Thimbles, Rhythms & Natures of Things - Part 1
My mother promised her gold thimble to whichever of her three daughters learned to sew the best and eventually I was the one who won it. That was no small victory for a small baby sister!
My eldest sister was an excellent seamstress and designer. She was also a milliner and jewelry-maker. My middle sister made wonderful things for the house, upholstered furniture and made custom slipcovers. As for me, I just loved everything about sewing and couldn't get enough of it! I designed and made my first dress at age thirteen and at fourteen I made myself an exquisite wool tailored suit.
It was the major AHA of my life when I realizied I was really good at something of real value and that there need be no limit to improving in it! I hadn't thought of vying for the thimble amidst the euphoria I was enjoying every time I had the chance to sew,to read about sewing, and to practice and improve techniques - all of it! Well, loved all but the b-o-r-i-n-g apron I had to made in ninth grade Home Economics class! The sewing unit preceded the Foods and Cooking unit so that we could all make those aprons to use when cooking,
But, for me, this independent sewing and discovered was like uncovering an actual identity for myself, so vital a discovery, among the much older and accomplished people in my natal family! I hardly focused on, or even considered a likelihood of excelling them. My concern was whether I could just be really good at something! My reward was in feeling myself improving and having results to demonstrate it! Even though being awarded the thimble was yet to happen, I simply felt my personal victory with each improvement and a shining path to pursue for as long as I lived. Yet to be discovered were the other, more esoteric spiritual lessons for me in taking up that path.
But - loving to sew and being good at it did not mean I loved wearing a thimble! In fact, I could not bear to wear one. It made me feel 'all thumbs', much too distant from the fabric, more self-protective and less in touch with all of it. When I was sewing, my fingers needed to "talk to the fabric", to feel its resistance or its willingness - even its own desire - to DO what I wanted it to do, and to help me to allow it to express its nature! It was a relationship.
A clumsy, insensitive thimble just stood in our way!
As a result, especially when I sewed by hand, which I frequently did, I usually had a well-pricked middle finger on my left hand from the sharp "business" end of the needle and usually, also a puncture on the middle right-hand finger from pushing the blunt "eye" end through the fabric. That is the finger on which thimbles are to be worn, I believe. I especially recall hand-sewing on a rather heavy, coarse linen fabric! If anything would have tempted trying to use the thimble, that would have been it! I was NOT tempted!
. . . . . . . Ouch!
I didn't know which finger I most likely would have needed to protect with a thimble, though, if I had tried to use one! But, for me, it was a moot issue. These were merely wounds suffered in a labor of love which justified the mild anquish.
I learned the value of spit for timely removal of a little blood stain on the work!!
Please don't misunderstand. "Hand-sewing" in this context does not refer to embroidery and fancy stitchery. Here, it mean the seams, the tucks, the pleats, the hems, the buttonholes - all the vital essentials which comprise a wearable and beautiful garment.
One semester, away at school, I had no access to a sewing machine so I made every stitch of my spring wardrobe by hand! Yes, my fingertips were like a prickly map of my progress!
This project meant literally sewing my clothes by hand. If adornment were also needed, I did it, too. But the main essence and quality of my sewing, whether by hand or by machine, is in precision cutting and stitching; and if done by hand, that means tiny straight stitches like a machine would make, to be able to withstand the vigors of wear and also to look clean and effortless, rather than tight or labored.
At that time there was a special stigma associated with having to wear clothes "made with loving hands at home". I wanted my hand-mades to be more like "made in a Paris couture house"! I aimed for a high standard of excellence in this endeavor which combined workmanship, technique and creativity based on awareness of and respect for the nature of the fabric itself. It was a virtual love affair!
Happily, I was given a Singer Featherweight Portable later on, which became my constant companion and "partner-in-crime" for years to follow! It didn't totally obscure my love of hand-sewing, but I loved it even more.
I blush to recall that I even took that little machine on my honeymoon!
I still have it and prefer it to my fancy computerized Pfaff for some sewing tasks! It is made of sterner stuff and holds a straight seam more firmly. When I pieced a quilt for a project, this was crucial to achieving those perfect intersections between the small quilt pieces.
The saga has continued all the years. I made countless children's and grownup's clothes on it. I made my lovely wedding dress, as well as wedding ensembles for many others.
It has been a major part of my being and life. The years of "construction" expertise even led to landing an interesting job in the Engineering Department of a building company at one point. It was there that I met George!
. . . and sew on and so forth. . .
To Be Continued ~
Next ~ Finding the Rhythm ~
Strands of life
At right angles,
Here and there
Upon the square
Corners of the loom;
The why of it escaping
Through the mesh,
______© Nellieanna H. Hay
To proceed to the next ~ click:
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- Thimbles, Rhythms & Natures of Things - Part 3
THE NATURES OF THINGS
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- Thimbles, Rhythm & Natures of Things - Part 4
PIANOS I HAVE KNOWN AND LOVED
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