Sunday, January 10, 2010
I decided to sew over the holidays, which is to say that I decided that my mother and I would sew. My mother is an excellent seamstress and her mother even more. My mom would tell us stories of her mother taking her and her sisters into department stores to pick out new dresses, but instead of buying them, she would pull out her sketchpad and sketch away, go home and recreate the dresses. Magic. Naturally, my mom picked up a lot of this talent. She remembers her mom patiently teaching her to sew using patterns. They would going through each step of the patterns, which were taped up to the cupboards above where the sewing machine sat. My mom did exactly this with me over my visit; she pulled out the scotch tape and tacked each corner of the thin paper above us. We spent hours at the sewing machine together.
It started one day when Marguerite and I went to the fabric store down the road from my parent's house. I strolled through the patterns with my fingers, through the drawers and drawers of sketched girls and vignettes of women in 80's-like stances. I decided on making a dress for Marguerite and a little matching dress for her baby-doll, since she had asked Père Noël for "des habits" (clothes) for her little baby. We chose big polka-dotted fabric and Marguerite wanted to sew an ice cream cone patch on whatever we made. I giggled and agreed it was a great idea (even if it was never realized).
Then the merriment began. I shall never regard a dress in the same way. After this little project, I am frantic about turning things inside out to inspect their making. Reading a pattern is like reading another language, terms you've never ever heard of (at least not in this context): selvege and nap and miter and ease and casing and basting and awl. Good thing I had my translator. Those were lovely moments, sitting there with my mom like that. She is still my mom, but now I can look at her as an adult and a funny thing happens - I see why she was such an enlivening parent. She would say things like, "You're a natural, Em!" with such gusto she had us both convinced (until we pulled the piece of fabric from the machine to see that I'd sewn the wrong sides together) and even then she was still convinced.
In the end, after far more hours than either of us thought it would take, two little dresses were produced. And two little beings looked very winning in them.