Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sew Happy at last!

My mother was an excellent, creative seamstress, and I grew up familiar with sewing machines, specifically the heavy-duty Singer that Dad gave her as a wedding present in 1956.

This machine still works beautifully, and at the age of 80 she still uses it to do small repair jobs and to alter clothing to fit. Very recently she had it lovingly serviced by Henderson's at Chermside in Brisbane, and she feels it's working better than ever. 

Mum used to make her own clothes before she was married, whipping up dresses for dances with a wing and a prayer, literally, as she had no time for patterns or conventions. And yet she understood all about cutting on the bias and how to drape fabrics. A genuine creative.

I learned to sew on this machine, but believe me when I say that I was an absolute disaster at it - to the extent that my mother's heart was always in her mouth when I went to work, wondering if her precious machine would survive. Not one of life's naturals, by any stretch of the imagination! Which just goes to show that where there's life there's hope, and it IS possible to teach a more mature dog new tricks, so to speak. Unlike my mum, I used patterns, which I didn't always understand, nor have the patience to follow when I did, and my frustration with the results lead to vigorous arguments with Sally Singer. Finally, leaving a trail of threads and scraps all over Dad's study where the sewing machine lived in those days, I was banned...a relief to me, Mum, and the sewing machine no doubt!

Which didn't stop me feeling a need to sew. When my boys were born I made tentative steps back into the sewing world with a little basic Janome, a pile of Top Kids magazines, and the strangely sparse retail fabric world of Queensland in the 1980's. 

My sons got to wear some interesting dressing gowns and jackets as toddlers: the best attempt I could make at the cool world of German children's fashion meets Saved by the Bell.

The need was definitely there; I just hadn't found the skills (or, it has to be said, the resources) at that stage to meet my aspirations.

Fast forward to 2007, when my sister gave me a new sewing machine for my [mumble]-th birthday.

In fact, a sewing machine is the last thing that she would have thought to give me, but as she lives in London she gave me cash and I chose to buy a new sewing machine...traded in the rackety old Janome which I couldn't even remember how to thread, and replaced it with a shiny new Janome complete with instruction book, tool kit, and a determination on my part to finally master my demons!

This is actually the second machine of the modern era, a step-up after I began to feel confident that my skill set was up to the mark and my present-day sewing interest was a lasting phenomena. There is a crafters' bumper sticker that reads "my other car is a sewing machine", which is very apt, as my new car fund went towards the more recent purchase (although that wasn't generally known en famille until some time later).

After many decades of struggling I came out of the shade and into the light with my sister's gift 5 years ago and began to master the art of sewing. Number one reason for that I think is that I am a much more patient person that I was at 15 or 25...I will pull out a seam and re-do when I mess it up these days; I will make something and then do it all again, better, in the interests of mastering a skill; I will devote a day and a half, or as long as it takes, to finishing something properly.

Number two reason though is that this century we actually have the most wonderful array of fabrics and notions available to us, here in Australia, and on-line as well, so that creativity is never stunted by a void of resources. And that makes it worth getting the nitty-gritty sorted, big time!

These days I love fabric, I love clever patterns, I love opportunities to improvise and be creative, and I love my sewing machine...never thought that I'd ever say that!

I have just delivered some goodies to Rosemont Collectables in Lismore, NSW, where I have rented Candace's shop window for the month of September. These little dresses are hopefully testament to my present day ability with Dear Machine, and the cushions illustrate an even more recently acquired (if not yet mastered) skill in crochet.

Until next time, have great weeks...
Steph xx