Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Learning To Sew

Today I spent the majority of my day searching for a hand project to take to my next sew-in. It's funny because many years ago I did handwork all the time. Now I'm hard pressed to find something to occupy my time for a couple of hours since all my work is done with a machine.
When I was twelve, I remember finding a picture I liked of a small boy and girl walking up a spiral staircase holding a candle. I liked it enough that I found a piece of muslin and taped it to the window where I spent an afternoon tracing the picture onto the muslin so I could embroider it. I added a poem in cross-stitch and drew a border of children's toys. Of course, now days they have light boxes for tracing tasks but the window worked quite nicely for me. I don't remember exactly how long it took me to embroider the piece but I'm guessing it was a couple of weeks. I still have it and if I can locate it will post a picture of it.
I was the second oldest of nine girls and two boys so money was scarce. We lived in a rural area and I attended a school where there was about 100 students from grades Kindergarten through twelve. The graduating class was rarely more than three and often times there were two grades represented in each class. I began to sew because as a teenager I did not want to wear second-hand clothes. To earn money I hiked into the woods and peeled cascara bark. Once my burlap sack was full, I would hike back home and lay the bark onto tarps to dry. Once it dried, I could sell it to a business who used it as an ingredient in laxatives and other things.
Back then patterns were $.10 and $.15 each. I would buy a couple of patterns and use them to sew my entire wardrobe for the upcoming year. I became adept at modifying the patterns and adding detail so no one would know I was reusing the same patterns over and over. I did find another use for second-hand things.
I would create clothing and accessories from items I purchased at the thrift store and resell it to a consignment store in town. I made halter tops, floppy hats, purses made out of jeans, jean skirts, bikinis, etc. Back then, we didn't have machines that embroidered so I would add embroidery by hand to make it unique. I remember making a jean jacket using a blouse pattern. I embroidered rosebuds on the collar and cuff with a large rose on the back yoke. It looked real nice when I was finished.
Being well skilled in the art of sewing created problems for me in school. Because the other students knew I made all of my clothes they would come to me during Home Ec class for direction. Unfortunately, the teacher wasn't comfortable with this and she was very vocal about it. She was also our teacher for the cooking part of Home Ec and she wasn't any better at teaching us how to cook as she was teaching us how to sew. In any case, it was such a bad experience that I took Home Ec that one year and never took it again. Now days, I don't think sewing is being taught because of budget constraints which is unfortunate.
Although my children would sit next to me while I sewed, none of them have inherited my love for sewing and/or quilting. They all enjoy the things I make for them, but have no desire to learn how to do it themselves. But I have a mother-in-law who loves to quilt and we have shared a lot of moments enjoying it together. Maybe my granddaughter will be interested so I can pass along my knowledge to her.

1 comment:

Piecefulafternoon said...

Great story - I remember learning to sew at an early age and making school clothes for the same reason you did. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

And if you can't find any handwork for SueBee's sew-in - I'd be way more than happy to send you something from here to work on. :-)