Tuesday, April 3, 2012


My paternal grandmother, my Nana, was an amazing seamstress.  She made her own gorgeous wedding gown and gowns for each of my aunts.  She would tell stories about how she was hired by her shop to snoop out designers new designs and sketch them so that her store could replicate them.  I try to picture her in her twenties, glasses sliding down her nose as she quickly and covertly sketched.  What devious angle for such an angelic grandmother! 
During my life time she continued to make beautiful designs.  She made my brother a knight suit complete with a metallic knit chain mail that was amazing.  I had a matching princess outfit that I wore long past Halloween and until it was just about rags and could no longer fit me.  She also made my communion dress.  In addition to actual creations, she taught my mother, her daughter in law some helpful sewing lessons. 
My mother in turn made countless Halloween and theatrical costumes for me and my siblings over the years.  A set of dinosaurs that all of us kids wore and have now passed on to our kids is a classic.  One year she made a fully tailored sports jacket for me because I was in a summer production.  I have no idea how her sewing such a complicated piece saved time or money but I think she loved every button hole challenge.  The hours she must have put into making that thing!  She made my formals, my prom dress from a recycled vintage dress and all of my sisters and my graduation dresses.  This is not the full catalog of her creations but it at least gives you some sort of idea.
This tradition, of making something out of nothing with our own hands is a wonderful tradition that I am so thankful I acquired.  I remember at a very young age cutting and sewing with my kiddie sewing machine.  When I upgraded to my mother’s machine she would patiently rethread the needle and the bobbin every time I screeched for her to rescue me.  I still struggle if I am ever forced to use her machine.  I never took any classes to learn to sew.  I just watched my mother and struggled to figure things out on my own.  Following a pattern always seemed like a daunting task, somehow harder than making a pattern up on my own?  As I grow older I am slowly learning to follow patterns, read the instruction manual of my machine and figure things out as I go along. 
I am now starting to build my little list of things I have made for my own children.  I feel absolutely motherly making my son’s Halloween costumes.  With mom’s help I have made a few quilts for dear friends when they have kids and started a tradition of making a little library bag for friends’ babies on their first birthdays.  It is an easy yet special gift to give especially when people state that they don’t want gifts on the invite but everyone brings a gift anyway. 
I whipped together one this afternoon using scraps of material I had stashed in my sewing box.  It was fun to quickly and simply sew the bag using left over pieces.  The bulk of the bag was from material I used to make runners for my youngest baptism.  Other pieces helped put together a gift for my neice.  I know that the background and history of the material will be lost on its new owner but it delights me just to know.
When I sew something it is a culmination of so many things.  It is the beauty and design of my Nana.  It is sitting with her in front of her giant industrial machine.  That huge machine with its fast and powerful needle saw her through so many projects and so many years.  It is watching those long elegant fingers and my father’s eyes through her thick lenses. 
It is also the hard work and ingenuity of my mother, the countless memories I have of her working late into the night.  It is those countless nights that I would see a pile of material in front of her machine when I went to bed turn into a finished product when I awoke the next day.  All of these things get stitched into the pieces I now make. 
With these memories each of my stitches slowly over time has become straighter and steadier.  I think about the stories both women shared with me about sewing as I pull out crooked stitches or am forced to start again.  I am so proud of my ability to fix my own machine.  Pleased with each new skill I acquire and each project I finish.
I hope that I have the opportunity to share this passion with my munchkins one day.  If not, I hope they at least let me continue to sew for them and for their children.  
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