Sews Your Mother!
This past weekend my wife dragged me – um, I mean I willingly accompanied her – to a local fabric store while she shopped for material to sew a birthday gift. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that spending precious hours of the weekend meandering through row upon row of fabrics and notions (what exactly is a “notion” anyway?) is not exactly my idea of time well spent. My wife, however, seems to derive as much enjoyment from the experience as I do wandering the canyons of lumber-laden shelves and towering walls of bright, shiny, wondrous power tools at a home improvement store. Go figure.
She, like many other women of her generation, learned to sew both from her mother and from now-extinct home economic classes once routinely offered in junior and senior high schools. My own mom was/is a seamstress par excellence. When I was a kid, Mom’s porcelain-colored Singer sewing machine was an appliance at least as important to our household as the refrigerator, stovetop, washing machine or our family television. Okay, maybe not the TV.
In fact, long before the expression, “There’s an app for that!” became part of the vernacular, I remember another common phrase used around our house as I was growing up. If any of us kids needed a cheerleading outfit, a hip and trendy vest, Halloween costume, pair of warm, snuggly pajamas, Paisley/Carnaby Street shirt or even a Neru jacket like the ones the Beatles wore stepping off of the BOAC airliner on the tarmac at JFK – my mom would pull the cover off her sewing machine and say, “I’m sure there’s a pattern for that!” Then she’d paw through her overstuffed boxes of sewing patterns searching for something remotely close to the article of clothing we were asking for.
If she didn’t already have a pattern or one that could be altered to come close (trust me on this, fashion standards were a lot more tolerant and forgiving in the ’60s), she would load us kids into the family station wagon – a candy apple green Plymouth number with fake, wood grain “paneling” on its sides – and haul us down to one of several sewing/notions/fabric stores on Honolulu Avenue.
I would sit as quietly as a kid could sit amongst a cavernous room full of other moms looking through thick, oversized catalogs of patterns from companies like Butterick, Simplicity, McCalls and Vogue. (My wife says that Vogue patterns were the most difficult to master. I wonder if Madonna sews. My wife and I live in different worlds.)
Anyway, I remember one article of clothing in particular my Mom made for yours truly that – in retrospect – probably seemed like a righteously cool idea at the time. But the reality of the finished product was embarrassing at best. It was a one-piece pair of overalls made of dark chocolate brown, wide-wale corduroy. I’m talkin’ wide, wide wale. Like drive a MatchBox car between those bad boys.
What on God’s green earth was I thinking? In my defense, I was the drummer in one garage band or another from sixth grade through senior high, so I did have a proclivity to push the fashion envelope – at least as much as my short-sleeve-white-shirt-polyester-tie wearing, tapered haircut-loving Dad would allow. Apparently, however, a corduroy nerd suit was permissible. Either that or my Dad’s in heaven snickering at me even now.
Last weekend as I caught up on emails, texted and absentmindedly shuffled after my wife while she picked her way through bolts of wildly colored material and “fat quarter” packs (don’t ask), I half-wondered if sewing as a hobby was quickly becoming a lost art. Wide wale corduroy overalls notwithstanding that would be a shame.
Then again, my talented and oh-so-crafty wife reminds me that there is an ongoing resurgence of young, upwardly mobile girls and women taking up old-school arts like knitting, quilting and needlepoint.
Me? I’m holding out for macramé to make a comeback.
I’ll see you ’round town.