Cover Image: The Sewing Machine

The Sewing Machine

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Member Reviews

Great book. Lots of ins and outs to this story, we get to know the characters well. Really enjoyed this one!
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I absolutely adored this debut book. I was brought up in a house with a Singer sewing machine which my mother used a lot (and still does!) so I found it interesting to read about the factory - I had no idea it was even based in Scotland. The story is set over a few time lines ranging from 1911 to 2016 and I was intrigued to see how the story was going to ‘stitch’ together. I liked all the characters equally and enjoyed following their lives and the ending wasn’t disappointing. I will certainly be looking out for more books by this author. Thank you NetGalley and Unbound for letting me review it.
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I'm sad that I wasn't able to read this book, because it was too much at the same time. I guess that his book was amazing and I would love to try and read it. 
Now i will have to buy one! The cover is beautiful and I like to sew...
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It touches on lot’s of topics, but I won’t spoil. But I can say that at its heart are the power of secrets. At a recent book launch for The Sewing Machine at Blackwells Bookstore Store, Edinburgh. Natalie Fergie said it best, she said that not all secrets have to be bad and it’s alright for them to be private.

I would love to for there to be a sequel and I have harped on and on at Natalie about it and I probably will always need to have more of these honest, raw, fragile characters. That’s how much I have emotionally invested into them. And you will too on your personal adventure with the book.
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This title does not do justice for the book.  This is more than a sewing machine, it links many peoples lives and uncovers many family history.  It is a quick fun read that shows how families thrive and pass on traditions -either know or unknown.
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"The sewing machine has provided work in manufacture, eased work in the home and facilitated work when there was none to be had."

A well researched historical novel that alternates between several timelines.

1911 Clydebank, Scotland where we meet an eighteen year old Jean who works as a sewing machine tester at the Singer Factory. At that time, the Singer Factory was all powerful and employed thousands of workers.  It even had its own railway station and its own trains. Jean lives with her domineering father who also works for Singer.  There follows a brief and accurate portrayal of the strike that took place that year. A strike which Jean's father disapproves and which Jean's beau, Donald Cameron, helps organize.  The betrothed Jean and Donald eventually are forced to leave Clydebank and they move to Edinburgh.

"A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak."

1954 Edinburgh, Scotland where we meet 33 year-old Connie Baxter. She lives with her mother Kathleen, a tailor. The two women get along very well. Kathleen works on an old Singer machine. For every sewing task she completes, she writes the details in a notebook.  After a family tragedy, Connie, a typist, finds a new job as a seamstress for a hospital. This position will be instrumental in her meeting a young woman named Ruth Watkins, and her future husband, Alf Morrison.

1980 Edinburgh, Scotland where we meet Ruth Watkins.  Single and pregnant, she is trying to finish her nursing practicum before the Old Royal Infirmary realizes her condition.  She approaches a woman named Connie who works at the hospital to see if see can let out her uniforms so that they will not be so tight and camouflage her pregnancy.

2016 Edinburgh, Scotland where we meet 35 year-old Fred.  Newly single and unemployed, Fred inherits a flat (and a cat named Crabbie) from his grandfather Alfred.  A flat that has been in the family since 1890. Fred writes a private blog which he uses as a sort of diary/confidante. Fred is a very private man. He begins the herculean task of clearing out the flat, only to find himself keeping most of what he discovers. There are Marmite jars everywhere - used for keeping pens, plant cuttings, and various other things. The most important find though, is an ancient Singer sewing machine.  Within the machine he finds numerous old notebooks that tell the tale of his family history, one stitch at a time...

Surprising himself, Fred begins to use the old machine.  He finds that sewing helps him to decompress, freeing his mind of his stresses and his loneliness.  When the machine needs servicing, he meets an artistic young woman whose life is intrinsically tied to his.


Natalie Fergie brings the past eloquently to life. All of her characters are well fleshed out so that the reader is invested in their plight.  The narrative reminds us of a time when frugality was the norm - quite the opposite of our current disposable society. She skillfully stitches all of her characters and timelines into one cohesive whole - while at the same time describing how both tangible and intangible things are passed down through generations.

A novel of what family means, of love, loss, of hardship, and of letters lost and received. A great read that I highly recommend to lovers of literary, historical fiction, and of course.... family secrets. An emotional and evocative debut.

