|Obviously not my photo, but this is what the cutting board looks like.|
I haven't used it for years. Seeing it got me to thinking. Does anyone even sew their own clothes anymore? Before I had this ultra fancy cutting board (eye roll) I crawled around on the floor, laying out fabric and patterns, pinning, cutting, basically playing a one person game of Twister.
It was only natural that I would learn to sew. I grew up in a house that had a sewing machine in a lovely wooden cabinet in the main kitchen / family room. The sewing machine looked exactly like this, except it folded down into a wooden cabinet.
Oh my god, how many seams did that machine sew? My mother sewed. She was of the era of the polyester pant suit. I HATED her polyester pant suits. I would beg her to stop wearing polyester. But the stuff sews like a dream, so I can understand why she liked to work with it. She repaired anything that needed repairing. She hemmed my clothes. I was the youngest of many cousins and had an older sister as well. I grew up in hand-me-downs. Sometimes things were too long. Sometimes even new clothes were not the correct length. The absolute torture of having to stand completely still while my mother pinned up the hem was unbearable. I was always afraid of being poked.
My older sister sewed. A LOT. She sewed remarkable things. At one point, I swear, she sewed a suit for her husband. A SUIT!!!! Who sews a suit?
So I learned to sew. I started with things like simple two seamed Barbie slip dresses. The kind where you could just pop Barbie's head off and slip her into a basic rectangle with arm holes. I sewed my own stuffed bunny rabbit from scraps of material. I took the mandatory Home Ec. class in grade seven. By then, I already had been using a sewing machine. Many girls in my class were "new order" Mennonite and had also already been using a sewing machine. We made the typical gathered apron (I kept it and my daughter used it to play dress up), the wrap skirt, and the furry stuffed animal made from a kit.
I learned to love fabric stores. At one time, in the relatively small town close to where I grew up, there were three fabric stores. THREE! I can still remember how they smelled, what they felt like, the joy of standing at the rack where the Butterick, McCalls, and Simplicity patterns books were resting on the ledge, flipping through them and looking for what was new. You'll notice I didn't mention Vogue. I couldn't afford Vogue patterns. If you bought a Vogue pattern, it had to be for something very special. I would buy patterns that were kind of like this:
I sewed my own skirts (LOTS of skirts), dresses, some simple pants, a few shorts, some tops. Shirts that were more tailored were a little harder. I would take my chosen fabric over to the notions section of the fabric store and would do some colour matching. Thread would have to be perfect, as close to a match you could find. How much thread would you need? It was the worst when your bobbin ran out and then you had to load a new bobbin only to discover you wouldn't have enough thread on the spool. And then there were the buttons. Which buttons to choose? There were so many buttons. I always looked at the cute little animal and floral buttons. I had nothing I wanted to sew that would be suitable for those buttons, but I liked looking at them anyway.
Zippers. The selection of zippers was tremendous. You had to check the pattern to see which length to buy and then came the matching of zipper to fabric again.
I even sewed my own prom dress with boning, made out of a lovely lilac coloured "satiny" kind of material. (I went with a friend... that's sad isn't it?) (but I had a great dress!) Sewing was fun and rewarding. It could also be really flipping frustrating. My best friend at times was my seam ripper! And it was always great when you turned things right side out and you realized you sewed the sleeve in inside out. Get out the seam ripper again. I ironed and ironed and ironed. A great piece of clothing depended on how well you ironed your pieces as you were sewing them together. I ironed a lot of interfacing, too. That was the slightly fuzzy white inside layer that provided some extra substance and helped create a shape around neck holes, for instance. It was the 80's so I bought a fair amount of shoulder pads and sewed those in place, too!
When I was in university, I sewed my own stirrup pants. Yes, stirrup pants. My housemate and I went to a vintage clothing place and found a neat ornate dress. We took it home, and I took it in at the waist and hemmed it up a bit and turned it into really neat New Year's Eve dress for her. I made lined skirts, big boxy unstructured jackets, and all sorts of other "stylish" 80's fashion pieces.
When my daughter was a tiny girl, I made a couple of little dresses for her. I've made a few curtains over the years, but honestly, I cannot remember the last pattern I've laid out. I don't even know how much a pattern costs now. The closest actual fabric store is 45 minutes away and I haven't even been in it. With stores filled with cheap clothing made in far away countries by children younger than I was when I started there is probably very little need to sew clothing anymore. I did it because you really could save money by making things yourself.
I still have my little sewing box filled with pins, bits of left over elastic, some hook and eyes, more bobbins than matching spools of thread, and a trusty seam ripper. Sewing was such a part of my teenage years and early twenties. Maybe it is something I might rediscover when I am done working. But the old Singer sewing machine is long gone. It made beautiful button holes.