I grew up with a mom and grandmother who could sew like nobody’s business. I think I’ve shared before that my “back to school” shopping consisted of going to stores that we knew we couldn’t afford to shop in, look at the newest fashion trends and then mom would go home and make outfits based off of those trends. Very seldom did she have a pattern. If she did, it was a basic pattern and she would “customize” from there.
I remember from an early age having some of the cutest clothes ever, thanks to mom. Mom made formal attire for a girl who was competing in the Little Miss World pageant. She made my best friends and I our Easter dress every year. I mean, these clothes were amazing! I remember I had a pair of “elephant ear” bell bottoms mom made; they were made out of a mustard color fabric and mom did a huge purple flower applique all the way from the bottom of one leg up to the waistband. Of course, I paired that with the infamous purple “body suit”. What’s a body suit, you ask? Basically, a onesie for adults. Ha! It was the fashion in the mid to late 70’s. Enough said.
I decided when I was about 12 that I should learn to sew. I mean, mom did it and made it look so easy, so surely I could do it. Beside, I was artsy. I sang, played the piano; sewing should be a piece of cake. Mom and I picked out a piece of fabric and she found a simple pattern she had for a straight skirt with elastic in the waist. Nothing fancy. Let me interject this confession here: I am not a patient person with most things, so when we laid out the material on the kitchen bar (which is where mom always cut out her sewing projects) she started telling me that we needed to make sure to lay the pattern with the grain of the material, don’t lay one piece one way and the other another way, etc. etc. etc. Come on, mom! Just let me lay the pieces out, cut them out and sew them up. Not gonna happen with mom over-seeing my lessons in becoming a fabric apparel seamstress. Anyway, we laid it out, got it cut out and now, it was time to put the “pedal to the metal”, so to speak.
I started with the side seams, which is basically all this skirt had. I started and went way too fast and my seam looked like S-curves around a mountain. I had to stop, get the “picker” (you know, that little, tiny pointy thing that you get under every tiny, little piece of thread and pick it out, stitch by stitch).
Anyway, after not once, not twice, but three times of using “the picker”, never seeming to be able to sew in a straight line, I put the front and the back of the skirt together, put down the thing that holds the needle (see, I don’t even know what you call it), pushed the pedal all the way down, and sewed a fairly straight seam....right up the middle of that skirt. Thus ended my attempt at being a seamstress.
Mamaw, my mom’s mom, could sew just as beautifully, and she could also knit and crochet. Ah! Maybe this was my calling. Mamaw was very patient in trying to teach me to knit. We started out with a simple stitch. She was constantly saying, “don’t drop that stitch, sister”, right as I dropped that stitch. I think I’m the only person known to man that quit knitting and crocheting in the same day. I just couldn’t do it.
For me, this goes along the lines of French braiding hair. Poor Fancy (our daughter). I always wanted to French braid her hair, but what started out as three pieces of hair in my hands, quickly turned in to 12 as I was “pulling in” pieces each time.
These hands are made for piano and typing. And cooking. And talking. Yes. My name is Dawn Dillard and I talk with my hands! But even though my hands never got the hang of sewing or knitting or crocheting or French braiding, I think they’ve done pretty well with patting the back of someone who needed encouragement; waving hello to a stranger or a friend; rubbing the back of a granddaughter when she spends the night.
George Jones had a song called “Mama’s Hands”. You should listen to it sometime but the most epic line in it is this: “Everything I am today, I owe to mama’s hands.” Thanks, mom, for sewing, cooking, cleaning, driving, praying. My hands may not do all that yours did, but they do ok, I suppose.