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.