I am sitting here at the kitchen table having a cup of coffee while I take a break from sewing. I’ve been on a seamstress kick for the last week or so. I got a new sewing machine recently to replace my old one that broke last summer. After about a day of wrestling with (and fervently cursing) this new Singer I figured it out and was on my way to stitching bliss. I feel that a knowledge of basic sewing technique is probably something that everyone should have, maybe not the ability to to stitch up a three piece suit or a ball gown but at least the ability to attach a button or hem.
Both my parents are pretty talented clothiers when they need to be. Twenty plus years of historic interpretation will do that. The yards of linen, wool, and cotton that they’ve stitched (by hand a great deal of the time) are probably beyond calculation. My mom started teaching me when I was about six or so, small things like sewing on buttons and making a straight running stitch. She also made a few play outfits for me as a child which I wore until growth spurts made it impossible.
As I got older I learned to do a bit more advanced projects and have made a couple of garments for myself. My maternal grandmother was a brilliant seamstress. She made most of my mom’s and aunts’ clothes when they were growing up and several things for my grandfather over the years they were married. She died a couple of years before my birth so I never got to know her. Those who know me who also knew her often liken me to her which is something that I’m very proud of. Although I never, knew her, all that I’ve heard and been able to piece together leads to an image of a really amazing woman. My mother was very close to her. I think my close relationship to my mom is a continuation of that, and I am very grateful for it.
I discovered something years ago, that when I sew I feel closer to my grandmother, especially when my mom and I work on projects together. She poured a lot of her love and soul into the things she made and its evident in the few surviving pieces that have been handed down to me. Doing something she loved makes me feel that in some small way I get to know her a little. It’s a good feeling.
I’ve been working from a tutorial for a dirndl skirt I found on this amazing blog called Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing. Gertie is a very creative gal based in NYC with a love and knowledge of vintage fashion that humbles me. Her blog is so helpful and full of inspiration. The tutorial for her version of the full gathered skirt from Vogue’s New Book for Better Sewing is incredibly easy to follow and very fun too. I’m making three, two cotton ones for me to wear to work and class and one flannel one for Mom to wear in the winter.
I also altered a dress mom and I made a few years ago from a vintage McCall’s pattern. It has the fitted bodice and very full skirt very typical of the era but i also has this darling gathered neckline. Originally we made it tea length as the pattern dictated, but even in cotton, the amount of fabric we put into that skirt gets rather warm so I took it up to knee length and also put in a new zipper that matched the material (white with tiny black polka dots) more effectively. I love it even more now, and maybe one day when I’m feeling particularly adventurous and have the dough to blow on yards of fabric I’ll try making another one of those full-skirted dresses from another vintage pattern.
For the time being, though, my next project will be this: