Friday, 19 August 2011

Part 2: Maybe It's Genetic?

Following on from my earlier post here part 1, this is the 2nd half of my post :)

Singer 224ML Machine
Mummy's Singer 224ML Sewing Machine

How Did Mummy Start Sewing?
Chatting with Mummy I tried to ask her where her sewing interests came from. And, truly it was the most enthusiastic I've seen her when talking about any topic EVER! I found out that she started sewing in the 1960's when she was 14 years old, she enjoyed admiring the fashions of older girls and ladies, but could not afford to buy things for herself in the shops (she was the youngest of 11 children, so I imagine that spare cash for the idle fancies of the young and fashion-concious was not readily available!). She had an urge to make for herself a dress with a fitted bodice, nipped in waist and full gathered skirt. But, that kind of style takes a lot of fabric to achieve. So, she bought some cheaper bedding fabric, plus having only a 19"/48.3cm waist at the time (Mummy is 'ickle - only 5ft 1inches/155cm tall) she had enough fabric to accomplish her aim. She didn't use a pattern - she just winged it, using her older Sister's sewing machine! The result came out so well, that her next door neighbour upon admiring her brand new handywork commisioned Mummy to make some pretty dresses for her two young daughters (who, if I understood correctly from Mummy were about 5 and 7 years old at the time). The neighbour supplied the fabric for the dresses, Mummy supplied the thread - and she was rewarded with a payment of some "proper" dress fabric. Pleased with this turn of events, Mummy realised that if she took on other projects she could earn enough money to buy her own sewing machine. So, she made things for people in her neighbourhood - and used that money to take evening dressmaking classes to improve her skills, and to buy her Singer 224ML sewing machine. A friend of hers was a photographer for a local paper, and his girlfriend asked to pose with her for the photo you see below left. Mummy made the blouse and skirt from her own self-drafted patterns. Turns out she never wholly liked anything worn by other people, and sewing helped her to stand out in her own individual style, and "To be different; unique". She liked to mix and match elements from other garments she saw in magazines or on the street. The picture on the bottom right shows Mummy at 19 years old (did the eyebrows man ;)!) still with the 19" waist in a self-made, self-designed dress at a fashion show. Mummy says that models back then often worked on shows say modelling just a line of coats, or something else and that they were expected to provide the rest of the clothing (and makeup/hair) themselves. So, she made her own!

Mummy 14 years old Mummy 14 years old Mummy 19 years old
Mummy in her self-drafted, self-made garments.

After her initial start into sewing at 14, Mummy, took on four part-time jobs at the same time! Modelling, Perfume Sales Lady at the Robinsons department store, wedding make-up for brides, and of course dressmaking. Ten years of saving up her hard earned wages later, she had enough capital for a sizeable deposit to purchase her own flat. And, a couple of years after that she trade-up for a bigger and better place. (NB: Mummy met and married Daddy in her 30's, so was pretty much an independant lady before she settled into married life and babies etc., and they did ship her sewing machine over from Singapore to the UK when they married)

It's funny - I can remember Mummy making me 1 or 2 things when I was little. And, she made my two brothers some matching waistcoat and trousers each (along with neck ties). But, I can't ever seem to remember her making things for herself - I guess having 3 small children all under the ages of 6 at the same time must really eat into your "Me-time". I do distinctly remember that we were never allowed to go near her sewing machine - and (see photos from my Flickr account below) it was always covered in many layers to protect it from dust, scratches, and sticky children's fingers (haha!).

I asked Mummy when was the last time she made something from scratch, and she wasn't very clear - but she did say that for my youngest brother's recent wedding (this April) she'd taken in a jacket all along the sleeves and down the side-seams because she likes the big 80's shoulder-pad look of the bigger sizes, but not how baggy they are on the body.

So, whilst I don't think we'll be setting up a wee sewing circle of just us two stitching-buddies anytime soon - it does somewhat intrigue me as to whether my obsession love of all things sewing comes from her, is it nature (hence the genetic of the post title) or nuture LOL :)? 


  1. What an amazing and creative lady your Mum is! I love those photos - she looks so beautiful and elegantly dressed. I am so impressed by her talent and her determination to be an independent young woman. I think you might be right about the love of sewing being genetic - my own mother and grandmother also loved to sew.

  2. Fantastic story. Genetic or not it must be nice to have something in common that both of you seem to love. :)

  3. I think it is genetic. I never met my grandfather but when I was doing some family history research, I was amazed to discover that he worked as a draper - he actually sold fabric for a living!

  4. Great story!! And your mum was such a foxy lady in those photos...

  5. It's so nice to read your mom's story. I also believe it's genetic to some extent. My mom loves to sew and so do I (incidentally I was planning to post about my mom too). Gosh your mom was so thin. I am 5.3 and 27.5 waist!

  6. Hi there, I found you on flickr via your 224.
    Your Mom is really beautiful, so is your machine.
    I have just inherited a Singer 224, no manual, can only find one in Turkish, do you or any bloggers, know anything about this machine, anyone I contact says they have no record of this machine. I am also in UK

  7. @Eugenia
    Yes, she does look great doesn't she! I never knew she was so determined and single-minded until I asked her about her sewing - so her tale was a complete surprise to me :)

    The shame is, that we've never connected on any level before - I'm hoping we can forge a better relationship through sewing now (fingers-crossed!).

    Wow - I'd love to see any pics of your Grandfather in action if your family have them lurking in the attic somewhere! :)

    @Melissa Fehr Trade
    I know - s'funny you don't always think of your parents as being young 'n' foxy once, but this is the proof (so maybe there's hope for me too yet LOL!).

    @Sewing Princess
    Yup, 19"!! She told me when she was a model the agency she worked for had them all regularly do exercise to keep all the girls trim 'n' in shape, but she told me she refused to do it, as she "Didn't want to get any skinnier, I was already so tiny!".

  8. @wendy
    Hi Wendy, thanks for your comment. The 224ML singer is actually my Mummy's machine, so I know very little about it. The next time I am down to visit her I can take my laptop and scanner to get a copy of the manual if you're interested? (But, it might be not be until end October though.)


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