Monday, May 22, 2006

Scissor Tales

Scissors. Is there any more important tool in our sewing box? Maybe the needle and thread, the thimble, seam ripper, etc., but who's counting?
Memories of scissors: Growing up, you best not use mom's sewing scissors for cutting paper. There was no worse infraction of the rules than that. Even if you snuck them for one little wrapping job, she knew. It was like there was a secret scissor-watching gremlin keeping track of their every cutting task! How did she know? I'm not so sure how she knew, but now I'm the one who knows. My kids, now grown, know that you best not use mom's scissors with the black handles for cutting anyting other than fabric. And if you value your future, you're better off not using them at all. Those are my scissors. In a world of sharing just about everything, scissors are sacred. They are in my sewing area and that's that. Leave them right where they are or I'll hunt you down, wake you up, whatever it takes to get you to confess to having pilfered them. Lesson learned: Don't mess with mama's scissors.
Missing: Woe be to the people in the room when I discover my scissors are not where I left them. A hunt will ensue and all within hearing distance will be recruited. First will come the "Where did I leave them?" moment. Then, most likely, Who took them?" will come next. The search will go on, looking over, under, in, and out of furniture. And if they're not found, the "pouting" phase will begin. Lesson learned: Don't mess with mama's scissors.
Scissor vacation: My husband recently had the wonderful notion of taking my scissors to be sharpened. He had called me from work and said that the hardware store near his job said they could do them and have them back the next day. Really a nice thing for him to do! That night, I gathered all my sewing scissors, including my small snips and a pair of pinking shears, and put them in a box. Five pair of scissors total. Entrusted to the man I love and the hardware store I didn't know. It was a risk, but it was one worth taking to have a nice sharp edge that would cut through fabric like a hot knife cutting butter. Right? Every day I asked, "Are they done with the scissors yet?" Every day he would say, "They haven't called yet." A week went by. No scissors. I couldn't cut any fabric. I was starting to get the shakes. This was getting serious. I only had one pair of snips and an old pair of pinking shears at home. Of course, my rotary cutter was in the drawer with fresh blades nearby, but it isn't the same. After a week passed, I asked him if he had called them since they didn't call him. Feeling my scissor withdrawal, he decided to stop by the hardware store. And lo and behold, they never sharpened them. I asked him to bring them home, where they'd be safe, cared for, and loved. That night, he did bring them home and though they are in the same nonsharpened state, they're ready to be used anytime I feel like it. No more jonesing over scissors. Lesson learned: Don't mess with mama's scissors.
Bottom line: All in all, the lessons are the same. Our scissors are an important part of our sewing lives. All of our tools are. We're the surgeons of fabric and design. They are our scalpels and we need them to perform our magic. The bottom line will remain the same for ages to come. And we all know what that is - Lesson learned: Don't mess with mama's scissors.
Got any scissor tales to share? Click on comments and feel free.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Learning to sew - Mother's Day

