Today many sewing projects are documented ad naseum – something that I rather enjoy. I love see in-progress photos from friends and strangers. It helps raise the curtain on the magic of Oz.
My first sewing project had no such documentation. Something I rather regret. For all the of photo-taking that my mom and I did on family trips and when we were within 5-ft of our dogs, the act of sewing didn’t get any documentation.
There are many photographs of the costumes and clothes my mom made for me and my brother. Even then, the pictures focused on the people in the photos, rather than the clothes we wore. But there are no pictures of her sewing away into the night, a regular occurrence in our house. If she were a generation or two later, maybe she would have been Instagramming progress shots? Not in the 1980s, when digital cameras were something out of Star Trek. Why waste film on something that is imperfect and not finished? I mean, I can’t really blame them. Digital media has supported the growth of this everyday-documentation because the only resource that we risk using up is our storage space. 🙂
But I am off track.
In hindsight, a #FirstTimeSewing photo would have been magical to see. In high school I asked my mom if she could teach me to sew. I have only vague recollections of what brought this about. I think I wanted to know this skill, I wanted the sewing machine to not be foreign to me. Together we sifted through her sewing patterns to find a dress I would like. (I really need to go back through her patterns ASAP). I chose a 1960s baby doll dress that had been the same pattern than she once used for one of my regular dress-up dresses. This is not a dress pattern I like wearing anymore.
I learned how to choose fabric (cotton good, polyester ick), match thread and bias tape, read patterns, stay stitch, gather a sleeve cap, install an elastic casing for single fold bias tape (and elastic, with a safety pin attached to one end that is pushed and pulled through the casing), and handstitch a blind hem under my mom’s tutelage. I mean, shit. Most of that knowledge sat dormant for years. But every now and then, when I resumed sewing, I was able to say “oh, I know how to do that” and keep moving forward with projects.
We made one dress out of some fabric my grandmother had (from India, it was given to her) and that was the muslin. I then made a shorter version (cuz 16-year-old wanted SHORT skirt) in a red floral pattern that didn’t age well with me.
Following the dress, I wanted to make a messenger bag. I couldn’t find something I liked in the stores and I think this is the first example of me turning to sewing to create something I wanted that wasn’t available elsewhere. We chose a Vogue pattern (a pattern set I cannot find anywhere in the house anymore). In this project, my mom taught me about interfacing (for the stiff bag), how to insert a zippered pocket, turning corners of a boxy bag, top stitching, placing and sewing velcro.
My mom was very patient. As she has always been with me as she has taught me arts and crafts – drawing, painting, card making, etc. She never got frustrated with me (at least not outwardly). We took everything slow. She showed me how to do certain things and then let me continue with the process.
Yeah, there was seam-ripping. She taught me (by demonstration) that mistakes were ok, they happen. You just rip out the seam and do it again and again until you get it right.
Our parents impart so many lessons on us as we grow up. Learning to sew has changed my life. Sewing is a part of my identity.