Sewing the thread of nostalgia

Rokiah Mahmud

Who would have thought that a sewing machine could bring so much nostalgia? The sound of the machine itself can bring back good childhood memories.

Often these memories are associated with grandparents or mothers, or walking by tailor shops back in the 1970s or ’80s.

In appreciating such memories, the United States (US) Embassy in Brunei Darussalam carried out a social media contest for the public to share their fond memories with one of the first US products in Brunei – the Singer sewing machine in April. The contest highlighted the significance of the sewing machine, how it was a means of entrepreneurship and an expression of creativity.

The contest received a positive response. Colourful memories were shared on how the sewing machine had been part of their lives. Some of the amusing stories shared in the contest was how the sewing machine often became a source of childhood imagination, like playing with the wheel as if it were a steering wheel on a vehicle, or using the machine as a playhouse.

Dayangku Suriani binti Pengiran Md Yassin during the get-together. PHOTO: ROKIAH MAHMUD

In a recent get-together with winners of the contest, hosted by the embassy, they shared how the sewing machine inspired them to learn how to sew, become entrepreneurs and enabled their families to earn an income.

Khairul Bahzi Jomari, one of the winners, told the Bulletin that when he was a teenager, he loved being at his grandmother’s house. “It was an old house. She put the sewing machine on the top floor near the veranda as she liked working while enjoying the scenery.”

Fellow winner Dayangku Suriani binti Pengiran Md Yassin said the machine is still in her house today. “The sewing machine is still located at the same spot, next to my bedroom door,” she said.

“My grandmother and mother loved to sew. I remember that my mother made Baju Kebaya, a popular fashion during her time, using the sewing machine.”

Another winner, Mimmet, told the Bulletin that her father bought her the sewing machine as a gift as she had successfully enrolled into secondary school.

“I still remember when my father woke me up in the middle of the night,” she said. “When I woke up I saw a sewing machine. When my father asked me to try it, I struggled a little as I had little knowledge about sewing machines,” she said. “I laughed when my body followed the rhythm of the machine instead of moving the fabric.”

“During Hari Raya, the sewing machine also became a decoration for us as the machine can be folded and becomes a table,” she said.

“I grew up witnessing my mother and grandmother sewing Baju Kurung, Cara Melayu and Kebaya for their customers. The income they earned helped us to fund our daily necessities. This machine also led to my interest in following Home Science subject.”

Another winner was Abu Zar. He came across his grandmother’s sewing machine when he and his family were cleaning their grandmother’s house. The machine was hand-operated, instead of a usual sewing machine that uses a treadle to operate.

“I was curious and as I grew up watching reality programmes, particularly about fashion and runway shows, I asked myself, ‘Why not sew?’, as I have always been passionate about fashion.”

“I learnt to sew through trial and error,” he said.

“However, I realised by doing that I was wasting the fabrics. It was then that I decided to enrol to the Continuing Education and Training, Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE CET), and took sewing courses.

“With the knowledge that I have obtained, I get to wear my own designs.”