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The Last Windrow: A farm memory: 'The sewing room'

We called it “the sewing room.” It was a small room in the southwest corner of our farmhouse. It had one window facing due south and it was also used to store coats, hats and other items we didn’t wear every day. 

The tiny room was about six by six-feet in size, but it provided a service to our farm family that proved both practical and crucial. 

In the sewing room sat a Singer treadle-style sewing machine. No motor, just belt powered by whoever sat before it. There was a drawer on one side filled with thread in various colors and another drawer held scissors, needles, pins, extra buttons and whatever else the sewer might need.

Those were the days of non-throw away clothes. Any item purchased from a store was expected to live almost the lifetime of the wearer. That didn’t happen, of course, and at some time that article of clothing would end up in the sewing room, waiting for repair. 

My mother had a basket sitting on the floor and when a rip or tear became too big to bear, that item of clothing was tossed into the basket where it waited to be exhumed and put back together. 

Those who lived and who live on farms know that seldom does a piece of their everyday wear ever truly wear out without some mid-life intervention. We tore our clothes on barbed wire, on sharp-edged machinery blades, on sliver-ridden fencing and on a multitude of other hazards. 

We came into the house missing buttons, buckles and bows on a daily basis. We had ripped pant-leg hems, missing suspenders and parted zippers. 

My mother and her mother were expert seamstresses. We came to know early on that they could fix anything brought before them. There was never any pressure exerted about how fast our clothing might be repaired, but you could rely on the fact that at some time your shirt and pants would be healed and put on your bed for the next day’s use. 

I can still hear the rhythmic sound of that treadle sewing machine humming away in that little sewing room. You could go to sleep listening to the sound. Click, click, click-hum-hum-hum-clack-clack. 

Looking into the waiting sewing basket you would find bib overalls, chambray colored work shirts, Sunday dresses, high school band uniform pants and baby blankets. There were few garage sales in those days because when a piece of clothing was no longer needed, it was just plain worn out. Next stop was the rag bin in the tool shed. 

Today I look at all the used clothing stores and wonder where all those pieces of clothing came from. Surely, someone had purchased them new, but evidently we’ve quit swapping clothes with our relatives and friends and we definitely have slowed down on the mending process.

Does anyone mend clothing anymore? My wife does, but she is a treasure and probably an exception to the rule. 

Yes, that little sewing room in the southwest corner of our farmhouse was very important to our lives. It also was the room that my dad spied an approaching tornado one day, grabbed me by the collar and headed for the cellar with mom leading the way. 

The tornado passed through the farmstead before they hit the back door of the house, destroying the hog barn and chicken house in the process.

I always remembered that story when I stood behind my mother watching her mend my jeans with the Singer treadle powered sewing machine in the little sewing room. It is a farm memory.

See you next time. Okay?