When you are as short as I am clothes never fit right. I am constantly hemming pants, shirts, jackets, skirts and dresses. Sometimes I get right to work on them. I mean, what woman can live without a pair of good black pants? Other things end up in the closet waiting until I finally get around to fixing them. That wait can be a long one, since other more interesting jobs seem to get higher priority on my list.
I do sewing repairs by hand, using the sewing box that once belonged to my mother. My father made it for her; he was a master woodworker and liked to make useful things. This box is fitted with a removable tray that holds thread, thimbles, scissors and other items. Two ends of the tray are lined in deep amber velvet, and the inside of the lid is padded and lined with the same fabric. Most of the contents were in the box when I got it after my mother passed away; some of the thread has been around so long it is on wood spools.
Sewing always kindles memories. I learned to sew when I was six or seven years old. We hemmed hankies, I remember, my sister Judy and I carefully trying to make tiny stitches according to instructions from our English granny, who was visiting at the time. Those hankies became birthday gifts for our mother; their crooked hems and uneven stitches disappeared in her happy praise of our handiwork. Later Judy and I would learn to use the sewing machine and made many of our clothes when we were in high school. In a family of thirteen children, new clothes were unheard of but we could make new outfits inexpensively.
When I got married I made my wedding dress of satin and brocade, and we made the bridesmaids dresses too. The beautiful amber velvet in the sewing box was leftover fabric from a different wedding—my sister Judy chose the rich fabric for my maid of honor dress for her wedding. In my first little house, I hand-stitched curtains for all the windows because I could not afford a sewing machine. And when we moved to West Virginia, I continued to hand-stitch curtains, tea towels, and even blouses.
Today I own two sewing machines that I never use. I bought them last year, thinking that since I was retired I would do more sewing. That hasn’t happened, yet. When something needs to be fixed, I get out the sewing kit, find a comfortable chair by a lamp, and sink into the peaceful repetition of needle through cloth.
There is something restful about sewing by hand. There is no noise of an electric motor, no high-speed needle thrusting purposefully through cloth in record time. It is slow, careful work. My stitches are more even these days even if I can barely see to thread the needle. I feel content to work inch by inch along the seams, stitching together not only cloth but memories of many past hours spent doing this simple, basic task.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.