A Little bit of Sewing History

My First Skirt

This is the first piece of clothing I ever made. I was in my final year of primary school. We had sewing lessons every Wednesday afternoon and whilst the other girls (the guys were doing woodwork – this was the early 80s – pre PC) were sewing their binker mats or pot-holders the girls in their last year (would now be called Year 6) got on with sewing “properly”.

In this we were assisted by Mrs. A. Apparently she was a seamstress, I would dispute that, I just think she was a short tempered woman with a mean streak. She had us tacking things together using tailor tacks along entire seams. I did not know better until my mother corrected me.

This skirt is constructed quite neatly but I notice the seam allowances are HUGE, I think this was probably at Mrs. A’s instigation. The raw edges are finished by hand – by oversewing, luckily this cotton wasn’t frayable because the oversewing would have been as effective as a chocolate teapot. I think my mother introduced me to machine zigzag after this, I think she introduced me to an electric sewing machine because the school machine was a hand operated one. Allegedly it had belonged to the head teacher’s mother so would have been at least pre-World War 2. Not that my mothers sewing machine at the time was a spring chicken but at least it was electric and a Bernina so was good thing to be introduced to. I think in the summer holiday after I made a little blue top to go with it and embroidered the sailing boat motif on to it.

The skirt is, of course, a little too small for me now although would, due to is wrap and ties, make an interesting half apron. My mother had originally put it to one side for patchwork – it could still be converted to an apron with a little left over for patchwork.

The fact this skirt exists is in no small part down to my patient mother. No doubt if she had known that the years to follow would be a catalogue of awful sewing (blue leopard print jumpsuit, anyone? No? How about a pink check one instead?) she may well have steered me towards a less wasteful hobby. Although at least she saw come out the other side with some more successful garments. I think her particular favourite was the green silk dupion ball dress I made myself. It was worn many times but not before it shredded loads of green bits all over her dining room and lounge floor and she had the lovely task of pinning up a hem now at least an inch shorter than intended. Happy days!

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