My mother taught me so much, so many things. She taught me how to knit and make mint jelly. She taught me how to make cornbread and sweep behind doors and under chairs. She taught me how to set the table and fold sheets. She taught me how to read and to love reading. She taught me that no is sometimes the best answer but if you’re going to say yes say it with enthusiasm. She taught me how to read Latin and do long division and to love poetry. But when it came to sewing Mamma didn’t succeed in teaching me very well.
She said it was time I learned to make my own clothes. Three older sisters had quickly learned. Now it was my turn. I remember being eager and excited when we went to Carey’s Department Store to choose a pattern and material. Mamma tried to steer me toward a simple shirtwaist pattern but I spied one that had a three-tiered ruffled skirt. Mamma finally reluctantly agreed to it. I chose seersucker cloth, some blue and some pink for alternating tiers. This was going to be beautiful!
We spread the material on a bed near the treadle sewing machine. I was disappointed to see the pattern pieces for tiers, sleeves, and bodice all had to be individually cut from the paper before we could even lay them on the cloth. Mamma said we must cut them all out and carefully lay them according to directions or we wouldn’t have enough cloth. When I finally started cutting after laboriously pinning every piece according to Mamma’s instructions, she quickly stopped me. What now? I wasn’t cutting accurately, she said. I must cut sleeves and all exactly with the pattern pieces or they wouldn’t fit when I started sewing.
Finally, all the pieces were cut and it was time to sew. I could hardly wait to see how my pretty dress would look! Maybe I’d even wear it that night. It wasn’t as easy operating that sewing machine as it looked when Mamma peddled with her feet and guided material under the needle. After a couple of seams which were anything but straight, Mamma said with patient frustration that I should wait till the next day to sew. “You’re tired,” she said. “It’s not good to try something new when you’re tired.”
Mamma tried to teach me how to make those ruffled tiers. I made the long basting seams which seemed like such a waste of time. Then when I tried to draw the stitches evenly into ruffles, the thread broke and I had to start over. Facings wouldn’t lie down neatly. Sleeves fought with me, determined to be crooked, unevenly stitched and just plain wacky.
After many days we finally finished the dress. Though I gave up several times, Mamma prodded me over and over until finally it was done, uneven hem and all. Then Mamma said, wiping her brow, “Honey, I think you’re just going to have to marry a doctor.”
The funny thing is I did marry a doctor, a veterinarian. But he wasn’t a rich doctor. We had two children and I did sew for them when they were little. Though I never became a good seamstress, I did at least have an idea how to put a garment together. No, my sewing lessons weren’t very successful. Mamma even told me not ever to wear that dress away from home!
But the life lessons I learned making that dress were invaluable and perhaps stuck better than the stitches did.
I learned you should start out simple. Better to do a good job with a simple pattern (or project) than to botch up a fancy one. Listen to good counsel (like a mother!) when making choices. Don’t take shortcuts. Follow directions. Finish what you start. And if you fail, it’s not the end of the world. Be ready to tear out seams and start over if that’s what it takes.
I think of my patient teacher mother when I read these verses from Proverbs 31:
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies…Strength and honour are her clothing…She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue…Her children arise up, and call her blessed.
4 responses to “A Mother’s Day Stitching Story”
Brenda I loved reading this. I could just see you trying to get those sleeves straight. 🙂Thank you for this sweet memory of you and Grandmother. She was such a patient and loving person. ❤️
Yes Brenda, so can I just see you, meticulously picking out just the right material cloth; making certain you had ”The Right Stuff.” Thank you for sharing this sweet ”Grandma/Grandmother” memory.
By the time I came of age, say about 17 ET, short for Emily Thomas and I gave her the nickname ET after she took me to see the movie ”ET” about a lost orphan that missed his ride on his UFO. Anyhoo, ET and J. Bug, short for Joanie Bug, took to Green Stamps the same way ducks take to water. They were determined to fill enough Green Stamp Books to buy themselves a sewing machine. After sellin’ the GSB’s to Mama, Daddy, an to one another, not to mention our neighborhood an Becky Stradley my kindergarten teacher’s neighborhood, The girls were exhausted. FINALLY Daddy had enough. They told him they had to sell 400 books make $400 to buy a sewing machine. The back of his neck fastly turned red then his ears, then zipped up his face. I had a perfect profile sittin’ behind him.
”I’ll buy them all from you. Better yet, let’s all go down to the Green Stamp Store and let me give ’em a piecee of my mind. And Betsy, if you see anything you want while we’re there, that’ll be your Mother’s slash Mama’s Day gift.” Daddy finished. Mama had big ol’ crocodile tears in her blue/grey eyes. ”Thank you, John,” she whispered.
Barb, what a wonderful story! I was never that good with green stamps. So you got the sewing machine? Who sewed?