Sewing Notions

SewingRonnieEvery couple of years I get this notion to sew.

Maybe I’ve spent too much time on Pinterest looking at pins that claim I can “Make this cute top in less than 2 hours” or “I made this Anthropologie kimono with $6 worth of fabric”. And it all seems so easy and powerful. I mean in two short hours I could have a cute top that will fit me perfectly—fashion and confidence-wise.

How hard could that be?

So I rifle through my fabric stash in the closet that also holds crafty stuff, artwork I scratched out in 1986 and the sewing box my adorable little mother-in law gave me.  This closet also houses all her spools of thread that I have organized into clear plastic boxes in color spectrum order–as I am not a barbarian. This closet is opened infrequently—like when I need to find one of the 8 or so gluing options for something that may or may not have fallen apart.

Realizing that I don’t have the fabric on hand to replicate the $188 kimono that that other lady on Pinterest made, this notion will now require a trip to Joann’s; the only fabric store we have in this sleepy little edge of Florida. And I may be drummed out of the creative community when I say this, but any trip to Joann’s or Michael’s can send me into an episode of daytime drinking or worse–elbow deep in a bag of Lay’s faster than my royalty checks go from the mailbox to the bank.

But a proper art supply store? Well, that is a complete other worldly experience. That is more like “sit on the curb afterward and take a long drag off a cigarette and bask in the afterglow that comes with well-ordered open stock pastels and sketchbooks in every shape, size and paper weight beguiling their way into my sweaty palms.”* But we don’t have one of those here. And I am not bitter.

Now. I grew up in a family of girls. A lot of them. And at some point due to our challenging financial state and dreams of looking as cute as Susan Dey, we started making our own clothes. Rather badly for the most part.

My mother was born without the crafting gene but she made up for it with a genetic make-up that enabled her to read stacks of books, man the gavel at an array of benevolent and professional organizations and shuttle her seven daughters into successful adulthood–all while having stimulating and intellectual discussions with other clever and articulate people. We were left to our own domestic devices.

But for some reason (maybe it was the seventies with all those crocheted granny square vests we coveted), we began to sew. With our babysitting money in hand, my sisters and I would head to the discount store downtown to flip through the giant Simplicity and Butterick pattern books. We would consult with each other. “Think I could make this one?” “Sure!” we’d encourage each other. “This one’s cute!  Look! It has a matching triangle scarf!”

Laying out the fabric and pattern pieces on shag carpet while a cat laid on them was a bit challenging but we managed to cobble together outfits that held together (for the most part) and weren’t completely embarrassing to wear.** There were failures of course, complete with muttered curses and tears of self-recrimination—particularly when darts were involved. My sisters and I still refer to shapeless solid color frocks we may see out in the word as “Mennonite Playwear”—a term my mother coined (while taking a drag off her Benson & Hedges) when she saw one of us modeling yet another ill-conceived garment of questionable silhouette and hue.

Now, full disclosure—at least two of my sisters have made money off their crafty ways and my oldest sister Mary Ellen just retired from a thriving career sewing intricate costumes for professional theaters, operas and ballets in the Pacific Northwest.

Which brings me back (finally) to this current idea that I could run up a few charming tops on my sewing machine to supplement my end of summer wardrobe (which looks a whole lot like my autumn, winter and spring ones) in two hours and for less than $6. This will not happen. If I go down this road there will definitely be swearing and there may be tears. There will certainly be an extra garment or two thrown in the charity box. It’s a diversion from what I know to be true—if I stay focused on the stuff I do pretty well, the activities that rarely make me curse or cry, I can actually BUY a few cute tops to see me through—but not the $188 Kimono from Anthropologie.

I can totally make that.


*Of COURSE I don’t smoke! But every story improves with a reference to a long drag off a cigarette—even the imaginary ones. As many of you have witnessed.  I apologize in advance for the rest of you if you ever meet me in person.

**Although if I ever find my 10th Grade school picture we can debate this point. I only ask that you be kind—or bring your own school picture along so we may compare and contrast.

3 thoughts on “Sewing Notions

  1. Horrors! Mu 10th grade pic. I started early to add the freshman 15 on the summer after h/s freshman year and the start of sophomore year. I do not judge. That and the sickly yellow blouse under the kelly green vest…*shudder*

    I dust my sewing machines regularly. Mainly, I hem pants and skirts and the occasional “tailoring” of a dress that someone bought big because it was a good deal..and I make it fit them (not me…I never buy big for me…too much work)

  2. Amazing that there are a LOT of sewing experiment stories out there just waiting to be shared!

    Mine was 8th grade Home Ec course I was forced to take because my folks didn’t want me to be in band class. I was already taking piano lessons, so why mix instruments? The band teacher even came to me asking me to play the Glockenspiel. Nope, I had to remain in Home Ec and endure the torture of cooking and sewing.

    If I recall (being it was 40 years ago) I was to sew a Jumper. On a sewing machine that was a reconditioned sewing machine my dad insisted my mother get when they first set up housekeeping. In 1953. It was a shiny black Singer Sewing machine.

    Fast forward to the mid ’70s and because I had to sew my own outfit on a machine that was from 3 decades prior, it wasn’t much of an easy task. If I recall, the Jumper ended up slightly uneven and the button holes were just pitiful since there was no button hole setting.

    Thankfully that Singer was NOT passed onto me. My mom found out that the specific bobbins designed for it weren’t being made anymore. She was thrilled because she could finally get rid of that paperweight as she called it.

    Dad insisted she get another machine, but this time a new model. Mom never had an interest in sewing. Crocheting, yes… mending, well okay if she had to. That machine was never used. When dad passed away in 2003, that machine stayed in the closet until she moved to a smaller home near me.

    My sister-in-law expressed an interest in learning how to use a sewing machine which was mom’s opportunity to finally rid herself of the machine. So my SIL got a brand new machine that was about 8 years old, along with all the goodies that came with it.

    I do have my own machine and I have sewn a few things on it, but no clothes. The uneven Jumper flashes in my mind when I consider sewing clothes

    • Oh my gosh—hilarious! Yes I think there could be a whole string of posts about the awful things I have sewn over the years! But I’m pretty proud of the curtain I made for my Laundry Room made entirely with Stitch Witchery!

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