At the Sewing Machine, 1932

This portrait, a gift from the wonderful Lizzie Bramlett, is apparently a practice photo by a budding new photographer.  On the back the maker has listed the day (June 25, 1932), the time (4:00 pm), the camera setting (F6.3, 1 sec.), and the distance (six feet). The right corner is a little fuzzy, but the older woman at her sewing machine is a beautiful composition of light and darkness.

The seamstress is clearly older.  Streaks of her gray hair are lit up in the photo. She has the full chest and broad hips that many women get as they age.  Her dress is quite long and I wonder if she ever took to the shorter fashions of the late 1920s. It looks like a cotton house dress to me, with the small prints favored by many older women.  Does it have a belt or is she wearing an apron that accounts for the tight line around her waist?

Look at all the different prints in the picture—the dotted theme of her dress, the floral pattern on the wall, the dots again on the curtains, the geometric pattern of the rug.  It is almost a relief that the fabric she is sewing appears to be pure white. 

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4 Responses to At the Sewing Machine, 1932

  1. Judith says:

    AND, notice her wonderful private little smile. She is sewing, likely to accomplish a task (i.e., not purely for pleasure – no silk scarves for her, I bet!), but she is getting that same sense of zen-ish enjoyment that I would see on my mom’s face. And that someone would see on my face, too.

    (I also like how she is holding the fabric in her left hand, to compensate for the pull of the feed dogs. Margaret Islander would be happy that this sewist apparently knows this industry technique for fabric control.)

  2. Katrina B says:

    Fantastic photo! It’s quite timeless and without the date it could be any decade from the 20s to the 60s. The first thing that struck me was her good posture. I sew a lot, and when I’m at the machine I am usually hunched over trying to see what the heck is going on down where the needle meets the fabric.

  3. eimear says:

    what a lovely photo – there is a great tranquility to this, and the composition is beautifully done – the placing white fabric and the light of the machine in the photo composition give the image a lovely painterly feel

  4. Bunny says:

    She is so serenely in her moment, lovely. You know that she is treadling away as well, so the music and motion of the pumping are putting her there as well. It is clearly her time.

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