I’m still working out how to balance life this year with a meaningful online presence. Here are some things that have happened in the last month:
It was on our trip to Melbourne that I first noticed a pattern book from Japanese designer Yoshiko Tsukiori – Stylish Dress Book: Wear With Freedom”. It was filled with beautiful understated dresses and blouses, made from neutral and natural textiles, designed to be loose fitting yet elegant. It was gorgeous. Everytime I entered an independent bookshop with a good craft section I would seek it out and flick through, trying to figure out whether I could justify owning this book with my western body shape and lack of sewing skills. The rest of my story is behind the cut!
My mum is a very gifted seamstress. When I was young she made heaps of clothes for me, Philip and Georgia as well as costumes to dress up in and outfits for dancing concerts. During one particular season, our friends liked having us at their birthday parties because they would receive beautiful hand sewn costumes as presents – fairy skirts, Jasmine outfits (c.f. Aladdin), Superman/Batman/Batgirl capes, Robin Hood hats and vests. It was awesome!
I know she made serious clothes too. She made her wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses for a number of weddings. I have lovely hand-me-downs from her which she says she didn’t make, but have a very distinct lack of labelling. Family friends who were around before I was born still constantly mention it, sometimes completely out of the blue:
“You know, your mum was an amazing seamstress, Alison!”
“Your mum can do wonders with the sewing machine!”
“Grace is a gifted seamstress. I remember she sewed the most beautiful [insert: dress/wedding dress/christening gown/children’s costumes]!”
She tried to teach me a little when I was growing up. I think I must have been about 10 when she taught me to thread the machine up and sew in straight lines. My friends and I had to make costumes for something at school without any adult assistance. They looked ridiculous but I was proud to say I had sewn those mishappen t-shirts myself! The sewing lessons with mum didn’t progress too much further than that, though. Textiles classes at school were fun, but I only got them for about a term before Fort Street closed down its sewing program. Mum and I occasionally bought patterns and fabric with all good intentions for sewing things together but we never really found the time.
Roll forward many years and now I am hoping to pick up some of those skills that I really should have learnt earlier. I finally have my own sewing machine – given to me by mum and dad on my birthday last year (thanks!). In the meantime I have also acquired a new seamstress relative – my mother-in-law who is also brilliant with her sewing. So with the help of family encouragement, a brand new sewing machine, inspiration from Pinterest, Vietnamese fabric stores and Ikea and, I’ve been naively hoping, maybe some kind of genetic predisposition to be able to sew, I’ve successfully sewn a handful of cushion covers, purses and skirts. It’s been a steep learning curve. Every project I’ve tried has included a mistake which has taught me something new about how to sew. And finally, last week, I was ready to try a dress…
But that’s enough of the preamble! You will have to wait for the next post to see what happened!