It’s hard to believe that I once was a pretty good seamstress. As a teenager, one of my sisters and I made all of our own clothes. And they were beautiful. Our clothes were not home made, they were hand made. There is a difference. Not only did we make our own clothes, but we made them for the entire family. From play clothes, school clothes, Sunday clothes and formal wear, we made them all. We even made our Mom’s maternity clothes when she was expecting our youngest sister, but that’s another story in itself.
My mother helped us with our sewing. She wasn’t a seamstress, but she was meticulous about the handwork, finishing, and all of the details that would otherwise slow us down. Between the three of us, we had a regular conveyor belt going in our dining room. In a matter of hours we could turn a few pieces of cloth into several outfits ready to wear the next day. Trips to the fabric store was a lark. It was great fun for us, but we often left the salesclerks exhausted by the time we left the store.
I continued to sew after I left home, but it just wasn’t nearly as much fun, or as fast. Eventually I stopped sewing altogether, even though I kept my machine. I haven’t used it for over thirty years, but at least I remember where I put it. Recently I thought about my machine when I met with one of my colleagues. She had beautiful fabric covers for her foam rollers and pads. I asked her where she got them and she said those three magic words, “I made them.”
Hmmm….that got me thinking. Maybe I could pull out the old Singer and see if I still had it in me. After all, how hard could a few straight seams be for someone who used to make her own prom gowns? Still, I felt a little intimidated and overwhelmed. How would I know what to do? I can’t even remember the last time I was in a fabric store. Maybe I could just stop in Joann’s and take a look around.
Once I got to Joann’s I almost turned around and left, but I accidentally made eye contact with one of the employees, who felt compelled to point me in the right direction. I found a beautiful soft fleece that I thought would work. So far so good, until I got to the cutting table. The young lady wanted to know how much fabric I needed. Since I didn’t have a clue, I made up a number, and ten yards sounded about right. It seemed like a lot, but what did I know?
I got home and stared at the heavy pile of pretty blue fabric. Now what? Oh, yes, I should wash it. Easy enough. While the fabric was in the laundry, I pulled out my sewing machine. For someone who used to be responsible for life support equipment, I sure was perplexed by a simple sewing machine. The Singer and I spent a few minutes eye balling each other until I finally took charge. It took several attempts, but I finally threaded the machine. I think I even did it correctly until I realized I forgot about the bobbin. How do I wind a bobbin? I thought about calling my sister for help, but I put on my big girl pants and figured it out on my own.
Before I knew it, I was cutting fabric, pinning seams together and being serenaded by the familiar (but long forgotten) whirrr of my sewing machine. I felt the satisfaction of completing each project as well as the frustration of making silly mistakes and pulling out the seam ripper to start over again. Eventually, I had soft, beautiful covers for all of my rollers and some of my pads, even though I still have a few more to make.
Honestly, it felt good to get back in the saddle again, or at least at the pedal of my Singer. I guess it’s a lot like riding a bike….once you do it, you never forget. Now that I got a little bit of self confidence back, I am happy to report that I can walk into Joann’s without breaking out in a cold sweat. When my clients ask me where I got my pretty covers, I modestly tell them, “I made them.” I am wondering what other simple projects I can do, because I really did have fun. But the truth is, it’s just not the same without my Mom and my sister beside me.
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP