I am very lucky to have a skill that I value very much. It's one that I frequently take for granted because I use it so often. When I was young, I was given excellent instruction in the art of learning how to sew.
When I was in seventh grade, all the girls were required to take a sewing class. In that class I made an apron complete with a pocket and rickrack trim, and really enjoyed the experience. My recollection of that long-ago first sewing teacher is that she was tall, thin, blonde, 50-something and seemed very tired. (Whether the cause of that was too many classrooms of silly, giggling girls over the years or something else in her life, I don't know.) I can't recall her name. Mrs. L-something. Livingston? Langley? Nope, I just can't bring it back to mind. But her class was my introduction to sewing and I liked it from the get-go.
My mom did a certain amount of sewing, but more alterations for herself than projects from scratch. She had a totally Rubenesque figure, large bust and hips but small waist which made it difficult to purchase clothes that fit. She didn't have much to do with my sewing education but there was a sewing machine at home and it was always available to me.
In eighth grade, I once again found myself in a sewing class. This time I had an excellent teacher. Not all the girls liked Miss Brown as I did probably because she was extremely fussy and if one stitch was out of place, you had to rip it out and do it over. If you think of the fact that not every girl in the class even liked sewing, it's no wonder Miss Brown's way of teaching wasn't well received by all.
Miss Verla Brown was what would probably have been labeled an "old maid" way back in the late 1950s. Her dress was very professional (as was that of all teachers then), her make-up applied perfectly and her long nails always painted with dark polish. She must have colored her hair at home because it was dark chocolate brown. Solid dark chocolate brown. No highlights or a hint of a gray hair anywhere. She was a stoutly built woman and I can still picture her standing during the first part of each class giving an overview of what we would be working on that day and the techniques involved. Then we would all disperse to our machines and she would settle herself in a chair at one of the long tables in the sewing classroom and rarely move from that spot for the rest of the period. We were each required to bring finished steps in our sewing to her to be checked before we were allowed to proceed.
Her teaching method was demanding but, boy-howdy, did I ever learn the "correct" way to do all the basics! From eighth grade on for about the next seventeen years I made all my own clothes except for jeans and sweaters.
I even made dress shirts for my husband for a while. What a lot of work when at that time I probably could have purchased them ready-made for about the same amount of money. (And just think of all the time required to hand sew on just the buttons! Button-down collar, cuffs and all the way down the front.) I made all of our daughter's clothes until she reached an age when she wanted "store bought" clothes like her friends.
At certain times, I've done alterations for some extra money, but that wasn't my wisest job choice as I'm such a perfectionist that I spent way too much time on a job compared to what I charged.
I made a beautiful polar fleece parka for one of my daughter's ex-boyfriends. (How did I get talked into that? And should he have returned the parka when they broke up??)
Just having a general knowledge of sewing how-to has come in so handy over the years with countless mending jobs. I've worked on everything from tents to patching jeans (LOTS of patching on jeans) to mosquito netting for over beds to putting zippers in hand-knit sweaters. My dear daughter has fallen into the habit of bringing me a sewing job and saying, "I think I could do this, Mom, but I know it would be so much faster and easier for you to do it." That's okay; makes me feel needed.
Learning to quilt was simple for me because of my strong sewing background. I so well remember a gal in the first quilt group I joined. She truly wanted to learn how to quilt but had never sewn before, not even to take needle and thread and sew on a button. Needless to say, she quickly became very discouraged and dropped out of the group even though we all encouraged and tried to help her. I think that was when I first realized that knowing how to sew was a skill I was grateful to have.
Knowing how to sew. A basic life skill? It sure qualifies as that in my book. If you know how to sew, be open and willing to teach your children, or anyone who expresses an interest, the basics. If they become hooked, support them as much as you can. I did my very first sewing on my grandma's old treadle machine. If you have access to one for someone to learn on, there's hardly anything that would be better.
Yup, I was very lucky to have had a couple of good sewing teachers that came along at just the right time in my life, and I can't imagine not having the knowledge I gained from them. Thanks especially to Miss Brown who was such an exacting, ol' fuss-budget. I got a solid foundation from her that has stood me well.
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