While I had seen my grandmother and my mother use patterns, it wasn’t until I was in Grade 9 and taking Home Economics, that I had to purchase a pattern of my own. I still have that pattern (for a shift dress to be made out of cotton), as well as every pattern that I’ve purchased since then. Yes, I have quite a collection of patterns and many are vintage.
My Home Ec teacher was an elderly lady with graying hair. She was a fabulous teacher, and although I already knew the basics, I still learned many tips and tricks for sewing from her. Not all the students in my class appreciated learning to sew. Not all were patient, and having to rip out seams was not their forte. I do believe that I developed my patience from grandma because I’d seen her having to rip out stitches from time to time. While it is not the most likable task, it is a part of sewing. “As you sew, so shall you rip!” is a saying that I’ve adopted.
It was from my teacher, that I learned all the aspects of garment construction “by the book”. As students, we learned how to measure each other, then how to determine the correct pattern size, and how to read a pattern and figure out the requirements for yardage. It was from my grandma that I learned how to move the pattern pieces around to “save” on yardage – grandma had her own ways of doing things and there were short cuts and cost saving measures too!
I remember discussing colors with grandma. She believed that blue and green were not to be used in the same garment. I don’t remember if it was a general color rule of the day, or if it was just a color rule that she had. Well, imagine when I came over with some blue fabric for the main part of the dress, and a matching blue and green herringbone check for the bodice. I don’t remember the whole conversation, but I do remember the dress that defied grandma’s “blue-green rule”.
By the time I was in high school I was sewing most of my own clothing. Having mastered patterns, I moved on to sewing garments out of various fabrics. I don’t remember in what order I sewed these, but I had a summer coat from blue boucle, a 3-piece suit of burgundy corduroy, some dresses, blouses with frills and lace, and skirts. One year I tackled a spring and fall coat made out of tan wool, which required embellishment of hand stitching about 3/8 inch from the edge of the collar and lapel. In the process of sewing suits and coats; I learned about interfacing, lining, zippers, welt and patch pockets, sewing belts, as well as buttons and button holes.
One of my after school activities was attending 4-H Club, and my group was involved with sewing. I don’t remember all the details, but I won a silver rose bowl for Best Record Keeping which was presented to me by the President of RBC. The rose bowl is real silver — I still have it — it is very well tarnished!!
One summer I participated in attending Farm Girl’s Camp, which took place during the Exhibition Days in my hometown. That year I had entered a 2-piece navy suit into a sewing competition. I remember it well, as I had an issue with one of the front collar pieces and it had a tiny hole…….what to do, as there was not enough fabric to cut out a new collar piece. My mom came up with the idea of hand sewing a small pink flower embellishment to each of the collar fronts, covering that tiny hole. I was so worried about my outfit not being “good enough”, however, won 1st prize and accepted a certificate on stage one evening during the Exhibition.
The year that I was in Grade 12, for our Home Ec project, all the students worked on sewing a dress to be worn during our commencement exercises. Each student could choose a pattern of their own, so every student’s dress, although white, could be a different style and fabric. It was definitely a work in progress, some being more successful than others. While I worked on my commencement dress in class, at home I was working on a full-length pink gown to wear the evening of the year-end dinner which we attended with our escort and parents. My gown had a lace bodice and short sleeves, with the skirt a sheer fabric over a satin underskirt. To this day, sheer is not one of my favorite fabrics to work with as it is very slippery as is satin. However, the gown was completed, and I wore it, and received many compliments!
Sewing my own gown made me appreciate all the hard work that goes into sewing these fancy gowns. Grandma had sewn many fancy gowns for bridesmaids over the years and it “wows” me to this day when I think of all the work she did back then.
Sew Perfect Stitches