or by a few little old ladies at home. My great grandmother did alterations from her home as well as my mother in law. . My mother was not a "craft" person, but I did learn how to use a sewing machine from my dad and while in school during a home economics course. While I am proud to say I can whip up a skirt or set curtains in no time flat, I am ashamed to say I never taught my son to use a sewing machine. This concerns me because what if he has a child that needs to have a pumpkin costume for Halloween, or a clown? What if he needs a cape to be Dracula? How will he make these?
Today is Sewing Machine Day. Thomas Saint patented the first design of the sewing machine in 1790 and it has since undergone many evolutions. This hallmark of the Industrial Revolution allows for efficient creation of clothing and other stitched items. Sewing machines did not go into mass production until the 1850's, when Isaac Singer built the first commercially successful machine. Singer built the first sewing machine where the needle moved up and down rather than the side-to-side and a foot treadle powered the needle. Previous machines were all hand-cranked.
Why not pull out your old sewing machine, or your mom's or grandmothers and try your hand at recovering a pillow or making a quick skirt.