What does sewing mean to you, friends?
Today, I would like to talk about what it means to me!
As I grew up, my mother sewed. Not only did she enjoy sewing, but she was quite skilled at. Even now, at 86 years old and unable to sew, she keeps a few handmade pieces in her closet. They may not fit her thinner frame, but they are too dear to part with. My favorite is a suit made in the early 80’s from ultra-suede. It might be outdated, but is still meticulously sewn and beautifully crafted.
When I was ten years old, my mother finally tired of me standing behind her chair, watching her sew, so she let me try out her sewing machine. We didn’t have money for repairs, during those days, so it was a big deal for me to touch that heavenly machine! I started with straight seams and quickly graduated to doll clothes. By age eleven, I was too old to get a Barbie, but my sister got one for Christmas and I made that doll a complete wardrobe as a Christmas gift. I even got my hands on a real beaver pelt and Barbie got a beaver skin coat. Not only did I sew that one by hand, but my mom helped me cut it out with a razor blade so we didn’t get fur everywhere. Don’t tell PETA!
By the time I entered Home Economics, my teacher couldn’t believe what I was sewing. I finished the first class project—a silly white apron—in record time. However, by 8th grade, I made a fully lined sheath dress. It was purple wool tweed and I wore a long sleeved turtleneck under it. It was the 60’s and I loved the colors. Even better, I got an A!
For my 15th birthday, I finally got a machine of my own—a wonderful used Singer. It was one of the things I took with me to boarding school, my junior and senior years of high school. Good look, too, since I ended up making all of the costumes for our school operettas in both years. (We put on Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado.)
My first husband hated my sewing. I am not sure why, even to this day, but I gave up sewing for those years. After almost 14 years in that rocky marriage, I left with my two young sons. That first year was such a struggle. What did I do for fun or to let off stress? Gradually, I remembered how much I’d always enjoyed sewing. My cousin took me to a fabric store that specialized in designer outerwear fabric, where I bought enough remnants for both boys to have complete ski outfits. I altered the pattern to fit my sons—my oldest was a lanky 6 feet tall at thirteen!—and put the logo from the designer lining on the jacket sleeves. All their friends commented on how wealthy I must be to get them a pair of designer ski outfits. They proudly told their friends that their mom made it! I found my joy again!
Much to my surprise, there was also another man for me. I believed that no one would want a forty-something woman with teenage boys, but I was wrong. What joy he brought to my life, with his encouragement and love.
Eventually, as I hit my mid-forties, the Big 4 patterns stopped fitting me well. What a blow! They had never failed me before, so I couldn’t understand why they no longer fit. Unfortunately, I lived in the middle of nowhere in Saskatchewan, CA, so there was no teacher to consult or internet to learn about alterations from. Finally, I got tired of wasting fabric and took up quilting. At least there were women around me who liked to quilt. To this day, I haven’t found anyone in my community who sews clothing.
Still, I longed to master pattern fitting! One day, I found a Threads Magazine at the library and began my research. In 2006, as a Christmas gift from my wonderful husband, I registered for a sewing retreat with Loes Hinse in Carmel, California. I had enough air miles to fly and off I went. It was an eye opening experience. I didn’t know there were other women in the world just like me! I credit Loes with finding my sewing mojo and my joy once again. She helped me alter her patterns to fit my changing body. They were easy to sew, perfectly fitted, and provided instant gratification. My love of indie designers began on that trip.
Of course, getting a computer and finding sewing forums really helped me understand my new figure. Yes, I had gained weight but that was not my problem. My body was changing in other ways. There were adjustments for all these things: tilted pelvis/recessed pelvis, forward shoulders, stooping back, and forward neck. I seemed to be shrinking across the front, between my arms, while my back was expanding and enlarging. I was always a pear shaped woman, but with the addition of a belly, I’m now a pear-apple hybrid!
Two years ago, I took a class with Lorraine Henry. Another life changing experience! Light bulbs started going off rapidly, as I discovered more figure variations and how to alter for them. Soon afterwards, I also discovered Jenny and her blog, Cashmerette. Her posts about sewing and body positivity opened a new, interesting world for me. There should be no shame in my body and its structure. I did not have figure flaws, just figure variations. It was a joy to watch Jenny, Mary, and their young friends start this collective with that same message in mind. Maybe I had something to contribute to other women, as well, so I started submitting reviews and articles for publication. Through my journey, sharing how I create well-fitting clothes, I soon discovered that I could write!
Life is ongoing and changing. It never stands still. My wonderful husband was diagnosed with inoperable and untreatable cancer, last summer. I stopped working to care for him, but he slept hours and hours every day. So again, sewing is what saved me. I was always right here when he needed me, but sewing was both my sanity and salvation. Some days, I could only manage twenty minutes. I embraced a new slow sewing policy and didn’t push myself. I am grateful for the time we had, over these last months, and grateful that my mom passed this skill down to me. I am grateful for my talent and especially grateful for my sewing tribe of friends. All of you!
Now, my next adventure is beginning. I can make it through anything as long as I can bring my sewing machine, my serger, and my new Shashiko machine!