grandma’s sewing machine

I had a free day this weekend. I haven’t had an entire free day to spend entirely as I choose in…well, I don’t even know. I couldn’t even settle on what I wanted to do with that day, but one thing kept nagging me – that I haven’t made any progress on my t-shirt blanket to fill my 2014 resolution. Why? Because the next step required the sewing machine. And I was scared of mine.Sewing desk resized


I wasn’t scared in the sense that I would stab my finger with a needle like Sleeping Beauty. I was scared because I don’t know what I’m doing with it. But most of all? Because it was my grandma’s.

jo and grandma

That’s my grandma at my college graduation in 2005 (and my grandpa too). I chose this one even though she’s not looking at the camera because the camera caught her looking at me how she always looked at her family. With total love and pride. With the tail end of a laugh.

My grandpa gave me her sewing machine at least a year ago, as well as the sewing desk that he built for her and the stool she sat on to sew. The desk was built for her older model machine, where it would flip up from underneath. But it still works for this newer (1994) model, and gives me a leaf to fold out. I am the eldest of 17 grandchildren on that side of my family. We’re a brood, for sure. So I consider myself so blessed that he let me care for this machine that she was the master of.

Grandma made all of the grandchildren blankets. I still have mine, even though some of the stitching that says ‘JoJo’ on it has faded in the 25+ years that I’ve had it. When she was done making blankets for grandchildren, I know she made many for Project Linus, which makes blankets for critically ill children. She probably sewed a million hems and fixed a million holes in her life, not to mention the many things she made. I know the Singer Model 5050 that sits on this desk now has seen use at her hands.

So on my day of relaxation, I thought I should spend some time getting acquainted with the machine – perhaps filling a bobbin and threading the needle. I opened the needle plate and found a bobbin already there, with a small bit of white thread left on it. My heart jumped up in my throat.

Because that was her bobbin, leftover from the last project that she sewed. And I suddenly felt that void again.

It always happens around this time of year, even more so than in May, which is when she died in 2009. The holidays remind me so much of her, and the cold weather does too, because her house was always exceedingly hot, filled to the brim as it was with family. And pies.

So in that moment of missing her, I started going through the drawers. The desk is solid wood, and because the drawers have been virtually unopened for years, they still smelled like her house. Like her. Like home and comfort and family. And I sat and cried as I went through the drawers and let the memories wash over me.

A scrap of John Deere fabric, because all Taylors love a good tractor.

drawer 2

Some needles and random sewing stuff. (And more John Deere fabric scraps.)

drawer 3

Some quilting things, I think. Some zippers and ribbon.

drawer 1

I kept wanting to look through the drawers, but I’m hesitant to even open them, because the more times I do, the more they will smell like my house, not hers. That bit of her memory will be lost.

After much sitting and thinking, knowing that she would say “golly Jo, there’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a sewing machine!” I sat down and got to work. I posted on Instagram about being overwhelmed by the newness of the machine and the missing of her in my life, and Jeni came to my rescue and suggested Craftsy’s beginning sewing machine tutorial. I watched it, I read the manual, and before I knew it, I had this.


My first stitch.

And by the end of the evening, five rows of t-shirt blanket, all connected.

One of the t-shirts in my blanket belonged to her and I think it will be my favorite part. Might have to work in a piece of that John Deere fabric, too.

That way, part of her last project will be part of my first.

  • Joni

    LOVE this! I had a similar thing this week as well. Your mom was telling me about your sewing machine and the drawers and the smells. (I posted a picture of one of grandma’s last crochet projects that she never got to finish before cancer took her in 2003…it still smelled like her house, crochet hook still in place, her handwriting on the pattern….)

    I, too, have my grandma’s sewing machine and drawers and all her needles. Thankfully, even though I’m the youngest, I got these items (my sisters had a sewing machine or didn’t have room at the time and well, what’s my brother going to do with a sewing machine?? :)) Her’s is the old flip up out of the desk style and it works great! I’m not sure what I will do the day it no longer works. As much as I have opened and closed the drawers it still smells like her house.

    My plan is to finish the crocheted afghan for Christmas…..but it may be stained with tears. I wanted to figure out the pattern the other night and couldn’t….I couldn’t focus. I missed her more and more.

    Happy sewing! If you ever need help, let me know. All machines are different but I could possibly help in other ways. :) Enjoy EVERY stitch and every frustration in every project. Your grandma is smiling down at you with each. (I’ve cried through some projects thinking of my grandma…..hang in there!)

  • Suzan Freeman Taylor

    I had to post this on facebook so all the Taylor family could share in these beautiful and treasured memories. Beautifully written…about a beautiful lady. She’d be so proud of you.