As one who taught school for many, many years, I've become quite the expert at giving instructions. So, you’d think I’d also do a great job of following instructions. Not true! I can't follow a recipe without changing it and I can't follow a quilt pattern, either. It isn't because I don’t know how, it's all about needing to tweak everything till it’s quite my own. A few years ago I gave up on buying quilt patterns and books. It’s so much easier to take elements of this idea and elements of that one and design my own.
Early last August, my niece, who was living in Italy, was frustrated that she couldn't find a pattern for a particular vintage style child's apron. Her four-year-old was going to be Goldilocks for Halloween. I can't resist a challenge, so I told her I'd design a pattern for her. I had no clue what a job I undertaken! First I had to draw out a pattern. I also had to make the apron to make sure it worked. I took tons of photos along the way, scanned the pieces and sent her a PDF pattern. So much work, but what a feeling of accomplishment!
I was a Craftsy member and I knew that many of their patterns are made by ordinary people, like me. Why not give it try, I thought. Just for fun. Oh wow!! What fun! A little unexpected business took off, and I've made tons of online friends.
So that’s what I’ve been up to almost every day for the past year.
My Sewing Teacher
Like so many of us who sew, I learned basic sewing skills from my mother. When I was five years old she handed me the first of many threaded needles and a dishtowel stamped with a simple flower in an embroidery hoop. Mother had been embroidering pillowcases and dishtowels so, naturally, I wanted to make pretty pictures with thread, too. My love of sewing was born.
Mother was an amazing seamstress. Sewing was, in those days, a way to save money on clothing, not just an expensive hobby as it has become in recent years. So my mother made most of the clothes for herself, my sister, and me. She also stitched curtains and reupholstered chairs and couches. She was a perfectionist and her work was flawless. She did have her sewing prejudices, though. Quilts were not allowed in our home. In mother's eyes, those of a child of the great depression of the 1930s, quilts were a symbol of poverty.
My mother and me. I'm wearing a blue snowsuit made by my mother.
When I was in fifth grade my sister started kindergarten. For the first time since becoming a mother, our mom had a bit of free time during the day. Money was tight, so Mother applied for a job with the local Singer store. She took some of the items she had made to the interview and was hired on the spot to teach dressmaking classes. She was thrilled that she also got a discount on sewing machines.
That first Christmas after she started work I discovered that Santa had left me a sewing machine under the tree. It was identical to the little sewing machine at the top of this blog. It made a beautiful chain stitch and I was quickly into the business of making doll clothes for our dolls.
My private sewing lessons continued through high school. Mother was so patient, but she didn't allow me skip any corners. "Iron every seam as you sew", she told me. "The inside of your sewing should look just as clean as the inside." I took these lessons to heart.
My high school graduation gift was a Singer featherweight. It provided my college wardrobe and a bit of extra money making skirts and dresses for other girls. As the years went on I stitched my first maternity clothes on that little machine, and then it produced baby clothes for both of my children. Even though it was eventually replaced by bigger, more versatile machines, I still treasure the lightweight beauty in the little black box.
Mother is gone now, but in my heart she is with me every time I sit down to play with my fabrics, even when I'm working on a new quilt.