I think that the single greatest gift my Mom nurtured in me was my interest in sewing. My desire to make my own clothes, to create practical beauty, if you will. The year she sent me to sewing school (was I even in 7th grade yet?) was a dream come true. Two sets of sewing lessons — 12 weeks — taught me the basics — how to choose a pattern, how to choose the right fabric for a pattern, how to adjust a pattern to fit me, how to read/follow instructions — and changed my life. I could take a tissue-paper pattern, fabric and thread and create my clothes. It was better than magic.
Learning to sew gave me, a shy kid, confidence in myself. I might not have understood long division, but I could create a beautiful outfit in a few hours!
Once I turned 16 and got a job (in a fabric store, of course!) I could buy my own fabric and supplies. I loved my job — working with older women who shared their love of sewing (and their helpful hints and shortcuts) with me helped me hone my craft (although, truth to tell, I didn’t think of it that way back then). I loved to pick out a pattern and fabric, then race home and make a new outfit. My Mom used to complain that I ran the sewing machine at such a high rate of speed that our house shook. Did I sew slower, which is likely what my Mom wanted me to do? Nope. I moved that Singer sewing machine to the concrete basement to cut down on the vibration, so I could keep it floored! So many patterns, so little time!
My fabrics changed with the seasons: brightly colored cottons for dresses and shirts for me in the summer, dark cotton plaid flannels for shirts for my boyfriend (now husband) in the winter, brightly colored dresses for my nieces and their dolls at Christmas. Pinning, marking and cutting a pattern was something that I did with ease.
When I got my first college apartment I branched out: window treatments, pillows, tablecloths and more spun out from under my faithful Singer’s feed dogs! At one point I even had a roommate who sewed. We inspired each other. And we created some awesome clothes.
When I graduated from college my Mom gifted me a Viking sewing machine, which I put to work immediately in a whirl of projects for my first grown-up apartment (which had a tiny sewing room!). And then my husband Mike and I moved into our dump of a first house. I bought yards and yards of fabric and made curtains, matching bedding, pillows and so much more. My machine ran at top speed on nights and weekends as I sewed my way from room to room, project to project. I eventually wore that Viking out. Yes. Yes, I did!
Sewing taught me to have confidence in my decision making and faith that if something didn’t come out exactly right that I could likely fix it…with a seam ripper and a pair of scissors!
And better yet?
Sewing allowed me to give me back: I taught a group of bright-eyed 5th graders my magical skill and they have gone on to create their own brands of practical beauty. I’ve made quilts and wall hangings that were raffled off to raise funds for our local schools. I’ve hemmed and repaired clothing for my kids’ friends who are on tight budgets. I’ve sewn window treatments for some delightful young adults who otherwise would have gone without. I make cat beds for our local animal shelter. These projects have brought me joy and helped someone else.
I can’t imagine my life without a sewing machine. Do you have a tool, a talent that you cherish? Tell me…what is it?