Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Memories past and present

My dress was similiar to this 
Most people know that I flit from one craft to another. I'm kind of ADHD when it comes to crafting and get bored easily if I focus on one thing too long, so I welcomed the chance to sew again. I'd last used my machine when Covid first started, and everyone was needing face masks. After making about 200 of them, I grew tired of it and put my machine away. Inside the case, I knew it wouldn't collect dust, no matter how long it was there. 

So when it came time to make a special gift for a dear friend, I pulled out the machine, set it up, got everything ready and began working diligently. I would be presenting the gift on Saturday, so time was of the essence. 

Flipping on the sewing machine light, I slipped the pinned fabric beneath the presser foot and lowered it. As I depressed the foot pedal, the machine began to run, and it wasn't long before I was enjoying listening to the constant humming of the machine. As I worked, my mind began to wander, and I was transported to my childhood where that familiar rhythm was a constant in our home. 

Sewing was one of my mother's favorite things to do. She had a tiny sewing room in the upstairs of our house. It couldn't have been more than 6 feet wide by 9 feet long, but she didn't mind. It was her space, a place where she would retreat when my brother, sister, and I were being a little rowdy. 

I don't remember when she first started sewing, but her old Singer sewing machine seemed like it was constantly going. Before we began attending school, Mama was making our clothing. I remember visiting a nearby fabric mill not too far from our home with her on many occasions, the dye from the fabric burning my eyes as we entered the shop. Mama could spend hours in there, searching the pattern books, picking out buttons or thread, and having fabric measured and cut. Being there was interesting to me and is probably where I began my love of crafting many, many years ago. I loved feeling the different textures of the fabrics- corduroys, velvets, and linens. I loved seeing the beautiful prints of cotton, playing with the metal zippers, and digging my hands into large bins of multicolored buttons. We visited so often, the cashier and Mama became friends, calling each other by name. Usually, when Mama was having her fabric cut, I'd sit at a table perusing the pattern books. I quickly learned how to find a pattern number on the page and find the corresponding pattern envelope from the filing cabinets based on the maker's brand. Butterick, McCall's, Vogue, and Simplicity were the most popular back then. After Mama had paid for her purchase, we'd leave the store and head to the car. I still remember the sound of the brown paper bag crinkling as Mama tucked it under her arm and reached in her purse for her car keys. Many times, we had no idea what Mama was going to make, but we quickly learned that if she was making something for one of us, we'd better leave her alone and let her do her work when we got home. 

As we grew older and money became tighter, Mama took in sewing for others. There was one woman in particular who was fond of Mama's sewing skills and employed her regularly to make her wardrobe. Mama would work on her dresses when we were at school, but sometimes, she'd work on a specific request late into the evening in order to complete it by the customer's deadline. 

Throughout our growing up years, Mama made my sister and I dresses, shorts, pajamas, and other things. She was determined to dress us fashionably on a budget. 

One of my favorite memories was of a skating outfit I'd asked Mama to make for me. I was a preteen and all of my friends had cute little skating outfits with skirts that would flair and flutter as they spun around on the roller-skating rink. I knew we couldn't afford to buy one of those but asked Mama if she might make one for me. She told me if she could find a pattern, she'd be glad to do it so the next time we went to the fabric shop, guess who was the first to reach the pattern books?! Me! I was bound and determined to find a skating outfit and I did. When I showed Mama the pattern, she said she could make it and agreed to do it before my next skating party. 

Her sewing machine hummed all day and most of the night that Friday before my party. In fact, I fell asleep listening to the rhythmic humming of her machine. I had no idea what a sacrifice it was for her to do that for me and didn't understand it until I had a family of my own and began making their clothes. The eye strain she must have endured during the twilight hours and the nagging back pain as she stayed hunkered down in that hard, wooden chair at her sewing table were evidence of her love for me. 

On the morning of the party, she presented me with a beautiful lavender skating outfit complete with matching bloomers. I tried it on, and it fit perfectly. I knew I was going to look so pretty out there on the rink floor with all my girlfriends and I did. 

As I rounded the corner on the last section of my project, I watched the sewing machine needle move up and down quickly piercing the fabric. It was mesmerizing to see how delicately and swiftly the thread was locked into place. When I completed the project, I held it in my hands and felt the stitching. I wondered how many times my mother must have done the same thing as she finished one of our pieces of clothing. 

Love comes in many forms. Some ways are practical and found through acts of service like the ones my mother gave me. I'm so thankful she was resourceful while we were growing up. We were taught never to waste a thing. Her mother, my grandmother, taught Mama well and used to say, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I'm sure that was a depression era sentiment, but I've remembered that since the day I first heard it. If there's ever a scrap of fabric in our home that can be reused, repurposed, or recycled, you can bet your bottom dollar it will be saved for a rainy day. 

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