Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sewing... a skill from the past

     Raise your hand if you remember how to sew!  I happened to go into JoAnne's Fabric Store today (a joke of a fabric store!) and realized that the fabric stores of the past have faded away.  This store was dirty, disorganized, there were empty shelves where lovely sewing baskets use to be, messy button display stands, and oh my, the choice of fabric seemed so limited and cheap in quality.  
     My sewing days began in 7th grade.  It was then that I was required to take Home Economics where we were to learn to cook simple dishes and how to sew.  Our sewing assignment was to learn how to sew an A-line dress.  It was a fun class with a patient teacher.   I wore my dress to school along with the rest of the girls in the class at the end of the semester...I assume I wore it only once. 

     My Nan was quite a seamstress having sewn some of my clothes while I was growing up.  Once I had learned the task of sewing she helped me from time to time on some of my sewing ventures.   Some worked and some didn't work the way I had hoped but she was gentle with me and my endeavors. I would bring back hip tapestry fabric and tell her I wanted to make a maxi-dress with a certain look and she would help me find a pattern that sounded like what I was talking about and we would attempt my plan.  

     Once I was married my dear sister-in-law Sue taught me the art of curtain making.  She is a whiz at sewing anything and I felt lucky to have her give me all sorts of ideas even if I couldn't do it.  The best direction she gave me was going to New York Fabrics in Hayward which was a huge fabric store with an inventory for every project one would want to tackle.  From upholstery, to decorative, to quilt makers calico the list went on and on.   Just as you would walk into the store a sign was posted of "No Food or Drink Allowed", as if I would!  I would walk the aisles, up and down, touching them, pulling out the fabric to see what it looked like in it's full width.  The store had employee's who would keep the bolts of fabric neat and orderly often coming by where I was smashing the fabric bolt back in the tightly packed stands they were displayed on.   Always polite about your looking at the fabric they would remove the bolt I tried to put back neatly and they would redo it making sure the long "T" shaped pin was placed back in the exact location at the top with the fabric folded down neatly on a diagonal to cover it.   

     By far my favorite store was Fabric Lane in San Leandro.    The ladies who worked there were beyond my expectations!  Walking inside this store you were greeted with a "Hello, how are you today?" from the cutest little ladies you could imagine.  They all wore aprons with nifty little pockets to hold a tape measure, scissors and pins.  They all seem to be the Grandmotherly type with grey hair neatly coiffed  with a hint of hair spray to hold it's shape.  No overdone makeup just a dusting of blush and a bit of lipstick.  Today we would think they were following us around too much but for me it was just common courtesy. They really wanted to help me.  I would pick out the fabric I wanted and walk up to the large cutting table with my plan of what I wanted to sew usually on a scrap piece of paper.  If it was a window I would give them the measurements of it and tell them what I wanted to do and they would help me figure out exactly how much fabric I needed.  Did I want to double the width or triple it?  Did I know how to match the repeating pattern when I would sew the seams together and know how much extra fabric to allow for this?  Yes, they would help me with a smile every time.  The store was spotless with everything in it's place.  They seemed to have every item one could need for any sewing project and never seem to be out of stock.   It wasn't a craft/fabric store like they seem to do now.  

     When I had my girls that store was there for my sewing foray of baby clothes and receiving blankets.       I met my challenge with collars and zippers.  Still there were many other clothes I could do.   Sitting down at the oversized tables in the rear of the store were huge books filled with clothing or home projects.  I would pour over the pages just imagining what that would look like once sewn.  I loved looking at buttons as there were so many cute buttons for baby clothes.  Little bunnies, or pastel alphabet buttons, pearl white buttons in all sizes, just an endless supply of them on twirling racks.  Then there was rickrack trim and lace trim of different colors, and appliques galore for decorating.  

     I still have my sewing machine that I got in High School.  It needs some work as it has never been cleaned.  I still enjoy sewing as it feels so good when you finish a project.  My last one was a quilt and some curtains for the kitchen.  My daughters have used it from time to time as well for one thing or another.   Sometimes I think a new machine would be nice especially one that self threads since my eyes don't see like they use to.  But then I would have to deal with the dirty JoAnne's Fabric store and that bothers me.  I guess I will just have to overlook the ill kept floor and just touch the fabric and dream of what I could make.


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