Ramblings from the Ridge

Sewing stories

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I can recall sitting next to my mom at her sewing machine when I was young, listening to the tap-tap-tap of it doing its work. 

I watched with amazement as she created whatever her mind could conjure up. She told me years later that she wasn’t great at reading a pattern, but if she saw it, she could break it down enough to sew it herself. 

She made Stacy and I matching dresses when we were quite young, sometimes with something for our dolls to coordinate. I remember her creating skirts and vests from blue jeans that we had grown too tall for when I was in third grade. 

She cut the pants off just below the pockets and added two rows of ruffles in a fun fabric. Then, she used the pant legs for the back of the vest and put the same fabric on for the front. Ta-da, a whole new outfit. She was the queen of repurposing before it was a vogue phrase. She sent us off to school with these clever duds and had all sorts of moms calling her to make a customized outfit for their daughters. 

These days, that sewing machine, the one she bought when she was in college, gets a workout. It is a Kenmore 8 stitch that has been tuned up multiple times and purrs beautifully. It is older than me and went with me to college. Now, it is a permanent fixture on my dining room table. 

We are old friends, and we have created lovely projects together. This machine has recently been joined by a Surger that I picked up at rummage sale for $15. Dane tinkered with it, figured out how to thread three lines at once, and now, this gal still works wonders. 

The simple thrill of sewing and watching the edges getting cut at the same time makes me giddy every time I put my foot to the pedal. It comes in handy for a multitude of projects. The machine makes beautiful stitches, and if she gets a bit crabby, Dane steps in and works his magic.

The newest machine to take up residence on our dining room table (which, as you may have guessed, is used more for sewing than eating) is Cora’s. 

We bought her a simple sewing machine for Christmas, along with a sewing book of patterns. She has been on my lap or at my side for years, pulling pins and placing her hands on mine to learn the feel. She can run the foot pedal like a pro at 7 years old. She is forever coming up with new things we need to create. Now, she has more power in her clever hands. When my newest niece was born, within minutes, Cora declared she needed a quilt. I gave her my stash of precut squares. She designed it, then she sewed the squares together. She passed those to me, and I made the strips and put the top together. We worked together to tie the layers together, and I did the binding. Her face was pure delight to see her idea come to fruition so fast, and in true quilter style, she signed a square for her cousin.

These days, the internet is a source for inspiration for any crafty human. I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. I almost don’t like to admit that I look at it; it makes me feel like I don’t use my own brain. I am in awe of all the projects, and occasionally, I find one that tickles my fancy. 

I have long been snatching up any embroidered table runner or tablecloth I find. I always admire the hours of work that it took to make sure, delicate stitching. The problem was they were hiding in a drawer. What good does that do? I wanted to see them, use them and appreciate them daily. 

Pinterest to the rescue. I spied a shower curtain made entirely of embroidered runners and whatnot. One Sunday morning, I set about laying all my treasured pieces on the floor and designing my shower curtain. The top is attached to the shower curtain rings with lace ties, and the sun shines in the window every morning and makes the whole thing glow. I love that I can see these treasures instead of them hiding away.

Some of the sewing projects beyond quilts that I am most excited about are those that did not come from Pinterest. I sewed curtains for my kitchen using three embroidered tablecloths. They fit my kitchen, personality and my appreciation of eras gone by. When a girlfriend and I were scouring a flea market for treasures and came across a beautiful unfinished quilt top, we paused. I have a rule that in order to buy it, I need to know what I will do with it. She immediately thought of valances for my dining room. They make me smile every time I come down the steps in the morning. A new use for someone’s hard work decades ago.

One of Cora’s favorite things is to tell me exactly how she wants to make a dress. Together, she and I took an old skirt of mine and turned it into a dress with “wings” for her. We have taken a sleeveless shirt of mine and revamped it into a dress with a train for her. This past weekend, I made a reversible circle skirt for my 3-year-old niece. I hadn’t had a date with my sewing machine in a few weeks, and it felt good to sew. I had forgotten how cathartic it is to watch a project take shape from start to finish and have the hum of the machine drown out my worries. My old, reliable machine connects me to my mom as Cora and I write new sewing stories. 

Jacqui Davison and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres in northeastern Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos, and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.

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