"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
I've tried a few times to learn to sew. I'm sure Mama tried to teach me, and I had a mentor when I was in middle school who did sewing lessons for me and a friend, I actually took a sewing class in college, and Shane's Grandma Nita helped me with a couple sewing projects after we married. Having said that, I still can't sew well at all. I can do very basic things like sewing on a button or repairing a seam that has split, but I missed out on the part of Mama's DNA that made her good at everything she tried. She had a gift for sewing and we all benefited. Read on to find out how:
Mama was an excellent seamstress, and her skills enhanced our lives in so many ways. She was quick to use her skills to save money, to help out, to bless others. She could make pretty much anything -- and often did. . .
One of my favorite ways that Mama used her sewing skills was by making clothes for my Barbie dolls. I loved Barbie and her friends (both name brand and generic). Such teeny tiny clothes for teeny tiny bodies, but Mama would use a few scraps, design and make clothes all the time fit for a Barbie. It was the season of polyester and one outfit I remember particularly was a polyester gold pantsuit for my doll. She enjoyed wearing it, I’m sure -- and I certainly enjoyed dressing my Barbies in all the clothes Mama designed and sewed for me and my dolls!
The year was 1976 and I was in third grade (Ms. Bowen’s class). The whole country was awash in excitement over our Bicentennial Anniversary -- 200 years for this fine country of ours. Celebrations were rampant! At Whiteville Primary School, we were having a big celebration, too! It consisted of square-dancing and patriotic music. We were all (I guess) dressing in period costumes for the event, so Mama made for me a long skirt and a round bonnet, trimmed with fabric matching my skirt. For Dale, it was knee breeches and a jacket with brass buttons and a tri-corn hat, too, I think. Not just for us, but for several classmates, too -- Mama put her sewing machine to work as grade-parent and we were outfitted with Bicentennial excellence -- suitable for singing and square-dancing!
That same third grade year, Mama also made stockings for my whole third grade class (and I think Dale’s whole class, too!) Not only did she sew the stockings, but also, added all my classmates’ names with glue and glitter, along with a glitter Christmas tree with a star on top. These were not just cheap felt stockings cut with pinking shears and barely stitched together either! These were really nice, thick-fabricked stockings with turned-under hems and no raw edges anywhere! Her willingness to use her skills and her gifts made a lot of kids happy that Christmas. We kept those same stockings and used them for years afterward, and I bet lots of other kids did, too!
Dreams of Red
As a child, my favorite color was red and I wanted a red bedroom from the time I was very young. In fact, Mama and Daddy got in “almost-trouble” with our cousin/landlord because someone misunderstood Mama and Daddy when they were telling someone else in the family that I wanted red walls and they thought Mama and Daddy had painted the walls in their house red . . .
So, when we got the new house at Pleasant Hill, and I had my own bedroom as a fifth grader, I wanted a red bedroom. While I wanted red walls, Mama and Daddy compromised with just a hint of red in the white paint (It really looked white -- not even pink. . .) and red carpet and bedroom linens. Mama scoured stores and bargains and found a red velvet bedspread, but to buy matching curtains was very expensive, so Mama bought maybe 3 bedspreads, which were a good price. We used one on the bed, and she used the other two to make curtains for my two windows and cover a chair that we had gotten from someone. The carpet was red and black shag carpet and thanks to Mama and her bargain-hunting and sewing/upholstery skills, I had my dream bedroom!
Daddy had a class reunion coming. I don’t remember what number -- maybe 20? That would have made it 1981, and that seems plausible. Daddy was wearing a mustache at the time. Mama made them matching outfits to wear for Daddy’s reunion. Remember, it was the era of polyester. Mama fashioned herself a long dress (Now they call them maxi-dresses) with long sleeves. Daddy had a matching short-sleeve shirt. The fabric was black polyester covered with pink roses. It was striking fabric, and they made a striking couple in such beautiful outfits. While that memory has NOTHING to do with me, it is one of my favorites.
Jr. Prom with my date (a friend), Wayland Nobles in the antebellum-style dress Mama and I found at the yard sale. The neckline was lower when we bought it. Mama added layers of lace, and also removed the bottom of the sleeves (big puffy bottoms) and poof! a prom dress for $3.00 plus labor and the cost of the lace :-) I actually loved this dress!!!
Mama was quick to make something from scratch or to modify something with what she had on hand.
Once, we were at a yard sale and found a beautiful powder blue antebellum dress with ruffles and lace and big balloon sleeves. It also showed a lot of cleavage. I loved the dress and wore it just for fun around the house as an upper middle-school/early high school student. It well- suited my romanticism. Mama reworked that same dress so that I could wear it for my junior prom. She removed the balloon sleeves, and added extra lace at the neckline so not-so-much cleavage was revealed. I loved the dress and I loved that I got to wear it to prom. Mama was a master at using what we had to make things special. I didn’t always appreciate that, but other times it was perfect -- like this time.
Next year’s prom wasn’t so smooth. Mama insisted on making my dress. It wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t the greatest time -- lots of arguing and hard times. In retrospect, I understand that the money just wasn’t there to buy a dress, and it really didn’t matter anyway. I respect all the effort that she put into the dress, and it turned out pretty. While it wouldn’t have been my first choice, I wish I had handled it differently, and I am so thankful for all the gifts and skills and resources that she used to try to make life good for all of us.
I wish I had pictures of the Barbies and the stockings and all the amazing work Mama did as seamstress for our family, but hopefully you can see her talent and hard work in these photos. I sure do appreciate how she wielded a needle and thread and wish I had learned more when I had the opportunity. My life was certainly richer for all her capabilities -- especially, this one.
I've been a teacher of K-3 students for over 20 years; I'm also a writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and picture books. I'm wife to an amazing husband and mom to Sparkles, Mocha, and Rusty -- our feline fur babies . I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!
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