Following in Some Mighty Footsteps
I love hearing stories about other people's sewing journeys; I never get enough of them. Here's a little piece of my personal journey, a little of the past mixed with the present, shared with an invitation to share your journey with me too. I'm all ears!
Mistake #1 – Wasting a Precious Resource
As I mentioned in my Shop Story page, I come from a long line of sewing women. My mother was an expert sewist. She could whip up anything imaginable and she produced jaw-dropping garments and home decor, foot pedal to the metal. Mom was sewing when sewing wasn’t cool – Unless you needed something you couldn’t find in a store or catalog, then she was suddenly super cool to you.
I, on the other hand, could follow a pattern through to a finished project. I wish I had listened to her more, but instead I stubbornly insisted that I wanted to do things my own way and refused the apprenticeship she repeatedly offered. I thought that following the patterns step-by-step was all I needed. Back in the 80’s to early 90’s, learning was not so accessible. There was no YouTube or social media. Hell, home computers were a brand new thing and we definitely couldn’t afford one. I was ignorantly refusing the best resource available to me.
I also didn’t know at that time that I didn’t have decades left to tap into that resource. I certainly didn’t foresee that I would lose my mom when she was only forty-four years old and I only twenty-three. We were young and still had our whole lives ahead of us for me to figure out that my stubbornness was stupid, or so I would have assumed. I can imagine myself picking up the phone today and finally saying, “Mom, teach me to sew. I mean really teach me.” Hindsight, right?
As a result, I don’t know that I ever did any sewing project correctly. Sure, the finished items turned out like the picture on the pattern envelope and were functional, but that was mostly luck and probably just some DNA thing. I am currently on a personal journey to learn to sew with purpose and technique and add a little bit of my own creative ideas to the mix. (More about that in later posts.)
Mistake #2 – The Closet That I Built Around My Closet
If I could rewind time, not only would I go back and absorb every nugget of sewing knowledge I could retrieve from my mother’s beautiful brain, I would also erase many of my stupid behaviors related to our sewing.
Fact: My mom made the best clothes on the planet.
Also fact: When I was young, I was so embarrassed to be wearing “homemade” clothes that I would have died before telling anyone that my mom made them, even though I knew they were awesome.
I had an unusual childhood where I had one parent in Pennsylvania and the other parent in Florida, so I traveled between the two states quite a bit, especially for a poor kid. Every time a peer in Pennsylvania asked me where I got an amazing outfit that my mom made, I would say it was from Florida. No one questioned it because they all knew I traveled back and forth.
I would do this with my mom standing right next to me and the worst part is that these kids would be asking because they loved what I was wearing as much as I did. They wanted it for themselves! If I had answered with the name of a store in the mall, you better believe they were fully prepared to throw tantrums at their mothers to take them to that store so they could try to get it for themselves. Instead, I answered “Florida” so they couldn’t do that, but also so they wouldn’t know my mom made them.
My mother took this abuse from me as if it was perfectly fine. A doting single mom whose world completely revolved around her only child, she would smile at me and say she completely understood peer pressure and even participate in my lies as necessary. At my request, she would put her sewing machine away in the closet when I had sleepovers, just in case one of my friends might be able to add two plus two. She was an angel and I was a spoiled brat.
This resolved itself when I got to high school and my dance and theater activities amped up quite a bit. She made all of the costumes for all of our productions. Yes, all of them, the entire cast. Even at this time, I didn’t tell anyone that I also sewed. I would help with costumes at home, but only if we would say she made them all. Despite all the self-imposed roadblocks I describe in this post and the impressions they may give, I was always in love with sewing. I am genetically wired that way.
When my friends and classmates got to know my big secret about my mom by way of her volunteer wardrobe service and they could see how skilled she was, they begged her to make things for them. She made many of my friends’ homecoming dresses and prom dresses. She would first ask if it was okay with me if she did this – again, angel/spoiled brat. Later, they would run straight to her to outfit their entire wedding parties, design their custom home decor, and inevitably for their babies’ layettes and christening gowns. Once I stopped hiding her, she was the most sought-after designer in town.
I continued with my trademark stubbornness, sewing for my own babies myself without accepting help from the sewing genius that gave birth to me. By this time, I maybe let a few people in on the secret that I sewed the items myself, but I certainly didn’t broadcast it. Yet, I genuinely loved sewing. To this day, I cannot tell you why I was so ashamed of that. Sure, there was a stigma that sewing is something that “old ladies” and “housewives” do, and there still is, but why? (More on that later too.)
Even as I hit publish on this post, I still feel quite a bit of regret about both of those mistakes and my resistance to sharing our most beloved bonding activity more. Although there is nothing I can do that would redeem me for that awful behavior toward my mom, part of the reason I am embarking on this new journey is to share the values she taught me, values that are just now peeking their head out into the mainstream. But of course there is still a selfish component – when I think about sewing, write about sewing, eat-breathe-sleep sewing, and even actually sew, I feel her next to me, and I will never get enough of that in my life.
I would also like to note (for my own conscience) that I didn’t always behave this way with my mother. We were incredibly close and I can’t think of anything else that I was this bratty about. We even sported matching haircuts, at my insistence, as you can see in this photo.