Times-Call (Longmont)

If you can’t eat it, why make it?

- Email Betty Heath at begeheath6­90@aol.com.

Sewing was not my most favorite thing to do when I was growing up. In fact, I did everything I could to avoid sewing of any kind.

My mom worked at our local Singer Sewing Machine Company store teaching women to sew. She was a gifted seamstress. Throughout my school days she sewed clothes that made me the envy of my classmates. I remember the time we had gorgeous turquoise valances she sewed to go across the windows of the entire length and each end of our enclosed porch.

One day I came home and she had removed them from the curtain rods and was gathering and sewing like crazy. As pretty as those curtains were hanging on the porch, they were prettier after she turned them into a beautiful “Squaw Dress” for me to wear.

“Squaw Dresses” were the fashion back then. She would often take me “window shopping.” We would walk along Garrison Avenue in my home town looking in all the windows at the latest fashion designs. Then, after returning home she made the ones we liked best. She never used a pattern. She just put the fabric on our kitchen table and began cutting.

Unfortunat­ely, her sewing talent was lost on her daughter. I cannot imagine trying to sew anything without a pattern. When The Mr. and I had our upholstery business customers would assume I was the one who stitched the fabrics for their upholstere­d pieces and were very surprised to find that he could sew circles around me.

Not long ago one of my friends sent me a pamphlet she found among her mother’s sewing supplies. It is the “Justice Edition of the History of the Sewing Machine” dated May, 1868. I always assumed someone by the name of Singer invented the sewing machine, but discovered it was actually invented by Elias Howe born in 1819 at Spencer, Mass.

He was 21 years of age working as a journey machinist, earning nine dollars a week. He soon married and became a father of three children. He had heard that any man could make an “independen­t fortune” who could invent a machine that could do what he saw his wife doing as she sewed. After many attempts he had the idea of using two threads to form a stitch by using a shuttle and a curved needle.

In 1850 Mr. Isaac Merritt Singer became involved with repairing Mr. Howe’s sewing machines and began improving and developing a machine that could not only sew more stitches but also sew them backwards as well as forward. He and Mr. Howe became embattled in a lawsuit over patent infringeme­nt and the judge sided with Mr. Howe.

The first sewing machines that were marketed to the public were for tailors and seamstress­es only. It was thought that the cost and difficulty of learning how to use one would prevent one from ever being used in a household. On Sept. 10, 1867 after Mr. Howe’s patent expired Mr. Singer began marketing his machines. The prices were reduced and lessons offered to any woman who purchased one. Merchants filled one of their store windows with beautiful sewing machines made from gleaming steel, silver plate and rosewood for women to place in their parlors. Displayed in the other window would be gorgeous garments showing miraculous stitching sewn by these wonderful new inventions.

I’ve decided I have too many thumbs to sew anything worthy of wearing in public. Besides, my mom let me have free reign in the kitchen. My theory about sewing has always been if you can’t eat it why make it. I was lucky that my Mom was the best seamstress any girl could have. I just happened not to inherit that gene!

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