I've been asked a lot, "How did you learn to sew?"
My answer has always been, "I didn't know I could until I tried."
I was never taught to sew. My Mom was a very good seamstress and was always cutting patterns and making us clothes when I grew up. I remember our kitchen table being filled with her sewing machine, serger and fabric when I was really young. Her mother was also a seamstress, but her Grandma Stella Forsey was an AMAZING seamstress. My Mom always told me (and still does) stories of how every time they would go to visit, her Grandma would have a new dress made and waiting for them. Dresses my Grandma had designed herself, not from a pattern. Not just your run of the mill pillow case dress, but silk dresses with big bows on the back. You know the real elaborate ones that none of us would even think about making these days. When she died she was 92. I remember her. I was young, but I remember visiting her and how much I loved her. I remember running through the nursing home halls to find Grandma Forsey. When she died I was devastated. Her estate had already been divided, but my Mom, knowing how important she was to me and worried that I might some day forget, gave me the only thing I have of my Grandma Forsey - her Christmas sock. I'm pretty sure it is just the one that they had for her in the nursing home, but on the front in gold glitter script writing I read, "Stella." That was the first time I knew her name was not Grandma Forsey (ya, I was pretty young). I remember thinking how beautiful that name was and wishing it was mine.
Yes, I come from a line of women that could sew. I, however, was not taught by any of them. My Mom spent most of my formative years not sewing. I only remember her doing so when I was very, very young. I remember watching her create, and her letting me press the foot peddle on the sewing machine to let her help (I still don't dare let my kids do that). I remember wanting to sew like that, but being too young.
We were cleaning out our garage a few weekends ago and I came across a box from my younger years. When I opened it up I found this rumpled piece of fabric on top. Only it wasn't just a rumpled piece of fabric - it was my very first creation. My first original pattern. My very own design. My very first time using the sewing machine by myself.
It was a Thanksgiving dress for my doll, Stella.
I had completely forgotten about this dress, but when I pulled it from the box it all came flooding back to me. The day, the vision, my Mom getting frustrated with me when I tried to explain to her what I wanted her to make because, "you can't just make something from your head. You have to have a pattern." (she's going to die that I just put that in there, but she won't deny it). :) I do have to admit that it seemed far more masterpiece-like when I made it, but it is still amazing to me (as well as crazy funny)!
Let me go ahead and point out a couple finer points of the gown.
Fist you'll notice the wonderful appliqued/glued on turkey feathers. This, my friends, is nicely hand-stitched along the bottom for a wonderful accent (and because after stitching the bottom by hand there was no way I was going to go around all the feathers).
Don't forget about the pocket. No baby dress is complete without a usable pocket. "How did she do that amazing invisible stitching at such a young age?", you might be asking yourself. No rest for the weary and a healthy dose of heat 'n bond fusible liner. Yep, just iron on along the edges and you're done.
The casing for the ribbon/non-coordinating yarn was such a inspired idea to both keep the baby's feet warm as well as to keep the dress up. No need for a collar here.
My favorite part is of course the sleeves. Exquisitely designed for the minimalist a simple HOLE, which did the trick just fine. And because this baby was actually a doll and would never get the dress dirty, and therefore the dress would never need to be laundered, and fraying would not be a problem, there was no need (or know-how) to finish the edges.
This, my friends is how I learned to sew. I just did it and I just kept doing it.
My Mom told me the minute I started The Vintage Clothespin, "You are just like your Great-Grandma. She could see something in her head and just create it. No pattern, no directions, just make what she dreamed." I don't know about that. This amazing woman designed and made amazing dresses, pieces of clothing that actually had to fit someone. Bags, quilts, shoes and an occasional simple dress are a far cry from the things she must have created. All the same it has always been a secret pleasure of mine to think that maybe, just maybe I got a piece of my Great-Grandma. Maybe for some reason I will never know I was blessed to have that small, little piece of her passed on to me. What an amazing blessing!