I have been making things; doo-hickeys, what-nots, and thing-a-ma-bobs, for as long as I can remember. When I was younger they were made from paper cups and pipe cleaners, wooden beads and scraps of fabric.Yes, these were the unsophisticated materials of the creations of my 5 year old self. One day, though, I wanted to make a doll. On the sewing machine. That didn’t happen (my Mom ended up sewing it for me). Then I wanted to make clothes for my china dolls and my barbie dolls, and so did my sisters. So we got a book from the library and Mom helped us make some doll clothes. Those were glorious times, but I wanted to know more than Mom could teach me. So one day, after a bit of deliberation and discussion with Dad, Mom took me to my first ever sewing camp.
See that girl on the left with that crazy mane of curly locks? Yep, that’s my almost nine year old self at my first sewing camp. Everything that I am wearing in that picture, including the bag I am holding, I made. But I couldn’t have made any of it without the help of my patient teacher Mrs. Montague, and her assistant (the taller girl in the back of the photo). This kind older lady taught us four girls in the class how to make our first ever machine sewn garments and accessories in a five day summer camp. I can still remember sitting in that busy, beautiful sewing room learning how to sew a straight line on a piece of paper, hoping beyond hope that I would get a chance to actually make something that first day. And I did!
This bag is the first item I made in that class. It was the perfect beginner project: Straight lines, simple shapes and immediate satisfaction and encouragement. I used this simple drawstring bag for years. It even came with us on our move to Ohio and held my dancing clothes when Charlotte and I took Scottish Highland dancing. It brings back so many pleasant memories.
Of course I wanted to make myself some clothes too! After picking out a style that I liked at the end of class, Mom and I stopped at Fabric Depot (best fabric store in the world! I only wished we still lived near it… Bother!) to pick out the fabric for my first skirt.
Yet another easy beginner project: a skirt with straight lines, no hard to fit shapes, and it even had a slit in back with my favorite notion of all time decorating it: Mother of Pearl buttons. I remember once, after I had been wearing this skirt for a while, one of the buttons popped off. So my skirt sat, and sat, and sat until I finally got around to replacing the button. Even back then I didn’t like mending work. 🙂
Just looking at these fabrics gives me a sense of comfort. Those were simpler times, or so I thought in my young mind. I did not yet have a grasp on the cares of the world, and was only concerned with the here and now. I still wish that I could go back to that mindset sometimes. Things just seemed easier. But then, I wouldn’t understand how bountifully the Lord has blessed us with His good gifts, and how He has placed me in the time and place I am in for a reason.
Off of that little bit of reverie, this shirt was another one of the first items I made. Pulling that elastic through the casing was one of the hardest things I could recall doing thus far in the class. It seemed like it took forever! But once it was all done, the shirt was finished! I walked out of class that day with a whole outfit!
This last piece, my first ever circle skirt, is a bit of a conundrum to me. I can’t exactly place which class I made it in. You see, I took sewing camp two years in a row, and I can’t remember if it was in the first or second one that I made this skirt.
Regardless of when I made it, this skirt provided me with a love of circle skirts that has never quite died out. And oh, I loved that fabric! I still do! I didn’t even know back then that it was a vintage style print, though I had a love for that style of thing even back then. I can remember walking through the aisles of the big warehouse of Fabric Depot, searching for just the right material. I had this sparkly pink and orange cotton in my hands, but Mom said it was too expensive. So, I settled on this more economical pink floral. I’m so glad I did. I wore this skirt until I could no longer fit into it, and still the fabric is almost as strong as the first day it was bought off of the bolt.
This skirt also held two new challenges for me as a beginner seamstress: A zipper and bias binding. I can still remember my awe as I learned how to operate the zipper foot, and put in my first “professional looking” closing. That bias binding was a pain though! It seemed like it took forever to bind that hem! But what circle skirt hem has ever seemed to just “whiz by”? None in my recollection!
It’s so strange. As I have been thinking back over those first forays into the world of clothes-making, I realized just how much the mentorship of Mrs. Montague, and the experiences I had in that class have effected the rest of my “sewing life”. Those techniques that I learned, and the experiences that I disliked (bias binding anyone?) have still stuck with me to this day! I can still remember a story that Mrs. Montague told us of when she was a little girl. Her Mom and Dad owned some sort of shop where they used sewing machines, I can’t remember if it was upholstery or some other such thing, but she would come to work with them, and would fall asleep under the work tables. Just that thought of there being a whole work space dedicated to sewing inspired me back then. Another inspiration was the girl who was Mrs. Montague’s assistant. She’s the taller girl in the turquoise striped shirt in the photo of my class. I remember her showing Mrs. Montague a clipping of her that ended up in the newspaper. She was wearing a gorgeous 1870’s inspired dress that she had made for the local fair’s fashion show. I wish I could remember her name, but time has dislodged it from memory. She was such an inspiration to me, helping us younger girls to sew our first garments. She seemed to have a wealth of knowledge that she willingly shared with us. From that day on I wanted to be able to do that same thing one day: teach others the wonderful art of sewing, and be an inspiration to them. I didn’t realize then what a hard task that was, and one which requires a great deal of patience. Patience which I am still working at gaining. Perhaps someday one of the pupils from the few sewing classes I have assisted with in years past, will look back and be able to say that I inspired them to exceed to greater heights and abilities, and didn’t discourage them.