4.5 stars rounded up for NetGalley
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The most wonderful tale is told of the owners, both men and women of a Singer sewing machine which links two generations of families as it changes hands. We follow it from the production line to restored in the current day.
The book explores the changes of Scottish social history in over one hundred years and I really enjoyed the depth of historical detail and learnt a lot whilst it still remained a cosy read with some gentle moments. A story told well with great research and a book I enjoyed very much.
My thanks go to the author, publishers and Netgalley for providing this arc in return for a honest review.
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Decades separate these four characters, but they are all tied together by a sewing machine:
• Clydebank, 1911: Jean (18yo) is a sewing machine tester at the local Singer Factory. The workers are about to strike and she's forced to choose between her father who demands compliance and her rebellious boyfriend who's encouraging her to strike.
• Edinburgh, 1954: After tragedy befalls her family, Connie (33yo) decides to follow in her mother's footsteps.
• Edinburgh, 2016: Fred (35yo) inherited his grandfather's property. His plans to sell everything are put on hold when he uncovers a hidden secret in his grandmother's sewing machine. Letting go of family artifacts is going to be far more emotionally difficult than he anticipated.
• The fourth character is introduced in the last third of the story, so I'll let you discover that person for yourself!

I love to quilt, so the title caught my eye immediately. My experience was actually similar to Fred's. I just decided I was going to sew one day and I taught myself with a combination of YouTube videos and blog tutorials. I was originally a graphic designer, so it's been so gratifying to make useful items that will last for decades rather than something that will most likely find its way to the trash can by the end of the week, if not immediately! Author Natalie Fergie describes the sewing machines and the act of sewing with so much love. I loved how Fred described his purchase of used bobbins: "Each one has layer after layer of different coloured threads. It’s like a geology of dressmaking." This story gave me a whole new appreciation for the invention of the sewing machine and the effect it had on peoples' lives.  It was interesting how the characters' relationships with sewing evolved over the generations: (1) Connie's mother and Jean entered the sewing industry because it was one of the few options they had to support themselves, (2) Connie had more options but chose to sew, (3) and Fred had the freedom to sew for fun.*

The notebooks were my favorite element of the story! Every time Connie's mother Kathleen finished a project, she sewed a tiny scrap to a page of the notebook and wrote a short description of the project. At first glance it's just a list of sewing projects, but upon closer look the pages tell the story of a life and a community. In between the stitches, there are tales of new beginnings, struggles, celebrations, and loss. The notebooks are a tangible record of the memories objects hold and the value they accumulate as they pass through generations. Fred slowly comes to that realization as he goes through his grandparents' possessions. Sometimes he picks up an item and it feels like he's transported back in time or like a long-gone family member is standing right next to him. He had been feeling disconnected lately, but these newly realized connections to the past make him feel grounded. Fred also learns that new isn't always better; just because something is old doesn't mean it has outlived its usefulness. It's not only the tangible items that get passed down; there are also the lessons taught, the continuing of traditions, and the ingrained behaviors. At one point, twenty-three-year-old Jean realizes that she still counts stair steps the way her mother taught her to when she was learning to count. 

There were a few things that took me out of the story:
• I had trouble maintaining the author's vision of the characters. The two characters in their mid-30s read much younger to me, especially Fred. However, there was one aspect in which Fred actually read much older. His resistance to setting up an email account on his phone was an especially odd quirk for a 35-year-old banking sector contractor who was very modern in every other avenue of his life.
• This book is probably best read in as few sittings as possible. The story spans a little over a century and we’re dealing with four generations, but there are also major time jumps within each generation. So a character might go from single or childless in one chapter to married or a parent by the next time they appear. These time jumps were both confusing because I thought I had drifted off during a vital chapter and disappointing because I couldn’t share in those big moments with the characters I had come to care about.
• Over-explaining - The last fifth felt like a never-ending summary of the entire story: the reader is already able to put all the pieces together → a character has everything fully explained to them → that character later explains everything to another character. It also went one coincidence too far for me, but the ending was very moving! The last line made me misty-eyed.

