Our son recently sent a photo of our daughter-in-law bent over a piece of fabric concentrating. (Fabric held down by one large orange cat, while the other large orange cat anchors the ironing board). She is learning to make things with her Christmas gift sewing machine, and a gardening friend often emails because she is at the same spot – new sewing machine, early learning stage.

I love to hear about their projects, and feel their excitement and enthusiasm. Both have plenty else in their lives, but they focus when they can on learning this skill. Beyond accomplished, our daughter-in-law can pilot a ferryboat from Homer across Katchemak Bay, try a case, or cook a lovely meal. It’s fun to watch her begin at the beginning.

The new seamstresses are doing exactly what’s needed to be creative – mastering the basics. How to thread the machine, the properties of fabrics, and the ways of seams and corners – all tools for making something of your own with fabric. Already they’ve begun – napkins, laundry bags, and pillow covers of bright colored fabrics, cheering dim days and dark nights!

When my gardener friend wrote about watching videos on mitering napkin corners, it brought back memories of my first sewing attempt. A white apron in a Home Ec class in Canada (do such classes exist anymore?). A miserable affair, the apron – all the errors showed. I couldn’t get the top stitching on the pocket, and everywhere pulled stitches and pencil smudges marred the stiff white poplin.

Thinking of the 100 napkins my clever friend and I made for the wedding, and forgetting at first that wretched apron, I’d written blithely to my friend that she needn’t necessarily miter – could just turn over the corners.

But mostly I remember my mother’s friend Betty in British Columbia, who with kindness and freedom taught me to sew when I was 14. She helped me tackle my crowning accomplishment – a red corduroy gored skirt with high waist and straps (sounds questionable now) for the first day of eighth grade. (In that learning time I swallowed a straight pin that lodged in my throat – lesson learned – I have never, ever put a straight pin in my mouth again.)

With Betty I felt that obsession and joy I see in the new sewing devotees. I saw it in the whale bone volunteers also – intent and focused with paintbrushes and fragments – lost in their tasks – learning and making.

2 thoughts on “Learning

  1. You my not believe though, in my junior school time,
    boys too learned the sewing and cooking. And I was
    pretty good at those. Hence, later age I made a Tent
    myself (but I needed to ask real tent maker to put big
    eyelet to it, which needed a machine) —– so, to read a
    sewing story made me to recall old memory ——
    Still, I couldn’t imagine the situation or how to swallow
    a pin ? ? ?

  2. In my tenth year I learned to sew on Saturday afternoons at Mrs. Porter’s house, with other girls from the Wallingford 4-H Harmonizers. We put pieces of lined paper under the presser foot of the sewing machine and carefully traced the blue lines with our thread. To this day I have loved following lines with thread, yarn, pencil, paint, crayons, ink. It’s fun to hear about people being introduced to this basic but miraculous skill, and to see the painting of the sweet little pincushion.

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