I love to sew. How did it all begin? I grew up in Western PA. Sadly, my mother died when I was 5. Fortunately for me, my mother’s mother, my grandmother, was like a mother to me in every way after my mother died. It was she who taught me how to sew.
One afternoon she told me that we were going to make a dress. Who would be the lucky beneficiary of this project? Ann, Raggedy that is. I ran into my bedroom and scooped her into my arms and hurried back into our dining room and sat her in the center of the table. Raggedy sat wide-eyed, like me, as I watched my grandmother expertly lay out the fabric and quickly produce a dress-shaped piece of material. I remember the sound of the shears making their way across the table as the pattern pieces were cut. Soon we were threading a needle and sewing the seams, fitting the sleeves, hemming the dress, and adorning it with a button or two. We carefully slipped the dress over her head, and she sat there, beaming in her new frock. She wasn’t the only one beaming. I was mesmerized. I was awestruck at how, in one afternoon, using a few simple items, beautiful clothing could be created.
It wasn’t long before I went into the fabric department at JC Penney’s and perused the pattern books myself, selected a pattern, and then walked through the store to select the fabric I would use to make my creation. Picking out notions like thread, zippers, buttons, seam tape, and whatever else the pattern might call for took time as well. I would come home and lay out the fabric on that same dining room table that was used to make Raggedy Ann’s dress. I cut the fabric with my grandmother’s shears; I still have them today: silver, sparkling, and sharp.
I became more and more comfortable working behind the sewing machine, a Singer Featherweight model that I still have today. My grandmother’s ever watchful eye remained on me, guiding me gently. What an amazing teacher she was! One afternoon I had an argument with my brother. I cannot even remember what it was about but what I do remember is returning to the sewing machine determined to do all of the sewing by myself. And I remember my grandmother stood back and let me. That first dress I made was an exceedingly bright yellow double knit dress with cap sleeves, a yoke, and a full flare that could have only been worn in the 70s. The hem was huge. I know this because when I wore it to school, a friend bluntly asked me if I had made the dress myself. Trying to remain modest and stifle my intense pride, I simply replied, “Yes.” She then informed me with equal bluntness that the hem was too big. Evidently I wasn’t the only seamstress in the 7th grade.
Regardless of the feedback that I got from my classmate, my family was a source of encouragement. My father always allowed me to go to Penney’s and pick out a pattern and get what I needed to make it. I made many projects from purses to dresses, blazers, skirts, slacks, capes, and even a quilt for a friend of mine who was about to give birth to her 3rd child. However I stopped sewing some time ago. With the demands of my family and a business, I just have not been able to get back to it. A couple of years ago while wandering around a flea market, I noticed a black case like the one that my Singer sewing machine is stored. The vendor told me that the model is worth something today. At that time I would never consider selling my machine, and I still have no desire to part with it. I hope that I can someday carve out some time to get back to a hobby that I truly enjoyed, and maybe someday I may be able to share what I learned from my grandmother with my grandchildren.