Accepted family stories are upended and seemingly insignificant actions have the potential to change the course of a completely unrelated person's life. This book left me with an appreciation for every person "whose experience and determination paved the way for the . . . lives we have now." Decades pass and new technologies come and go—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse—but our effects on the people around us have the potential to endure far into the future. The Sewing Machine is a heartwarming and comforting tale with a touching message. I genuinely cared about the characters and I enjoyed reading it. If you like historical fiction in a domestic setting, you might also enjoy The Longest Night and A Place We Knew Well. Structurally and thematically this book reminded me of The History of Bees. It's a totally different genre, but I always love stories about how we're all connected and the ways we unknowingly affect each other.
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I requested this because I remember my grandmother sewing all the time on her Singer sewing machine when I was a child. My grandfather even made her a wooden sewing machine table for it. This book takes place in three time frames 1911, 1954 and 2016. Don't be put off and not read it though because of this. The time frames all eventually come together in the end. Sometimes families do unconventional things that for that time period seem alright to do but are questioned by later generations. This is what happens here when secrets kept for a long time finally see the light of day and hurts and misunderstandings are talked through and wounds healed. The book doesn't give up it's mysterious secrets til the very end so it keeps you reading in anticipation.
Pub Date 17 Apr 2017
I received a complimentary copy from Unbound Digital through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own
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Here is a review by Jennifer:
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This beautifully written book is the story of one sewing machine across the years. I was captivated by this story and its multiple timelines. I can't wait to see what this author writes next.
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The Sewing Machine’s story is told through the lives of four generations:  Jean, Connie, Ruth and Fred. Oh, and the sewing machine, a Singer 99K, a machine that was hand cranked with no reverse.  Beginning from Jean’s story in 1911 and the strike at the Singer factory to Fred now, we find these lives stitched together in ways these four people would, right up to the end, never imagine.  The old machine saw each become a little more personally and financially independent, contributors to their communities, it saw them through emotionally difficult times, but quietly.
The threads on the bobbins, a secret message sent on one of the bobbins and hidden with thread, journals recording every piece stitched with the machine along with a sample of the fabric, repairs to the machine, the care each generation gave it and their dependence on it, these are all woven into the story, all making you want to pull your little Featherweight machine out and buff it up and use it for something soon. 
This story will make you wish you had kept a stitch journal of each item you sewed with your machine.  It will make you want to get your great-grandmother’s treadle fixed and learn how to use it, it will give you a special appreciation of those who have gone before us, leading their quiet lives while sitting at their machine.
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The Sewing Machine is a beautiful, heart wrenching story spanning four generations. 
There are a large number of characters whose lives and loves entwine so it can be a little tricky keeping up with whose who. 
Once you’ve grasped who you’re sharing the story with it is a truly charming tale. 
The novel is built upon The Singer Sewing Machine Factory and in particular one Machine and the lives it changes. 
I can’t pop it in to a particular genre because it covers so many. Mainly, it is a story about life and the important things within it - like kindness, love and heartbreak. It’s a wonderful read and I highly recommend it.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book even if it was a little lightweight compared to my usual reads
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The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late January.

Rather a lot like The Red Violin with there being individual stories spliced together through time to bevvy the importance of a physical object, The Sewing Machine's characters learn to appreciate the minutiae of things and that even the most basic of choices can link you to a whole network of people outside of your daily life.
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Really enjoyed this book. Not only do I love sewing but I have a family history relating to the Singer factory and lived very near the area for many years.  I enjoyed the interwoven stories and everything felt very real, would highly recommend this book.
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I received this book from the publisher via net Galley for an honest review. This was a very good and enjoyable book to read. I enjoyed the use of the Singer sewing machine to unravel the story of four generations (1911 to 2016). Although, the reader jumps from one year back to another listening to the voices of the generations, it is very easy to read and follow. If you enjoy reading books about family secrets and the unfolding of these secrets over generations then I highly recommend this book.
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ABSOLUTELY GREAT.I seriously believe this is one of the best books I have read in the last year. Natalie Fergie is a new favorite author and one to keep an eye on. So, good.
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I really enjoyed this book, and how it spanned different decades featuring different generations. From 1911 right up to present day, Natalie Fergie does an excellent job of describing the different eras and what it was like to live during those times. 

I found the earlier stories especially fascinating, including the factory workers strike. The way it is linked by one sewing machine and the notebooks kept by the different generations is very well done, as is the detail to different time periods.

I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of this book.
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A really lovely book from the get go.  It follows the three stories of Jean, Connie, and Fred, separated by time but all connected through links which become apparent as the story progresses.  Definitely worth a read.
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