Saturday, June 14, 2014

To Sew or Not To Sew


Lately, on several blogs I have seen lots of sewing and quilting projects. The local museum promotes quilting often, usually with an autumn quilt show. I don’t do sewing because I never could conquer it. To just sit down at a sewing machine and face threading it raised my anxiety level. I did crochet some, but did not enjoy it much. Knitting was more pleasurable to me. However, even in knitting I had a record of two to one in the success department.  

My textile of choice was fiber, and I did a lot of weaving in my living room while rearing kids. My big projects were woven purses with the favorite style being a clutch. At one point, a woman visiting from France brought me a piece of her new suit made of a gray suede cloth and asked me to match it. I was nervous, but when I finished the purse and mailed it to her, she replied it was perfect. When the boys were small, I wove up several bags and on a trip to Montana, I pedaled them all the way. Some I sold out right, and some I bartered with for souveniers from shops. I did not get rich, but it was a great experience though. 

My Granny was a master at sewing; she was a real seamstress. She would do anything with a piece of fabric. I have a slender memory of her using a treadle Singer before getting an electric sewing machine. She tailored herself a dress and coordinating coat one winter.

Granny sewed for her granddaughters. For my first sister and me she made matching dresses which I hated as I got older. Either the fabric matched or was the same fabric in a slightly different shade. She made us Easter outfits, and I remember a dress with a silky lined duster coat she made me when I was about five. She made us white pinafores to wear over many dresses. They looked like serving maid aprons but with lots of lace or ruffles. They tied in the back with big bows, and I was forever being called over to have my flying straps tied behind my back.

When I was a freshman in high school, Granny saw a sleeveless skimmer dress that she thought I would like. She looked in front of the Ramsey windows in her town and drew the dress on the back of a deposit slip. It was blue chambray fabric and below the waste were three rows of red ribbon, each row with a staggered red bow. Oh, it was a picture of summer and fun; I loved it. That autumn while it was still hot, I wore the dress to school and an older girl laughed at me. “What are you doing wearing a bathing suit cover-up to school!” She had lots of money and had all she wanted—except a stable home life.

Then I realized how it probably was a beach dress, but Gran thought it cute anyway. So did I but I wore it less frequently after being ridiculed. Every time I wore it, I hoped I would not see the hateful girl, and I will admit, some of the love for the dress faded.

Mother sewed too, but she was a busy mom and also worked some of those years. Gran was at home so she was the main sewer. Often trips to the store included all of us to choose patterns and fabrics. Gran and Mom spent many hours on tall stools at the back of Penny’s thumbing through Butterick patterns for just the right one…and then more time picking out just the right fabric along with thread, buttons, bias tape, and trims. I wore exquisitely made clothes, but sometimes I just wanted something store bought like the other girls!


When I was about five, clothing became a HUGE fight. I fell in love with pink. This would not have been so bad except my mother hated pink. She adored red. Oh, the tears that were shed when my mother wanted to force me to wear her colors. I remember my Gran stepping in and admonishing her daughter to let me be. Her policy was let me make this decision and the favorite would go away. She was a wise woman since I rarely wear pink today…and I actually do like red  now too.  

7 comments:

Patricia A. Laster said...

Oh, my goodness! We must be twins under the skin! I was in 9th grade before I got a store-bought dress--two, in fact. Before that, it was either Mom-made (there were 5 girls) or hand-e-downs from an aunt only 6 years older than I. Thanks for the memories.

Elephant's Child said...

Memory lane is getting crowded. My mother was an excellent seamstress and I/we wore almost nothing she didn't make.
My childhood self wanted to be like everyone else. How wrong I was.

Sioux said...

My mother and my grandmother both sewed. I was like you. There were some fancy frou-frou get-ups they stitched up that I hated...

Linda O'Connell said...

My mom wasn't very domestic, but you and I had a similar incident. It was dress up day freshman year of high school. My mom could only afford $10 for my new dress. The one I wanted cost $12 at Penney's. I ended up with a red and white checked dress, thought I looked cute until a girl asked why I was wearing a square dance dress. Kids can be so cruel.
I used to sew when my kids were little.

Marylin Warner said...

Gran was soooo right to let you make your own decision, Claudia!
The rude comment the girl made to you struck a chord with me. I got my last home perm as a sophomore, and two juniors made me want to curl up and die. High school is filled with horrors; if we can live through them and learn in spite of them, we're our own heroes.
Thanks for helping me reconnect with your blog...I still don't what happened that I lost you, but I've very glad I found you.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

My daughter was just asking me to teach her to use our sewing machine. Alas, I'm not very good. I have to re-learn every time I sit down, so teaching her is a bit like the blind leading the blind. Both of my grandmothers were great seamstresses. I recall a time when I chose a pattern and fabric and one of my grandmothers was going to teach me to sew. She had little patience and after about 30 minutes (I was truly a terrible sewing student) she sat me in front of the TV with a snack and sewed the dress without me. I still remember the dress. She did a wonderful job. lol

Lynn said...

I loved hearing about your mother and grandmother sewing... and I'm sure you can too! It has to be in the genes. My mother could sew up a storm and my little sister and I always had matching outfits too! I never had store bought clothing until much later in life. What I wouldn't give for those hand-sewn items now! I do sew, but not much lately. After making bridesmaids dresses for a wedding (way stressful), I put the sewing machine away for a bit. Start with something small... a little outfit for your dog!