Saturday, May 25, 2013

economy and sentiment

Once upon a time, my mother was a sewer. She sat before her Singer treadle and cranked out clothing; little matching dresses and shirts and skirts and trousers and coats for her children, shirts for my father, both long sleeved and short in an endless array of plaid, and dresses for herself. Dresses crisply cotton at first, full skirted fifties frocks, then Fortrels and the assorted synthetics of the sixties and seventies and then back at last to cotton, the styles ever simpler.
Her final garments for herself were A-line summer shifts that she wore year round it seemed. My father self-medicated his arthritis by building great, hot, roaring fires in the wood stove and my mother would flit about the house red faced and sleeveless in self defense.
I suppose because fabric was not readily available as she began her sewing life, she developed an understandable tendency to buy in bulk, to stock up, to take advantage of a bargain.
Today, quilters refer with pride to their 'stash' but the whole concept of more being better was completely lost on me as a girl.
 Almost anything can be a source of angst for the adolescent. When we are young, even our parents better qualities may be viewed with suspicion.
This was certainly true for me.
Even though I knew how to sew very young, I took Home Economics along with everybody else. It was the economy part that ended up being a source of embarrassment to me though.

It seemed that no matter what garment we were sewing at school, my mother had fabric for it waiting in the wings.
I would lug the bolt of fabric dutifully off to class and cringe inwardly as the teacher and other girls stared round eyed as I hastily laid out my pattern pieces and snipped an insignificant bit off the end of the bolt.
I suggested weakly once that I preferred to whack off a piece of less conspicuous size to take to school but my mother, unmoved by either popular sentiment or my own, remained steadfast.
She felt there would be inevitable waste with my approach.
Just once, I wanted to unfold a piece of fabric, and smooth it out on the large table, and find that I had just the right amount of fabric. Just the amount the pattern packet had helpfully suggested that I buy. Just the economical amount.
Fortunately, embarrassment wasn't fatal and in time, I grew up and formed my own philosophy of economy.
Influences are powerful, especially early ones and I have thanked my mother many times for her gifts to me. For her steadfastness. For her industry and creativity and wisdom. And lately, for her fabric a'plenty.
I have been working on a quilt.
It needed a special back.
Something appropriately masculine.
Something appropriately large too.
Several meters of plaid fabric from the sixties and seventies, left overs from making shirts for my father still remained; a remnant of my mothers stash. (wow, remnant! what a pun)
This fabric has been waiting in the wings.
There was more than enough. It was the perfect blend of economy and sentiment.

1 comment:

Peg said...

Aww....how wonderful that you were able to go back and use some of your mom's fabric, and that it brought back memories as well as being useful!