I’m stepping sideways from knitting to stitching for today’s blog post: a review of Natalie Fergie’s The Sewing Machine. Although we are members of the same online writers’ group, I’d never met Natalie in person before bumping into her quite by chance at The Yarn Cake (pictured left) in Glasgow. Natalie’s first novel The Sewing Machine was published by Unbound last month (April 2017), and Natalie also runs The Yarn Yard, a yarn and textiles company. So to meet each other by chance on my first trip to Glasgow since moving to Fife was a coincidence of the nicest sort: yarn AND writing rolled into one. Text and textiles, if you like.
The Sewing Machine spins (not the last textile pun you’ll hear today) the stories of four generations around the central device of, yes, a sewing machine. From pre-First World War Jean, striking at Clydebank’s Singer factory, to Fred, an unemployed thirty-something sorting out his late grandfather’s flat, the book brings together tales of heartbreak and hope, all tenderly told.
The book’s cover features a pair of scissors, a thimble, bobbin and lots of thread, careful stitches made by Natalie herself. Her skill with a needle stands as a metaphor for her dexterity with words: used to working in the many dimensions of textiles, Natalie effortlessly brings together past and present to create characters and narrative to warm the heart. Readers can instantly connect with the cosy familiarity of a grandparent’s loved flat, the sewing machine a constant in complex lives.
Natalie build the novel around her own Singer 99K, a machine bought for £20 mere metres from where it was made in Clydebank. For anyone who likes old objects, who wonders what their stories might have been, The Sewing Machine is a wonderful escape into imagined possibility.
You can get your hands on a Kindle copy via Amazon or pop into Blackwell’s in Edinburgh, which was where I snaffled mine!