Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Introductory Threads

     To begin this adventure in blogging, I will start with my introduction to the creative world of "Needles and Threads."  I say this in the plural form, because I am including many forms of needlework under this heading.  Within a very short time, I was introduced to sewing, knitting, crochet, and embroidery. 
     I do not know exactly my age, but my earliest memories are of learning to sew.  I don't know if they still make them, but someone gave me some sewing cards when I was about 3.  These were pieces of cardboard printed with simple pictures that had holes around the design.  It came with a large plastic needle and yarn to thread through the holes in the cards.  If you were inclined to be neat, you could outline the design with your yarn, or if you wanted to be spontaneous and original, you could go every which way with the yarn.  These sewing cards were fun for a while, but then I got bored.  If you said you were bored, someone put you to work, but sometimes they would teach you how to do a new thing!
     Next I remember my Grandma giving me a big needle and a long thread onto which I was told to thread buttons.  My sister and I made long rows of buttons of all different colors from Grandma's button tin.  She also showed us how to knot the ends of the thread and how to thread a real needle.  We were given scraps of fabric to sew buttons to, and shown how to go through the holes into the fabric.  The underside of the fabric was often full of knots, but that was OK because this was just for fun anyway.  I loved looking at all the different kinds of old buttons in the old tin Grandma kept them in.  At some point, we were set to work sorting the buttons and threading together those that matched. 
     Grandma also had a treadle sewing machine in a spare bedroom that we were allowed to play with - treadling away with no thread, but learning how the machine worked and trying to keep it going in a steady motion.  At some point, I was shown how to thread the machine and mess around with real thread on a scrap and sew pieces together, but we were still playing.
    When we got tired of buttons and scraps of fabric, Grandma got us started on embroidery.  The first thing I remember was going to the dime store to pick out a pillow case and thread colors to embroider.  That kept us busy for a while.  Next came out the yarn and crochet hooks.  We made long chains, until we could manage the next stitch and make a square.  I was probably about 5 when I learned embroidery and crochet. I also liked to iron.  People still ironed everything, so I was allowed to iron handerchiefs and pillow cases. This didn't seem like work to me, so I begged people to let me iron for them.
   I know I was shown how to knit by at least 3 different people over the next couple of years.  I recall making a very long, very irregular scarf, but needing help to bind off.  Each time I got the urge to knit, it was the same thing - another scarf, but the results were a little better than last time until it looked pretty good.
   Hand sewing doll clothes came next - first just cutting up scraps and sewing together with big stitches, but my mom showed me how to use a pattern to cut out the pieces when I was about 5 or 6, and the results were much improved after that.  Mom had an old black Singer machine with a knee lever, which she showed me how to use.  My first attempts at sewing were on that straight stitch machine.  We made clothes for all our dolls, even Barbie - which was tricky.  I was happier making the clothes than playing with the dolls.
   We played around with needlecrafts for the next few years, until at age 10 I told my mom "You have to show me how to make my own clothes!"  She found a simple top pattern and some fabric to get me started, then I was on my own.  I already knew how to pin and cut, follow the pattern layouts, and use the machine, so my first project required only a little help and came out wearable, if not perfect.  Once I got going, there was no stopping me!  Sewing was turning into my one obsession.
     By Junior High, I was sewing most of my own clothing as well as my 2 sisters'.  A family friend asked me to make her a dress.  The first try didn't fit well, but I remade the bodice with a few changes and the second try came out great.  We had Home Ec. classes in 7th & 8th grades - one semester of sewing each year and one semester of  cooking.  I was well past most students in sewing, and the pace was incredibly slow, but these classes added to my skills and improved the quality of my projects. 
    The summer after 9th grade was a pivotal time for me - my first tailoring classes.  The local High School offered sewing as a summer course.  The teacher allowed us to choose what we wanted to learn.  We filled out a sheet with our previous sewing experience and finished projects, and what we wanted to learn.  The teacher looked at mine and said, "Why are you taking this class?"  My response was "I want to learn tailoring!"  She was kind enough to let me do it, and I made my first blazer with hair canvas interfacing and hand-sewn padding stitches and complete lining.  I was in heaven!  In the fall, my music teacher gave me five dresses she had started and paid me to finish them for her.  After that, I never had a shortage of sewing clients.  I took 2 years of sewing classes in college, planning to be a Home Ec. teacher, but life took me in a different direction.  I did teach for a couple of years, but not as I had planned.  I continued to study all aspects of sewing as I continued to sew for clients of all kinds, filling in areas I hadn't yet mastered.  My children all learned to sew, but my older daughter was the one who caught the bug early and has stayed with it.  She now sells her creations on Etsy.com - Morningstar84 Designs. 
     I got back into knitting about 15 yrs ago and haven't stopped, but sewing is still my main obsession.  I'm thinking of taking up spinning and weaving, too.  It has been a great adventure and I have met wonderful people along the way.
     My goal with this blog is to share some of what I have learned with all who care to learn, and to help and encourage those new to the needlearts.  This may be the beginning of a book, too - who knows! 
    I'm hoping to begin regular installments of "Sewing How To's" on topics like "How to choose the right size pattern" - topics that come up all the time with sewers.  I hope you'll join me on this adventure!   

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