C & G: Thanks Mom!

This is a blog to my mother. She’s done a lot of amazing things in her life – the most important of which is raising her four children with her husband, to be loving, kind, curious, interesting adults who believed they could do just about anything they set their mind to.

We all had to do chores around the house so we would be prepared to take care of ourselves and of those who would later be part of our family. We had to brush our teeth, do our homework, learn an instrument, play a sport, clean our room and do yard work.

However, we all also had the opportunity to learn from her. She always had time to teach us one of her many skills. She was patient and encouraging. It was a precious gift.

I took it for granted that everyone learned how to sew. My mother taught me, I taught my daughters. Until I began teaching overseas, I didn’t realise that most people can’t sew on a button or hem their trousers. Wherever I went, I became known at that “teacher who could sew”.

Mom taught me to sew when I was young – grade 6 or 7. She had – and still has – an old Singer sewing machine. I’m guessing it’s from the early 1950’s. It goes forward and backwards. No zig-zig stitch and no back stitch. The beginning and end of each seam had to be hand tied.

I sewed many dresses for dances on that machine. I mended blue jeans and made pillows. I made an apron and a very short mini dress with little patch pockets adorned with red X’s.

Mom taught me to be comfortable with fabric and not to be intimidated by any pattern. At university, I made three different Yves St. Laurent dresses for dances, using silk, satin and chiffon.

Without knowing it, I learned about the different qualities of different fabrics. I understood what fabric could and – more importantly – couldn’t do.  When a piece of clothing didn’t fit perfectly, altering it was the obvious solution.

Fraying the edges of all these different fabrics for one assignment reminded me of why I wished I’d had a zig-zag stitch on that old machine. Some of the satins I used so long ago frayed quickly and hand whipping the edges takes forever! But, if you don’t want your dress to come apart at the seams as you’re dancing, you have no choice!

Gathering all these different fabrics for another part of the work, I recalled those first few attempts at gathering fabric when I pulled too hard and the thread broke. I had to learn to do it in short steps, to be patient, to work with the fabric, not against it.

I’ve collected all the work I’ve done so far for my City and Guild course. Below is a photo of them. When I look at that photo I see two women: my mother, who gave me the love of textiles and the confidence to use them and myself, expanding my love of textiles through embroidery.

Without you, Mom, I wouldn’t have taken this path and wouldn’t be having such a fabulous time! Thank you!

5 thoughts on “C & G: Thanks Mom!

  1. I wish I had this sewing background. I can make stuff, but I’m not as proficient. Mum taught me simple sewing and mending tasks and I was taught some needlework skills at school too. It stuns me that people can’t do the most basic stuff too. They’ll even bin a perfectly good item because they’ve lost a button! Duh! 😉

  2. I have to thank my grandmother on my Dad’s side for opening the doors to sew and stitch. I still have her old treadle machine from the early 1900’s and some samples of her work..she was also a prolific tatter, crocheter and so much more.. I went even farther and learned all I could about knitting from my stepmother and I still picture her clicking away on her needles all these years later! Sewing and hand emboridery (machine embroidery too!) I love it all! I need to thank all in my family who taught me and guided me…what fantastic memories. Thank you for sharing it brought wonderful momories to the forefront of this old brain!

  3. My mom also started me sewing at about the sixth grade level. I made a simple apron and it turned out OK. Through high school and college I made many of my own clothes. In small town Iowa, sewing gave you the ability to make clothing that had a distinctive style that was your own. It made my wardrobe much more interesting.

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