Thursday, October 22, 2009

Prologue: the early years.

Although many of you know me as a knitter (blogging here), my earliest creations were all sewing! I first held a needle and thread at age 6, at a neighbour's house. I was playing with a friend (forget her name!) and her mom was doing some hand sewing (remember that!). I asked what she was doing and she offered some fabric scraps, and a threaded needle for me to try. I remember asking her to re-thread the needle several times as I worked a hand stitched seam around three sides of a small square. It was messy and the stitches too far apart (I was in a rush to finish) but I finished a small pouch, that I put my best treasures in (pennies, marbles, etc).

From that age, I begged my mother for scraps of fabric, and confiscated any old clothing to cut into something else. I made clothes for dolls and bears and once had a camp of hammocks and sleeping bags for ALL my dolls and animals. Fabric was fantastic! It could be anything!

I wanted my Mother to let me use her sewing machine, but she insisted it was for adults only. I mastered a good sturdy straight stitch, and chain stitch and a few decorative stitches by hand, and by the age of 9 had finally worn Mom out. She bought me a kid's sewing machine for Christmas. It did a chain stitch that often did not catch fully, and unraveled. It was operated with a hand crank, and I had to hold back the speed I would have liked to crank it, because it slipped the chain too easily at a higher speed. With this I made lots of things, rag dolls and puppets and more accessories for the toys. I even took it on vacation, I could not bear to be away from it for three weeks!

I only had it for a year when I successfullly explained the limitations of such a toy, and convinced Mom that I could take lessons in sewing, and could use her machine like the mature 10 year old that I had become! The lessons were with a neighbour, Bonnie, and I worked through a simple mini-skirt pattern, with waistband and zipper! We did this over several evenings, learning to follow a pattern and all the different skills involved in completing the project! I then made a button up shirt and a pair of pants with her, before I graduated (with honours) from her course.

After that, I made a lot of my own clothes, and Mom did less sewing, opting for my expertise in alterations and hemming. She was more than supportive of my sewing habit.

Mom also tried to teach me knitting, and I got it just fine, but seriously, why would I want to knit a sweater for one month when I could sew a top in one day!??? I took up knitting again at University, when I had learned patience, and wanted to avoid doing Physics homework for hours (and days)!

When I was 13, I sewed puppets (very like the Sesame Street Muppets) and sold them door to door at Christmas time (I think I charged $2.00, but the fabrics were from recycled clothing! I was green before the trend was even invented!). The only item I have kept is a favourite rag doll , made from old clothes and weird colours, sewn with felt mouth and eyes and of course a big pink heart. This one was made when I was 12, and I am sure it was stuffed with bits of fabric and foam chips and maybe even ripped pantyhose (I am too afraid to disect him to find out!)

I learned to quilt at the age of 17, taking a class with the same neighbour, Bonnie. She was also a knitter, and in later years we got together to share knitting ideas and sources and to compare finished garments (early stitch and bitch tea parties). When I was home with my young children, I made wedding dresses and did other sewing for friends, then referrals, and had a nice little business going from my home. It allowed me to stay home with my little ones until they were ready for school, and I was ready to work outside the home.

Now, years later, when semi-retirement looms, I anticipate picking up the sewing business again. I really enjoyed that time and would love to get back to what I really love to do. Life comes full circle....

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