I’m one of those late “baby boomers”. My mother, a stay at home mom, was an excellent cook; not a gourmet cook, but she produced tasty and nutritious meals. However, she did not sew. Oh sure, she could sew on a button or hem a skirt or shirt sleeve, or mend a minor tear, but she did not own a sewing machine and didn’t want to own one or know any more than she did about sewing.
On the other hand, I was chomping at the bit to learn to sew. The way I saw it, if I could sew, I could make clothes I wanted to wear and that fit, plus I could have my clothes in the colors I wanted them in and not have to be content with whatever color the store offered. Yeah, I could see lots of benefit in learning to sew. It also appealed to the creative side of me.
Back in the day, girls usually got to take home economics classes in seventh grade. It was offered as a choice; sewing classes and cooking classes. I had plenty of help with the cooking, but not sewing. I promptly and avidly enrolled myself into the sewing class. All of my classmates had mothers who were knowledgeable in sewing and there was a sewing machine in their homes and they proudly wore homemade clothing.
I was as green as they come. The only implements I was familiar with were needles, pins, scissors and thread. Never heard of a sewing pattern. Our first project was an apron. Very simple. Most of the girls had that one completed in one day. What they didn’t finish in class was taken home and finished with mom’s help. I didn’t have that option and coupled with the fact I was pretty clueless, the project took me five times as long to finish. My second project was a simple pull-over, sleeveless shift dress. With that project I learned more about clothing construction such as darts and neck and armhole facings, and fabric grain. It took me the rest of the class term to finish my second project. Most of the other girls were completing sixth or seventh projects by that time. My interaction with the instructor was mostly being told I had not sewn it correctly and I would have to undo it. I became very familiar with the seam ripper. My armhole and neck facings were nubs by the time I got them in correctly. A fellow classmate took pity on me and offered me more instruction than the teacher. Eventually, I did finish the shift and proudly wore it. It was an apple red denim fabric.
Two days before the end of the class term, the instructor called me to her desk and informed me that the ONLY reason she was not giving me a failing grade was because I put forth the effort. I received a D-minus for the class. I was disappointed, but not discouraged.
One of the first items I bought when I left home and could afford it was a second-hand sewing machine. It did not do zig-zag stitching, therefore I was obliged to do buttonholes by hand. The machine sewed backward and forward; that’s it. Later, my mother-in-law helped me learn how to sew. I eventually sewed my entire maternity wardrobe and made curtain’s for the baby’s room. After my second child was born, we moved away from her. As chance would have it, I moved in right next door to a wonderful woman who was about 10 years my senior and who had learned to sew at five years of age. She helped me out a lot! Plus, I upgraded my sewing machine to a more modern level. More about the lessons from my neighbor in a future blog.
When my oldest started first grade I had sewn her entire wardrobe for school. I only bought her underwear, shoes, socks and a coat. I did make a lightweight Fall jacket. A little further down the road, I made a wedding dress. I’ll save that story for another time as well.
I came a long way from a D-minus and I was quite satisfied with myself! The greatest compliment I ever received was a monetary offer to me to create an identical article I was wearing at the time. I can laugh off that D-minus now. A sincere and heartfelt thanks to all who assisted me along the way!!
I highly recommend learning to sew. It can be a frustrating experience in the beginning, but once you get past that, the sky’s the limit!!