Thanks, Diane, for posting pictures of sewing patterns in “Do You Remember?” Wow, that brought back memories.
I think I was in sixth grade when a friend’s mother, Mrs. Brennan, taught us both to sew using a pattern as we made pajamas. But it was the fearsome Miss Mahoney, my seventh grade sewing teacher, who taught me details such as a flat-felled seam, bound buttonholes, and the French knot. A few years later I took a Singer Sewing Machine dressmaking course where I learned about putting in zippers properly and little tricks like tailors tacks and finishing off seam binding and the importance of pressing each seam as you finished it. At the end of the course there was a contest, and I won first prize for the dress I made. The dress was truly hideous, and if I ever doubt that, I have the picture to prove it. But the prize was an excellent set of four specialized sewing scissors which I still use.
After that sewing course, I felt quite confident, and I undertook to make a sheath dress and jacket in a beautiful shade of spring-green light-weight wool. The whole project was coming along fairly well until I got to the cuffs of the jacket. I tried to follow the directions and then tried several more times, but I just couldn’t get them right. By now I was throwing a hissy fit, and my poor mother, having helped through other blips in the process, said, “You take a walk. I’ll fix the cuffs.” When I got back, the cuffs were perfect, but my mother said, “Dorothy, I will PAY you not to start any more sewing projects.” And so I didn’t for a number of years.
And then economic necessity took over, and I made all my maternity clothes. I’m sure it helped that they didn’t have to fit exactly. But when I started making clothes for the kids, I got pretty good at it. My favorite was an outfit for a two-year-old son: a red wool Eton jacket with white silk lining and a pair of short navy blue pants. When my daughter came along, I loved making dresses for her and even made a few without a pattern which was daring for me.
Sometimes I did crazy things like buy a bolt of material to make living room drapes without any idea how to make them. I guess it’s called “learning on the job.” After that task it was almost easy to make rather complicated curtains from printed sheets for another living room and curtains for a married son and his wife.
But I think costumes were my favorite, most satisfying projects: a Holly Hobby costume for my daughter, a Raggedy Ann one complete with a wig for me, and the piece-de-resistance: a very authentic Colonial boy’s costume: shirt with ruffled cuffs and a jabot and knee britches with buckles and a drop front, all for a bicentennial parade at my son’s school. It really pissed me off that first prize went to a rented costume.
And then time went by, and I didn’t sew much anymore, so that today it seems like a major project to sew on a button!
© Dorothy C. Judd
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