In the eye of the getting-ready hurricane this morning I grabbed Small Girl’s mittens on a string to find that the button attaching one of them was falling off. Seconds later I had thread, needle and scissors and was sewing it back on while my tea brewed. If only the rest of my life could be this organised.
I grew up with sewing as one of the basic home skills. It wasn’t something that needed to be done well or with massive aspirations to improve, just something that was learned and done like walking to school or eating breakfast. One of my earliest memories is sitting in a sunny lawned back garden rather grumpily attempting to mend a ripped dolly after my mother told me that she was busy but would thread a needle so that I could fix it myself. Babysitters would turn up with cut out pieces of cloth for my sister and I to assemble into toys. I sewed a purple gingham apron in school, followed by another one at another school, and after that came a plethora of senior school and home makings topped off with a jump suit and reversible bomber jacket for my “O’” level. It was the 80s, after all. That course was taught by an absolute star of a woman who as well as having worked in a cake factory and run a marathon was able to fix beyond-hope buttonholes, and taught with sewing machines and ironing boards in a chemistry lab whilst separating fighting girls at the front.
After that, I didn’t sew. Late in my 20s, a good friend who had sadly lost his mother gave me her tailor’s dummy, as he didn’t want to throw it out but had no use for it. Fired with enthusiasm, I set it up to my measurements and bought a pattern and fabric. Then I panicked about getting the pattern pieces on the grain and about remembering how to do buttonholes, and what if I’d chosen the wrong fabric or was the wrong shape for the dress, with the result that the pattern didn’t get cut, never mind the cloth. Yet I still bought home a Polynesian double bedspread kit from Tahiti, and somehow hand-sewed the entire thing. I still can’t quite believe that, nor that my hand-sewing has survived countless spins through various washing machines.
The clincher in restarting, as with so many other things, was the arrival of my daughter and the departure of my salary. Regular readers have seen my sewing machine arrive, and have read of the curtains, repairs, costumes, toys and clothes that have rolled off it with varying degrees of rush/accuracy/completion but all with unfailing satisfaction and pride. I find sewing comforting and creative. I love the speed with which things come together, the smell of pressing brand new seams open, and the way that Small Girl perches on the table next to me, blocking my light and wailing in harmony with the machine motor as the bobbin winds. I love that, for the time being anyway, she thinks that I can fix everything and make anything. I love that she is seeing making and mending as an alternative to buying, at least for a few years. I love the glow that I get when she is thrilled with something that I have made for her. I shall probably leave it a while before attempting her recent request for a wedding dress. She’s only four, after all. Even though she’d be thrilled beyond words with a dressing up wedding dress.
Now it’s time to have a go at some things for me. Santa brought me two new Burda books for guidance and fabric and patterns are on the way. Plus a Burdastyle site membership for inspiration and education. All I need to do is reset the dummy’s vital statistics. She’s still set at my 20something, living on my own, unmarried and child-free dimensions