Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mrs. H's Blouse

One of my jobs in high school was to sew my own clothes.  I am from a big family, back in the days when having a big family was something you did.  I'm the oldest of eight, one of two girls.  Men who grew up with lots of sisters sometimes complain about living in a house full of women, but we had the reverse -- 30% estrogen, 70% testosterone!

NOT my actual brothers but some of these guys are dirty enough to qualify...

I started babysitting for other families when I was about 12, and I saved up my 50 cents an hour to buy garments at the thrift stores and Goodwill (see other post on the subject).  I used my mom's machine but always had to clean up to clear the table for dinner, and things took forever to finish.  Otherwise I sewed in an unfinished basement.

When I was in high school I got a job for the Christmas season at a local variety store, one that had a big fabric department.  Someone traded in a used sewing machine in a cabinet for a new portable machine.  The store manager let me purchase this beauty for $65. 

It was a couple of days before my mom could come with the station wagon to haul the machine/cabinet home.  I set up at the foot of my bed, put my sewing basket under the legs and was thrilled to be in business!!  Funny, I am trying to remember what kind it was, probably a Kenmore.  I remember it had cams for the different stitches, and a big honkin' buttonhole attachment that fastened to the back of the presser foot.  It took me months to figure that thing out.

But figure it out I did, and that led directly to Mrs. H's blouse...

Mrs. H was a lady who went to our church.  She had a daughter and two sons.  The daughter was older than me, I think she was away at school most of the time.  One son was my age and one was  younger, and my brothers were friends with them.  I think Mrs. H missed Karen because she always was so nice to me.  But then she was a VERY nice person...

This is what it looks like in my memory...
She knew I sewed, and I think she must have been impressed with my skills because she offered to actually pay me to sew some things for her.  She had her eye on some fabric for an outfit for work at her job in a doctor's office.  It was a gray a-line skirt, and for a blouse she picked out a lovely teal paisley cotton blend.

 Sewing that outfit was a challenge; I wanted it to be as close to perfect as I could make it!  I sweated those buttonholes.  I'll bet I made them a dozen times in my dreams before I dared to make a couple of samples on the scraps.

I didn't have the benefit of any sewing classes, or a mentor who knew anything about garment construction.  My school schedule was full of college-prep classes like Advanced Algebra and Chemistry.  When I think about the vast amount of stuff I didn't know, I'm appalled at my hubris in thinking what I did would be worth payment!  Mrs. H, if you're still around, I'm humbled by your faith.

The blouse was very pretty.  It had a button placket and about 7 buttons that couldn't have been bigger than 5/8 of an inch.  Plus one more on each cuff.  The skirt was easy, a centered back zipper and a metal clasp on the waistband, pretty standard stuff.  I pressed carefully as I worked.  I didn't prewash anything, I'm sure.  I can't remember seeing Mrs. H in the outfit at church, but she thanked me prodigiously for my hard work.

Instead of money, she bought me all the supplies for a personal project at an actual FABRIC STORE downtown.  Two and a half yards of white wool, interfacing, lining, and buttons, and a pattern for a dress coat for spring and fall... at the time it was a dream come true.

And THAT project was so enjoyable to complete that it should be worth its own post!

Thank you and bless you, Mrs. H, wherever you are.  I hope you know how much you influenced me!

Sew on!

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