Why is it that my love for creating and sewing stuck with me in this time of plenty? In this time of embarrassingly rampant consumerism when you can afford to buy almost anything – why bother!
The greatest satisfaction I get is from things that I’ve created myself, paying close attention to their purpose, quality and design. I appreciate and love to see beautiful things that are made with great skill, passion and attention to detail by other creators.
It may be from an unbroken history of skills transference that my mother, grandmother, and aunts all learned. To take care of themselves and their families included sewing, and the usual cooking and cleaning. Very importantly, they also learned how to manage money equally as well as how to manage with very little money.
Toys were crafted from available bits and pieces that not only entertained once completed, but enjoyment was extracted from the making of them. More than just quilts, other household furnishings too were often made – drapery, cushions, slipcovers and kitchen linens. And, wool and linen fabrics were home spun and woven in our family.
Clothing was sewn for rapidly growing children, if not for the ‘grown-ups’ of the family’s work and casual wear. Although, going further back into history, in my grandparent’s day, all adult members of the family wore clothing made by its female members, or the family’s tailor.
My ancestors had beautiful well-crafted clothing for every season. Nothing like the perpetuated images of amateurish, ill fitting, home-made sewing disasters that quickly comes to mind from TV programs such as ‘I Love Lucy’ of my childhood. Far from it! Fabrics were incredibly durable yes, but they were also wonderful lustrous wools and silks, furs and leather, linen and crisp cottons that stood up to wear and tear.
Everyone made an effort to look their best all the time, wherever they went; they took pride in their appearance. Clothing fitted extremely well, and was mostly alterable especially for children as they grew. New garments were re-purposed from ones that had a previous life, taken apart and redesigned. Handed down dresses and gowns with laces and embroidery, and suits with handmade buttons were all precious.
There was also a sharing of labour pool. Those that had become expert in one area, would trade with others of differing skills. It was personal. It was holistic, productive and meaningful.
Growing up with an appreciation for and practicing the skills I’ve learned from my mother who has always been a professional couturier, gives me immense satisfaction. To share them with young people wanting to learn, who haven’t had my advantage, is what living heritage is all about – the future.
“…here is to the future!” – J