When I was about 12, I fell in love with a gray wool skirt. My mother thought it was all about the boy down the block, but she was wrong.
There was a woman who lived across the alley from us who had three sons. One was about 15 or so, very quiet, kind of cute. He had two younger brothers who played with my younger brothers. This woman, Mrs. W., was a friend of my mom's. She knew how to sew. She used to bring her projects over sometimes and work on hand work while my mom and she talked and drank coffee.
I remember the first time I saw the winter coats she was making for the two younger boys as if it were last week. The one coat was burgundy wool with a black sealskin hood lining. The other was brown with a sheepskin lining.
But the most wonderful thing she was working on was a gray pleated skirt. I think it was just wool, but to my mind it was the most wonderful fabric I had ever seen!
At the time I was wearing mostly cotton dresses and nylon sweaters to school. In fact most of the things I wore were hand-me-downs from an older cousin. Nice things, but ordinary.
I lusted after that gray wool!
Mrs. W. invited me to come to her house and watch her put it together. I remember how she steamed in the pleats. The iron gave off clouds of moisture as she pumped the steam button. Fabulous! And her stitching melted into the fabric. When she lifted off the press cloth I was amazed at how beautiful the seams looked. She finished them all off with an overcast stitch -- remember, this was WAY before sergers!
She was explaining to me how she kept her scissors very sharp and never let anyone use them for anything. Men, she said, would cut the craziest things and just ruin your edge! Keep your scissors locked up and sharp, she said!
Suddenly my mother was at the door. She said it was time to come home, and I'm sure she was thinking that I was there drooling over Phillip, who was in the living room watching something dumb on TV. Probably Ed Sullivan or something.
I knew better than to argue. Mrs. W. gave me a little pile of wool scraps to take with me. My mom didn't say much on the walk across the alley, but I could tell she was not happy.
How could I explain the hold that wool had over me? What chance did a 15 year old boy have against one of the most beautiful and beautifully made garments I had ever seen?? None, I tell you! And that night I dreamed about a gray wool skirt with a perfect pale pink twin set and a strand of pearls.