Thursday, May 14, 2009


Sewing seemed to go along with the whole homestead theme. If we were going to do everything else ourselves, why not make our own clothes?

I had sewed from a young age, stitching my finger in the old treadle sewing machine my grandmother had left to my mother when I was only 3 - and supposed to be napping.

I had an aunt, Mar by name and actually my mother's aunt, who sewed, and when I was turning 7 she sent me a package full of scraps of lace and buttons. I made doll clothes from my mother's leftovers and added those things. It gave me great delight to make skirts for my doll and little tops.

Then when I was 9 I started some serious sewing. I had been knitting and weaving potholders to sell by then, but I felt it was time to start making clothes for me.

I don't remember the first article, but by the time our things came out of storage after our year in Kentucky in 1951-52 and then our year in a rented house, 1952-53, I had access to a sewing machine and began to make skirts.

I made pleated skirts with elaborate calculations instead of a pattern - just so much for the length and so many pleats to take up the width at the waist, a plain waistband, and a zipper. Some fabrics were designed to be used in reversible skirts: one side plain, the other plaid. I had to do my calculations just right to make sure only the plain showed on one side, and only plaid on the other, and make the waistband so it looked good whichever way I wore the skirt.

I also made a few gathered skirts out of fabrics with a border print. 

I continued to make skirts, also pajamas and an apron, a two-piece dress, and then in high school two formals and a madra men's jacket for my boy friend and a matching skirt for me .

The two formals I made out of the same pattern, a year apart, because the design was so interesting. Following the directions, I lined up the strangely shaped pieces in seemingly random fashion and couldn't imagine, the first time, how it would turn into anything resembling a dress. Then, with one final alignment, the whole strange mess slipped together and I had an elegant formal before me. I made the second one only to have that great experience again!

In college it was not easy to sew so I just knitted. I couldn't afford the wool so I knitted up for other people what they bought for me to work on. It satisfied my desire to work with my hands.

I made my maternity clothes, once we were married, simple tops and skirts with a cheap machine ($39!). And I made costumes for the resulting children for Halloween and for dress-up: a boy astronaut suit and a girl one, and then later Indian outfits. I also sewed for my nephews.

And then life got in the way for a while. I was working at the TM center, we went to Switzerland, and sewing was left behind. 

Usually when I sewed in was in great gulps. I couldn't make just one thing. When the passion hit me, it hit full-force, and I bought patterns and fabric and established a one-person assembly line. And I'd fizzle out after three or four garments.

Then, there on the farm, as the frantic activities of spring were subdued by the hazy, overheated days of early summer, I was suddenly overtaken by another urge to sew.

Notice that none of the items I had sewn had anything to do with fashion. I was sewing for the sake of doing it, and for clothing my body, or those of my children, or I was looking for the satisfaction of having made something useful. But making something to be stylish wasn't part of it.

So as I set about making clothes for my children, I was looking for an inward satisfaction but not with an eye toward what might help a child fit in.

In fact, even back in 1977, it was hard for a child to fit in with home-made clothes, as I found out when they all went back to school.

But by then the sewing urge had left me once again, and I had unfinished items sitting in a drawer, the pins still holding the patterns to the cut-out fabric.

My daughter was 9 1/2 and I did make her a few cute things. The real sewing fun was ahead of us, but I knew that if I had to make clothing for our family I could. With that sense of accomplishment I put it all away for another day.

1 comment:

Tessie258 said...

I learned to sew on my mom's old treadle machine when I was about 12 and I have been sewing ever since. Now my eyes have gotten bad and I don't enjoy it as much as I used to...but I still love the feeling of creating things out of fabric.
I sewed all of Jeffrey's clothing when he was a baby. Each child that I got I got a little more bored because boys clothes just aren't any fun! I used to love to embroider on the yokes of denim shirts(remember that craze?)
Brings back fun memories.
I used to make the same kind of simple skirts. they always were my favorite especially if I could get my hands on a nice piece of linen.