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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

New Clothes

By Florence Hart Millo of Ruminations

When I was growing up in Galveston, shopping for clothes often began in the fabric store. My mother was a wonderful seamstress (as was her mother) and many happy hours were spent looking through the big pattern books - McCalls, Simplicity, Butterick, and Vogue.

Then we would find just the right fabric - type of fabric, weight, color and pattern. Finally we would pick out the notions - zipper, buttons, interfacing and trim. I still remember carrying the fabric in a white paper bag out of the store, happy with anticipation.

My mother always washed the fabric in cold salt water to make sure the color was set and that the fabric wouldn't shrink.

I would carefully iron the fabric and the paper pattern pieces. Sometimes the pattern would need to be altered slightly for a better fit. I learned how to place the pattern on the fabric with the grain of the fabric going the right way so that the finished garment would hang correctly.

My mother gradually let me take over cutting the fabric and sewing the straight seams.

(Our sewing machine was a Singer 403 model in a very 1960s blond oak cabinet. It was purchased in 1962 after Hurricane Carla ruined the previous Singer. I am still using that sewing machine and it works as perfectly today as it did brand new.)

By the time I was in high school, I was a fairly competent seamstress but nowhere near my mother's skill. She made evening dresses and she even made my going away suit when I was married. (It was a gorgeous Vogue pattern.)

After the garment was finished, we carefully folded up the pattern pieces and put them back into the pattern envelope. Then all the fabric scraps would be rolled up together and put in the scrap bag to be used on the next quilt top that we would piece from scraps. I loved seeing pieces of fabric from my skirt or nightgown being part of a new quilt.

While it wasn't as quick as going to the clothing store to buy ready made clothes, the whole process was enjoyable and there was much excitement and anticipation as we would see our idea come into being. Good memories!

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Your story brought back memories of my sewing days. I remember all those patterns. Vogue seemed to be the most sophisticated and difficult. I used Simplicity most of the time. I still have some leftover materials and often think about making dresses for my little great-grandchildren. Somehow I don't get enough inspiration and I buy them instead.

I remember those days when my Mom made my clothes. She gave my grandmother the extra material leftover from the clothes made as I was growing up. Years later,as a wedding present,my greadmother gave me a beautiful quilt she had sewn all by hand. When it was spread out on the bed, I was able to see my childhood laid out before me in beautiful colors and design. There, each piece of material brought back memories of me wearing the dresses and of my growing-up-years. It was a precious gift that I still have.

I wish I had the patience to sew.

Lovely piece to read, pardon the pun..I still hear of folks who quilt and sew and pass on these wonderful skills..it is reason this column is an everyday must to read..thanks for sharing..

My mother taught me to sew in 1936 on an old Singer treadle. I made doll clothes, then gifts like pot holders and aprons and finally a few of my summer sun-suits. Then in college I bought a featherweight Singer and am still using it today. I used to sew everything for my 3 sons until they got into middle school, but now we all shop at the stores. But I'monly 83 and am thinking about getting back into sewing, maybe a quilt might be fun.

Oh Florence, your story brought back those days! It was fun, picking out the pattern and fabric (material, in my day) and
the just right buttons! My mother was a better seamtress than I, but I still make all my pillowcases...crazy?

I haven't sewn in decades, but I had a bit of nostalgia while reading your good story.My mother was a master seamstress and needle-worker, I was so-so at best, but did make most of my clothes and some for my kids and husband.The real skill skipped my generation and landed full force on my eldest daughter when she was in her early teens.She used that skill for a few years till her chosen career and children interfered. She still knits, as did my mother almost up to her death at age 87. I sometimes think about how much fun it was to plan and produce a garment from one's own hands.

Just look at the comments you received! Those were the days when you really could save money in sewing. I was too tall for the ready made clothes so my mom made me some skirts and I learned that skill first. I took a sewing class in college and remember ironing wool over "hams" that produced curves in closely fitted garments. Now fabric and the notions are so costly that it is not money-saving to sew. Loved how much fun you had doing it.

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