Sewing Lessons = Life Lessons

My Mom taught me how to sew. Obviously, Mom taught me how to do a lot of things, but the way she taught me how to sew became very important. It wasn't THAT she taught me how to sew that was so important.  It was how she taught me that gave me tools I needed for the rest of my life.

First, Mom had me make a brown-kraft paper copy of the pattern, including all the tailor’s marks. Then she told me to use the paper copy to cut out the pattern in muslin. “But Mom,” I whined, “I want to make the dress out of this gingham.” Nope. Make the first one out of muslin.

First the muslin copy had to be basted together, fitting the darts just so and marking everything on the muslin copy. Mom helped me fit it, of course. When it was exactly perfect, I sewed over the basting in regular stitches. It was checked again for fit, a few adjustments were made, and I was permitted to take it all apart and transfer the marks to the brown paper pattern. Now I had a pattern that was made especially for me.  I wondered why I needed a pattern fit especially to me when I was growing "like a veed", as Mom told me so often in her accented English.  Then I pinned the heavy pattern onto the pretty pink gingham I had picked for my dress.

Again, I basted the entire dress, fitting everything as we went. And when it was perfect, I finished the dress in a small running stitch. I wore that dress proudly until I outgrew it. Several other projects followed, and soon I didn’t need Mom’s help very often.

Years later, when I took home economics in junior high, the first quarter was devoted to sewing. At the end of the quarter, I showed my Mom my sewing project. She looked it over critically, and pointed out a few flaws. Then she told me I had done a good job, overall, and atta girl.

I told Mom that this had been a much easier sewing project. “They’ve learned a thing or two since you went to school, Mom.” I reported. “They taught me some pretty slick shortcuts.”  I couldn't decide if Mom was just out-dated, or if she was being mean to me on purpose to make me work that hard.

“How did everyone else’s projects turn out?” She asked.

“Not so good. I got the best grade in the class. I don’t think anyone else can wear what they made.” I answered.

“That’s why I didn’t teach you the shortcuts. If I teach you the right way, and you take shortcuts, you still have a good end-product. But if I teach you the shortcuts, you take shortcuts on the shortcuts, and then what do you have? A lot of effort into something you can’t even wear.  You also need to know what all the marks mean, how it all goes together and why you are doing what you are doing.  You won't always have a me or a teacher to help you if it gets complicated.”

My Mom, she is one smart cookie.

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