Basically, this is a post about my mother.
Today I was watching “The Great British Sewing Bee”… and the episode was a homage to the 1950’s. All the sewers were given vintage patterns, and an old singer sewing machine. And with it, they struggled.
I found myself laughing a lot. These were electric singer machines! My mother has never upgraded from a treadle machine. My sister and I learnt to sew on that thing, and it has never broken down, needed repairs or maintenance, and well, as we always showed off to our friends, “we can sew in a power cut”.
On that machine wedding dresses, prom dresses, costumes for plays, school assessments, clothes to wear tomorrow and dreams were made. Looking at the show today, I am in awe of my mother.
We didn’t use patterns growing up. Maybe as patterns were not money well spent. We could make a pattern, adapt a piece of clothing, or come up with something new. When my friend Shannon had a pair of shorts I liked, my mother simply walked down to her house, and her mother and mine looked at the shorts. The next day, I had a pair. At the time I was somewhat mortified at asking to see shorts from my friends house, but it was cool to get a pair. And she added pockets! Adult me is always annoyed at the lack of pockets.
My sister has always been the better sewer in the family. I can do the basics. I have made quilts, and costumes, and well, cushions…. she is an upholsterer with industrial machines at home. And if you see her bears, or children’s jackets, or the patterns she designs, well, I pale in insignificance.
And my mother taught us to sew.
I took more to knitting.
The story goes many ways. Basically, Dad was really sick. My sister was a baby. And I was a young, and probably annoying child. 2 things happened. “The Days of Our Lives” – in which I was taught to sit down quietly… and knitting. She taught an odd 3 year old to knit… basically it started with a scarf of sorts. Clearly the number of stitches increased. Stitches were dropped. I learned how to fix them. Then changing colours. Soon I learned the purl stitch.
Not long after that, I was given a pattern for a knitted bear. I learned to piece things together and to increase.
And that was the end of that. No more patterns until I was in college, when Mum bought me a cable aran jumper pattern and yarn. That jumper knit so quickly, and I fell in love with cables. But I had already made baby booties, knitted a blanket for charity, jerseys, and a complicated cardigan with intarsia (I only learned what that was called WAAAAY later in life). When I broke my leg, I made hats. Everyone got a hat. Mum had to drive me around dropping them off (up to 4 a day!).
Other than the fact that I learned a valuable skill, and other than the fact that she was patient enough to teach me such a thing… she taught me how to be creative. She never said that we couldn’t do something, or even implied that it wasn’t a good idea. She let me stay up all night knitting a jumper to wear to school the next day. She allowed me to make jumpers without patterns which the money for yarn had to come from somewhere.
And she also inadvertently taught me that knitting could indeed pay the bills. I remember when money was low, she took on a job knitting jumpers for a lady in town. It wasn’t easy, but it helped make ends meet. She let my sister and I sell our wares at a local craft store. And later when I was a teen, she sat with me during a Sunday market selling knitted Telly-Tubbies, and showing me I could do something a lot of people could not. Last year knitting helped get me and 18 students around the world to London.
Now I still knit (clearly). And my sister still sews. And my mother still has the Singer sewing machine.
So this is my thank you, to my Mum. For patiently teaching me what I know is a gift. One that I have shared, and one I will continue to do so. While I cannot have my own kids to teach to knit, I have taught many of my students to make up for it. And to my readers, share those skills…. be it guitar, pottery, gardening, languages or knitting… you never know what will end up changing a life.