And for the three magic gifts I needed to escape the poverty of my hometown, I thank my mother who gave a sewing machine, a typewriter and a suitcase.
I pencilled this early October 2017: one of my favourite quotes. It’s incredibly personal to me.
My mother equipped me with the skills of touch typing on an old 1960s typewriter by the time I was 14; and just as I was ‘forced’ to learn classical piano for 8 years, touch-typing is a skill I’ve never ever resented.
As soon as I turned 23, despite not having much, my mother bought my suitcase and sent me off to Australia to complete a Masters’ Degree. Without realising it, she equipped me with the values of my upbringing and the chance to see the world.
Suitcase and typewriter. Now, for the third: a sewing machine. Mum was a frugal person. I spent many an hour sitting on the floor next to Mum doing my school homework or playing with the one hand-me-down Barbie doll as she worked that wrought iron treadle. She made her own curtains, bedclothes, rugs, mats… even our pajamas and dresses. She never bought expensive fabric, just the most no-frills cotton (which ironically, was the best to survive the heat and humidity of Malaysia). To this day, she treasures her old Singer sewing machine that she was given as a wedding gift in 1975. She kept the gold swirls of that machine in pristine condition, as was the oak cabinet. Mum always put the sewing machine right back in the central drawer that tipped forward. I helped oil the belt that kept the treadle in good working state.
Now, as an adult, it is a given that a sewing machine is part of my life. I’d been taught as a child how to fix buttons and repair tears and seam rips. I knew how to straight stitch using needle and thread. I also knew how to thread a sewing machine, change the bobbin thread and work the treadle. But it wasn’t until six years ago that I owned a sewing machine of my own; a modern version, a birthday gift from my mother in law.
For years, I’d looked for a dedicated sewing area. I needed to have a place to store what I deem necessary for my role as Mother, Darner, Fixer, Seamstress and Crafter.
In 2015, I blogged about turning a vintage picnic carrier into a mini sewing hub.
But of course, the pile of thrifted and can’t-resist-buying fabric grows. My threads grew. The picnic box doesn’t hold the sewing machine as well. So I still need someplace for it.
Then also, I scored myself a new dining table. A round dining table, with a lazy susan. There goes my cutting table and my sewing table. Precious surface to sew things like Jasmine’s full-moon bunting:
My new dining table is beautiful. I’ve secretly wanted a Malaysian Chinese dining table since young. They normally go for thousands of dollars but suddenly one came up for urgent sale for $600, I jumped. I love it. It’s large. Seats 8, 10 at a pinch.
But it is not a sewing surface. At all.
And as the years go by, what I needed for my sewing center crystallised some time ago. And so the search began in earnest about 6 months ago.
What I needed was a desk-in-a-cabinet. With specific details. I found versions of the desk-in-a-cabinet that fell short of my needs. I finally found it on the Facebook marketplace; only for $350. Sure, it weighs a ton, looks kinda like the cupboard that opens into the fur coats that hide the entrance into Narnia, but it’s perfect!
I needed something that folded out, rather than slid out. I needed a solution of fold-out so that I could sit adjacent to the cabinet. I didn’t want to sit facing the cabinet; the surface of which to work on would be very limited. I also needed the space to have things ready at hand: sewing threads, rubbish bin, lights, chalk, measuring tape, etc.
It is so good to finally have my sewing station, finally. To be able to do things like using 3M velcro strips to adher a thread spool organiser where I want; to make it my space, and my space alone. I didn’t have to share it with any other purpose.
I have a generous shelf to store and display various fabric. They make me so happy.
Now I happily open the cabinet to start and finish sewing tasks like these:
And when I am done, I can close the cabinet and the busy workstation is hidden from view:
I think one day, I’d like to lighten the outside of the cabinet with a different colour. One day. Perhaps. #toomanyprojectstocopewith
But so happy with the purpose I gave this desk-in-a-cabinet. Sometimes it’s worth letting a conundrum ruminate in your mind till you find the right solution.