Starting as soon as I could walk (late 1950s), my mother impressed on me that there were “womanly arts” every “nice” lady needed to know. Thus I took music and dance lessons from tutors while my mother instructed me on the ways “ladies” should walk, sit, bend, eat, et cetera. Mormor (my maternal grandmother) taught me how to knit, crochet and an array of traditional Norwegian handarbeider (handworks), but it was in school that I learned to sew.
I have been following the delightful and informative blogs of two amazing seamstresses – thornberry (in Australia) and Fit and Flare (in the U.K.). After a long hiatus from sewing (except for making my daughter’s wedding dress), their blogs have encouraged me to pull out my sewing machine. As I did so, I reflected on sewing projects in my past.
When I was in junior high (late 1960s/early 1970s), all the girls had to take sewing classes (pic source), while the boys took shop classes. I discovered I liked to sew so in high school took tailoring classes as electives. All my sewing teachers taught us how to do a lot of hand sewing. I sewed a lot when I was young – both by hand and with my trusty (and oh so sturdy) Sears Kenmore. It sat in a sort of desk and looked a bit like this machine (pic source), if my memory serves me right. As an adult my sewing was limited mostly to mending.
My most memorable sewing experience, however, was decades ago, and it was mending for my ex-husband, Beelzebob – yes I know it isn’t the correct spelling of this “highest devil … insidious and mean” (pic & quotation source) but – well, let’s just say it’s closer to his real name. Soon after I left him, Beelzebob showed up on my (new) porch with a basket of clothes in his arms. He asked (well, more like demanded) that I mend them for him, and, not surprisingly, I refused. Beelzebob immediately dropped the basket and started to yell and wave his arms, scaring my houseguest who thought he was going to strike me. She jumped in front of me, calmed down Beelzebob, and assured him that she would mend his clothes. He was immediately contrite and sweet (toward her). I think his parting words were along the line of, “It’s nice to know that there are still nice ladies” (as he shot evil looks my way and stomped off my porch). As soon as Beelzebob left, I told my friend that as I would have no problem dousing his clothes in gasoline and dropping a match on them, she should do the promised mending out of my sight.
The next day I received a telephone call at work from my friend asking me (in a very meek voice) how to thread my sewing machine (pic source). She admitted she’d never sewn before, so it was impossible to explain over the telephone. I agreed to mend Beelzebob’s clothes only if she agreed to tell him that she repaired the clothes. I stayed up very late that night doing the mending. Thankfully my friend was fast asleep or she would have heard me giggling. Here is an example of some of the “mending” I did to his clothes:
- I carefully removed the cuffs from one shirt and put them on the opposite arms.
- I carefully removed the front plackets from another shirt and reversed them so the shirt buttoned “backwards” (i.e., like a woman’s shirt).
- On another shirt I carefully removed the pockets from under their flaps (ensuring he’d be puzzled when he tried to put a pack of cigarettes in his pocket).
- On two pairs of blue jeans I pulled out the thin material lining the pockets and stitched them closed right where the denim met the thin lining (so he could get no more than his finger tips into the pockets).
- On another pair of blue jeans I sewed the hems of the pant legs shut – matching the orange stitching stitch for stitch.
- On two dress shirts I shortened the little button holes on the collar points (now he wouldn’t be able to button down the collars).
- On another shirt I removed the cuffs, shortened each sleeve by an inch or so, and then replaced the cuffs (making him wonder if his arms had grown).
Sewing had never been so much fun! The coup de grâce, however, was when my friend asked me for directions for a dry cleaner so she could have his clothes dry cleaned (she wasn’t willing to do that!), before he returned to pick them up. I sent her to a dry cleaner whose practice it was to stamp (with indelible ink) the last four characters of a customer’s last name into the clothes. She shared her surname with a man prominent in U.S. history and famed for his flamboyant signature.
Oh yes, happy sewing memories. 🙂