Friday, September 27, 2013


I posted this two years ago and since then I got a corrected picture of my sister's wedding gown. So much clearer. Another update: the christening gown will be worn by a second great grandchild come spring next year.

National Sewing Month is September, but every month was sewing month at my house when I was growing up. My mother sewed for us and for the house, and her sewing machine was rarely idle.

This machine reminds me of my mother's.
From play clothes to wedding gowns, my mother could whip up something from the oddest things. My sister and I once had skirts made of kitchen curtain fabric. The flowered-border ones were all right, but my favorite was an all over chicken-wire print with hens and chicks running around the bottom. Many of our costumes came from whatever was at hand, but some of the most colorful ones were sewn from crepe paper. You don’t see too much of that these days. I remember big displays of crepe paper at the 5 & 10 cent store. Ah, the 5 & 10 cent stores - remember those?
I distinctly remember, although it must be over sixty years ago, when my mother disappeared into her bedroom each evening after supper. We didn’t know we were getting new Madam Alexander dolls for Christmas, and my mother was working on wardrobes for them. Most of the outfits were miniatures of what she had sewn for us, sewn from the leftover material. She sewed dresses and pajamas and plastic rain coats. She crocheted sweaters and hats and shoes. She swore she’d never tackle such a job again! 


I think her masterpiece was my sister’s wedding gown. At that time both my mother and sister were working at Columbia Ribbon & Carbon in Glen Cove, New York. One of the items they manufactured was typewriter ribbons. Ribbon silk came to the factory as 14 inch-wide fabric. It was inked and then slit into the correct size. The creamy white silk was lovely, and my Mother was given enough to make both my sister’s gown and my maid-of-honor dress. Mom joined the panels with wide lace for my sister’s gown, gradually increasing the length of the back panels until they formed a small, graceful train. She joined the panels on my dress with narrow, pink-embroidered tape. I still have some of that tape, and I cherish it.
My mother taught me how to knit and my sister how to crochet. I don’t know why, but neither of us learned the other craft. My sister always crocheted ‘backwards’ because, as a leftie, she mirrored what my right-handed mother was doing. My sister and I continued on sewing in our mother’s tradition making everything from curtains to Halloween costumes.
My hands are quite stiff and arthritic these last few years, so I rarely sew any more. A bit of mending, or perhaps whipping up a new pillow cover or two, is about all I’ll do. My last big job was the drapes for our new house here. They’re not as fancy as some I’ve made over the years, but I’m pleased with them. The most tedious thing I ever made was a pair of 18 foot-long drapes for my daughter-in-law’s two-story living room. Yards and yards of fabric and lining. I thought that job would never end, but the curtains and drapes for her new house were a labor of love.
What I consider my own masterpiece, another labor of love, was the Christening outfit for my first grandchild. I was doing the embroidery on it even as she was being born over twenty years ago. There is a dress, a slip, a coat and a hat - and not an uncovered or raw seam in the whole set. After each child wore it I embroidered their name and birth date on the dress. Now the dress has been worn by my first great-grandchild, and the tradition continues.

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