Gypsy's Travels

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sew Much More

I come from a long line of seamstresses. My GM lived through the depression and learned to turn out wonderfully tailored clothes made from my GF's cast off suits. Sitting on the floor, listening to the hum of her treadle sewing machine, my sister and I played with buttons from a container nearby. There were a few new buttons on cards, but most were carefully gleaned from old clothes headed for recycling or cut off before the threadbare items were discarded or used for cleaning rags. Nothing was wasted. One of her sisters "sewed for the public."

I don't know where my mother learned to sew but she made a lot of my clothes, especially the formals. With five boys to sew for, she becane quite adept at making shirts. So adept that my father never wore anything else but his uniform and the shirts she made him. Mother insisted I take home-ec in the 6th grade so I could learn to sew. I fought it, but finally gave in. I hated making the notebook with all the different kinds of seams, but I still remember how to make them. I don't remember wearing anything I made in that class and didn't return to the sewing machine for many years.

My sister, on the other hand, took to sewing like a bear to honey. She was sewing her own clothes in Junior High and by the time she finished High School, she was bartering her talents for fabric and trim. She never slacked off and several years ago opened her own costume shop. She is highly recognized for her designs and superior workmanship. She occasionally allows me to help her out, but I am not in her league.

I returned to the sewing machine after I married and realized the creative and economic impact sewing could have on my life. I decided to take a sewing course at the local Junior College. DH didn't see the benefits of sewing and wanted me to finish my degree, so we compromised. I took Microbiology and sewing. He changed his mind when he saw how much money he saved on curtains and clothes. One of my early dresses was tailored and had bound buttonholes. If I had known in advance what that entailed, I would never have considered it. Fools, however, rush in where angels fear to tread and the dress turned out beautifully. It was one of my favorites.

I encouraged my daughters to sew, but they didn't feel the need to learn.
"You make everything we need, Mom," they told me. Slowly, they have gained insight and interest. Maybe one day they will find the pleasure in that each generation before them has.

Even if there is not a great impact, yet, on my dughters, I have started encouraging the interest of my grandchildren. They have been inundated with the fruits of my labors - quilts, clothes, dolls, books - and they request more. A few months ago I bought a $1.00 bag of scrap fabric for two of my granddaughters. Excitement rained for several weeks. They cut, tore, tied, stapled, and taped the fabric to fit their needs. I offered an old sewing machine and a wole new dimension opened for them. Nine year-old Em learned to troubleshoot the ancient machine and began designing new outfits for her sister and herself. We tactfully explained why their efforts should not be worn outside the house. They were having such fun that I left them to their own explorations of fabric and machine for awhile. Em was entranced when I showed her how to turn the sewn fabrics with seams to the inside for a more finished look.

Finally, Em came to me and told me she wanted to make a purse. I tried to suggest a few different styles that would be simple to make, but she had definite ideas and wanted nothing less. We worked together on her design and she cut and sewed it all herself.

Happy with her success, Em started a quilt and surprised me by matching all her intersecting seams. When she tired of it, I suggested a pillow case. We shopped for fabric, again she brushed off my suggestions and knew just what she wanted. Em has been very excited about all the new possibilities. I have no doubt she will continue to explore, dseign, and create. She doesn't yet realize the legacy she is carrying on.

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  1. What a cutie! She is using her new pillowcase and wants to make more!

    I, on the other hand, did inherit your desire to buy fabric!

  2. The acquisition of fabric is a whole 'nother story......LOL...

  3. Our daughter #2 has been sewing on her own since leaving home and going out on her own. Artists don't make much $. She even made a small quilt for our GD when she was a little girl. She still has it although I think it is here at our place as is normal with kids and storage.

  4. I remember one doll, in particular, that went without hair for the LONGEST time.

    Though maybe if I had learned to sew it would have happened sooner.

    But then it wouldn't be such a good story.

  5. Based on what I've seen with my friends, I think the desire to buy scrapbooking supplies is the current incarnation of the fabric buying obsession our mothers and grandmothers had :)


  6. Wait--she does that too! Oh mom, we love you and your obsessions!

  7. So, you're saying *your* obsessions are genetic abw :) ?

  8. Nothing like a good family discussion!

  9. Uh oh. Who is the other anonymous from our family? It has smiley faces, must be my oldest sister?


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