Archive for May, 2007

Sewing Lessons

My grandmother was born and raised in Mexico, and we still have relatives there, some cousins of my Dad’s.  She was shipped off to boarding school and taught the needlework arts by the nuns.  Some of these arts were passed on to us, most useful, but some not, like how to use cord and a shuttle to make a fishing net.  I used to be able to do this but have not found much use for it in my suburban life, so have forgotten how.  Anyhow, my grandmother, Mimi (short for Maria), was responsible for one of the most useful skills I have ever acquired.  She used to drive up from Southern California every year during the summer to visit us and would bring things to give to us.  One year she brought a whole stack of white cloth, each piece about 2 1/2 ft square.  They were feed sacks of some kind from the cousins in Mexico, I think.

We lived in a housing development that had a community pool.  It opened at 12:00 and closed at 5:00.  Our goal was to hit the water shortly after noon and not come home until 5:00, and you can easily imagine what an immense boon this was to my mother to have most of her kids gone and supervised all day long.  Anything that kept us from the pool was an evil thing, so my mom used the pool as bait to make us do various onerous chores.  One year my Dad had acquired a load of used bricks, most with the mortar still stuck to them, so we were required to chip the mortar off two or three bricks before we could go to the pool.  And the summer of the white fabric, I was required to hem two of them into dishtowels before I could go to the pool.

My mom’s sewing machine was not a zigzag at that time, so this meant a double turnunder all around the square with neat corners.  By the time I got to the bottom of the stack of fabric squares, many weeks later, I could hem like a champ with an accurate eye to judge a 1/4 inch turnunder.  This skill, mastered before I entered high school, has come in very very handy over the years.  In college, both my roommate and I were taking a pattern design class.  I can’t remember what the heck I did for the final project, but Sue made a skirt with a wide full ruffle.  We were both using my old 1919 Singer, and the day before the project was due, Sue was moaning and groaning about the hem and how it would take hours to baste and sew, and she had to study for a test etc etc, so I told her I would do it, sat down, and whipped that baby out in a half an hour.  And now I can hem tablecloths and T-shirts and all kinds of things fast and accurately.  Thanks, Mimi.

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     On Saturday, A and I went to the advertized sale at the only local fabric shop, a JoAnn’s Superstore.  There used to be two JoAnn’s here in the local area, but they closed them down and consolidated into a new location.  It really is a much bigger and brighter store, but though the yarn selection is much bigger, the fabric selection has shrunk alarmingly.  Good pattern sales though.

 They were having a 99 cent Simplicity pattern sale, so both girls and I picked out lots of patterns.  A has been trying to fit a tank top pattern to herself with great success, so now that the hard part was all done, I used a copy of her final pattern as a pattern block to fit this new acquisition:                                                                                                          


I used some aqua knit I have had for years and stitched up the top, which fits amazingly well.  I will be making more of these.  Sorry it is a little rumpled in the photo, since the first thing A did with it after trying it on was to shove it in her hamper to put in the wash to see if the knit softens up.


This week, other than buying patterns, I finished up a navy T-top for myself that has been languishing half done for months, and hemmed a tablecloth.  I check in at the upholstery fabric store from time to time to see if they have the upholstery cottons on sale, and if so, I get 2 yards of whatever print strikes my fancy.  I cut the length to 70 inches and hem it all around.  This makes a nice hard-wearing tablecloth for hardly any money, since I usually pay only $1 or $2 a yard. 

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I made my first garment in sewing class.  My teacher in high school was a really attractive young woman at that time, sweet and a good teacher.  She was a ‘Miss’ when I first knew her, but by the time I was a senior, she was a ‘Mrs.”  I took Home Ec for all four years in high school.  One of my first garments, a red plaid cotton blend A-line skirt, was for the unit on working with plaids.   We had to carefully baste all the seams together with a stitch the teacher taught us to be sure all the plaid lines met up exactly.  I was proud of my skirt and ended up getting an A on it.  When the teacher handed the garments back to us, I remember folding it up neatly to take home to show my mother.  I put the folded skirt in with the rest of my books and carried the stack home.  I forgot all about the skirt until the next day when I showed up for Home Ec class.

 When I got into the classroom, the teacher called me over and handed me my skirt.  I was really puzzled since I had taken it home the day before.  She told me that she had been driving home after school and had passed a group of small boys, one of whom was wearing my skirt and prancing around, to the hilarious laughter of his friends.  She stopped the car, since she recognized the skirt, went up to the boys (a safer proposition in those days) and got my skirt back.  I must have dropped it from my stack of books on the way home.  So I got my skirt back having never even known it was missing, and I wore it for years after that.

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We are back from the graduation trip and I can show a few pictures of the tops I made in action.


Here is M in Why Knot Knit in Atlanta, wearing McCalls 5384.  She found this top very comfortable in the hot Southern weather.


M in  our  motel room in Atlanta, wearing Simplicity 4180.  This is the turquoise heavy gauze version.

I wore my two knit versions of the same top, and it was totally comfortable.  I am going to have to overcome my pattern burnout and make some more.

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