I learned to sew primarily by osmosis. My mom did a lot of sewing when I was little. That's her and me in Washington when I was 7. Dig those legs! She sewed because of necessity. She was a working woman, not so normal in the early 60s, but she also had four daughters. All of them needed clothes on a budget. Often, my older sisters would get the grooviest clothing made and I would get it second hand. I was always on the run as a kid and didn't really care about those things anyway. The sewing machine did fascinate me though. I learned to use it while she was at work. I wasn't supposed to use it, but I did. I had Troll dolls (remember those?) and I used to make clothes for them - simple things with seams at the shoudler and sides. But I learned to make seams. I would watch my mom sew and see her do fancier things, but I stuck with the simple things that I could handle. She made clothes for Barbie. Those teeny tiny clothes. She made clothes for us kids. She made crocheted afghans, and of course, I wanted to learn that too.
We had doilies around the house that she had made or that my grossmama had made, and I learned to make them too. My biggest project was to make a tablecloth. I planned it and worked on it for years, but never finished it. This was crochet with thread, not yarn, so it was long, tedious, and kept me occupied like nothing ever before. I gave up crochet later, but still, from time to time, crochet 2" strips of fabric.
Somewhere in there, she did cross stitching. Not the counted cross stitch of today, but printed cross stitch patterns. I did those a lot. I graduated to embroidery after seeing my older sister's work. I learned that on my own, but the roots were in the embroidery and cross stitch I did with my mom. I've never done counted cross stitching or machine embroidery.
I always come back to the fabric though. When my mom died, I got the famed button box, the box we kids would sit on the floor and rummage through, sorting, remembering what garment they came off of or were put onto, and in general, make a mess with. I used several of those buttons on my own daughter's clothing when she was little.
When my first son was born, I decided to tackle sewing. It was time. I learned from Simplicity patterns and from my Reader's Digest sewing book. I made overalls and graduated to shirts with front buttons and collars. I made a few things for myself and learned about binding armholes from a friend. My younger sister got pregnant, and I threw myself into making several maternity tops for her, some with zippers. I made my son a pair of slacks with a fly closure (never again). I learned how to mend knees and legs of jeans from my mother-in-law. I took a short sewing seminar from Clotilde locally. I started getting Work Basket magazine. I tried cutwork, patchwork, strip piecing, playing with color and texture, and then decided it was time to make a quilt. I made a quilt for my older son using graph paper to draft a design out of squares and triangles that looked like a firetruck. I used only old, recycled fabrics, a blanket for the batting, and some leftover home dec fabric for the back. It's 27 years old and still with us, though in dire need of mending.
Long story short, my sewing roots go back to my mother. I watched her do it and I wanted to do it too. I don't have specific memories of her "teaching" me how to sew, but it had to have been her, whether by true osmosis or not. One of my sisters kids that I have the sewing gene and she doesn't. This could be true. I've been chasing the perfect needle, thread, and fabric ever since. I truly do love to sew and think that part of the reason I do is that it invokes a memory of my mother that I want to hold onto forever.
And a happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there, alive or in memory. And may all your stitches be even and fulfilling.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My baby grew up and flew away...

Ah, breaking up with a project is hard to do. Do you find that to be true? I make tee shirt quilts and sometimes other items for folks on commission or just for fun. I've been working on a tee shirt quilt since February and yesterday, it took off for Texas, to its new home. The process is a long one, from birth to flight, but worth every minute. I start with plain muslin, tee shirts, and an accent fabric to tie it all together, and lots of thread and batting. I make them all in a quilt-as-you go manner. I've never mastered the art of traditional quilting with a frame, so this makes it easier for me to complete a project rather than making a quilt top and going "What now?"
The birth of a project, be it tee shirt quilt or item of clothing takes place in my mind - with an idea. My newest ideas involve making clothing for little girls. I loved sewing for my daughter. I've been picking up patterns from days gone by and using fabrics I have on hand to make outfits. I finished an outfit today that I'm not 100% happy with, but I need to look at it a while and decide what I'm going to do with it. It's made from a feedsack fabric quilt top in odd colors. The quilt was hand sewn, so I reinforced all the seams with zig-zag stitching, then fully lined the skirt and vest with a blend. Both the vest and the skirt have pom-pom trim on them to keep with the retro look. I also made a small "purse" to go with the outfit, and for the button on the purse, I used one of the pom-poms. My plan is to make a similar outfit for an 18" doll to go with it and then sell the whole set. I haven't cut out the doll outfit yet. That's for tomorrow or the next day or the next day.
Regardless of what project I undertake, I know that some day it will be done. Whether I keep it or it goes elsewhere, there's always that odd feeling of complete. It's done. What do I do now? What should I do next? What idea is bouncing around up there in the brain that needs to be unleashed on my stash and Berninas? I'm sure one of them will come bouncing out of my head soon. In fact, I'm meeting with someone Friday who wants a memory quilt made out of her grandparents' clothing. I'm thinking Dresden Plate, but then..... who knows!