Posts Tagged ‘Sewing’

          I must have been six or seven when Grandma Masters made this skirt for me out of brown corduroy. She cut several autumn leaves out of brightly colored fabric and applied them to the front, where they appeared to drift down from waist to hem like falling leaves. I was proud of that skirt. It was unique. But Grandpa Rogers would tease me every time he saw me wear it. He’d say something like, “There you go again, with that old patched-up skirt.” I’d argue and try to tell him that they were leaves, not patches. Of course, he’d tease me just to hear me protest.

            Grandma must have put a large hem in the skirt to be let out as I grew taller, which took quite some time. Even today I’m often accused of lying about my height.

I remember the teachers at Harry L. School saying that I was a nervous child. They would tell me not to “ring” my hands. I had no idea what they were talking about and they never explained. Of course I was a nervous child. After attending a one-room school house in the first grade, I was out of my element in the big city school. None of my schoolmates from Barnum Hill School were in my second grade class. I was alone with the more savvy city kids and strange new customs and rules.  I was suffering from mild PTSD long before such a label was thought of!

Eventually, I grew enough for the hem to be let out of my skirt. I’m not sure if Mom didn’t have the time to press it (which I doubt because she always ironed) or if the crease was just so ingrained by then that it couldn’t be pressed out. I remember fingering the hem and crease to keep my hands busy at school. I guess the teacher thought I had put the crease in the skirt by playing with it. “Now look at what you’ve done,” she scolded. I don’t remember being allowed to say anything in my defense.

It’s a wonder I ever learned anything under those conditions.


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I have a fool-proof system for mending clothes. Before I reveal it, however, let me tell you how I got there.

I grew up in an era when girls were taught to sew,  in both 4-H and home economics class. Grandma Masters loved to sew and she would make pajamas for all her grandchildren. It was not surprising that I came to love clothing construction as well. I was never as good at it as Grandma was, but I did OK. As a teenager I made all my new dresses and blouses. (Pants are harder to make and were more easily bought.) When in college, I bought a used sewing machine for $10. I used it to make my wedding dress, and when I had children I would make their play clothes.

After I returned to work I had less time to sew, and by then it had become cheaper to buy clothes than to purchase the materials to make them. However, as my girls got older, I could make a much nicer prom or wedding dress than I could afford to buy.

Unfortunately, love of sewing does not equal love of mending. When the children were small and I did not work outside the home, I had the time and inclination to keep buttons sewn on and seams stitched. As a working mother, even if I’d had the inclination, I lacked the time.

That was when I developed my fool-proof mending system. I had a large basket to collect  items in need of repair. I still have that basket. If you dig through it today, you will find a blouse I started to make before I gained weight, some pillow cases whose lace trim has come loose, and a few articles of clothing dating back to the 20th century.

I do not say that I never mended anything. Quite the contrary. If it was something that was immediately needed, it would get fixed in a timely manner. Otherwise, it would be tossed into the basket where it would eventually be buried under other garments. Occasionally I would go through my mending pile. If I was lucky, the children would have outgrown some of the clothes and they could be discarded. Some things would actually get repaired, but others would just have to wait. The mending basket became like a black hole. Some things might never be seen again.

My children eventually caught on to my system. One day, my teenage son brought me a shirt with a ripped seam. It would have taken only a minute to sew, but more time and energy than that were required to set up the sewing machine and wind a bobbin with the right colored thread. I was busy and not up to the effort. “Just put it on the mending pile,” I told him.

With a stricken look on his face, he replied, “But, Mama, I really liked that shirt!”

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Bonnie T. Ogle

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