Sewing Lessons – And Beyond!

I started as a five-year-old using real scissors for the first time. Not the blunt tip ones, but I was closely watched. These were Big Girl Scissors!

I made some doll clothes and although the sleeves were holes in the fabric, I was getting the idea. My dolls never complained and I was so proud of ‘my’ clothes they wore. That occupied me till I turned 8 years old, then, I waited till my eleventh birthday.

That summer the Singer store downtown was offering sewing classes for “little girls” to learn the art of “taking responsibility” so I could become a “good wife” and sew for my family. They did not know who they were dealing with.

At the Singer store, I made a dress to fit me. I knew the rudiments of this; find a pattern, cut the fabric and rebuild the article. Whal-la! – a dress to fit me!

Throughout high school, I made my own clothes. I babysat during the week so that gave me the $$$ to buy the patterns, fabric, and notions to make clothes.

I was putting into use the lessons I had learned when I made my first dress. This was great fun.

Niggling at the back of my mind were the comments, almost all on the lines of “you made this”? Then I started showing off, and made my own “slacks” – and no one could tell the difference.

I had long legs and necessity is the mother of invention. If someone else could make a garment, why couldn’t I? I jumped in with both feet and took a tailoring course.

By now, I could make anything, as long as I used a pattern. My friend, Charlotte, never used a pattern. She could look at a design, cut the fabric out on an unmade bed and she’d make up a perfectly fitting garment. There are angels among us.

I started out with Simplicity and McCall’s patterns but settled on Buttrick. It worked well for me, and I never wore clothes off-the-rack. Now I was asked, “where did you buy that”? I had a talent.

This didn’t come without setbacks: sometimes I really messed up and made something unwearable! But that happened rarely and I was not worried. The more I practiced the “luckier” I became.

I loved sewing! What a fun hobby.

I stumbled upon a lingerie sewing course. BTW those courses were devised by our local university and I have found that they left nothing out.

Lingerie was cool and I bet you never thought what it would take to make an elastic leg high-cut panty. Neither did I, and it’s quite challenging.

I assumed that some fabric was put in a machine and came out the other end as knickers. This is one of the most satisfying lessons I have learned and I was so proud to show them, and wear them.

Don’t forget that every technique learned can be used in another application. Exponentially useful.

This was the Bernina sewing machine stage of my life now. During those years I was living in a tropical country and I had constant requests to make clothes for other people.

I learned the art of creating loungewear, tracksuits, shorts, and jeans. So effortless compared to the structures that were used in my first experience at the Singer Sewing Shop.

Then I stumbled on swimsuits! I made my own and the lingerie principles were put to great use.

My friend was a model and the contestants walked around a stage in one-piece suits and high heels. I had to make her the perfect costume, she insisted. How could I say no?

I experienced a lady buying my leather pants while I was still wearing them. That’s good business!

Never, from my first sewing lesson, did I think I would be good enough at something that people would pay me for my talent. I wasn’t even the best sewer I knew. I just knew more than the people who didn’t sew and they liked my style.

I had already mastered the art of sewing denim jackets, pants, and skirts. I used the same techniques from sewing denim to sewing leather. This was a big deal for me!

Since I had no children I always had a sewing room where I had the space to create, drawers to fill with my must-have-materials, and the excesses of notions I hoarded.

I couldn’t resist the textures and designs of the fabrics that “would be useful someday”. So I stocked up. I had an addiction……I could shut the door on the mess in my room and continue the next day.

This was my utopia, my sanity, my escape. I left that country after 20 years and entered the next phase of my creative career.

Enter the Husqvarna Prisma 990 phase. I had purchased an Interior Design/Studio Workshop.

I did not take a domestic design course to learn how to make drapes, bed skirts and slipcovers. There weren’t lessons like that available, that I knew of. There was nothing about the techniques used here that I did not already know.

The biggest issue about drapes, for example, was the measuring. I bought illustrative books and there it was, a complete chapter on drape measurements!

Sheers were the fashion at the time and it opened my eyes to a deficiency I had. Tables! Don’t ask me to cut out fabric on the floor….did that in high school.

Where to put the 17 yards of fabric needed to adorn this great-big-window? There it was, 60 inches wide, 175 inches long with rulers down each side,(14.5 feet) padded so you could stick pins in it. A sight to behold.

This was opening up a whole new world.

Ok so my leather creativity was on the back burner, but my confidence level was high and I never forgot how to do any of it. I was just adding to my portfolio.

In this Interior Design business, I had 17 industrial machines. Straight stitchers, sergers, blind hemmers, rouchers, and tackers…for applying the pinch pleats to the drape.

These were wonderful machines, made to do specific jobs. They were good tools, all many years old. The quality and craftsmanship kept them young. Invaluable.

Prisma 990 was put to good use and really stood up to my abuse. I was working with fabrics for lingerie, drapery, and upholstery materials.

This was a lot to ask of a domestic sewing machine, and although I had all the industrial muscle I could afford, the Prisma stood its ground. She was not shy.

A pamphlet in the box said, “this is not an industrial machine”. Beg to differ – yes it could be, but the warranty wouldn’t cover it.

As time passed, I was compelled to down-size to an off-the-shelf, not too complicated, domestic machine. That was a disaster!

The machine itself did what it promised. It was sturdy and mostly reliable. I could make repairs around the house and maybe, just maybe, decide to make clothes again….

Not!…..I was spoiled. Previous machines I owned made fabulous stitches, and beautiful buttonholes. They had gadgets. Variable speed, extra wide feet, and a huge variety of tools. Electronic scissors and continuous reverse, and once you have these you never want to be without.

This common, off-the-shelf unit was not going to cut it for me. It had its uses, but not for MY uses. I researched and knew I needed the Brother BabyLock and fast.

I had to get that feeling back again – the hunting for the right texture and color of the fabric. I wanted to be in a room filled with hues and warmth and whimsy. I needed the adrenaline again and my skills were becoming dimmer in my mind.

Hang on to your abilities and talents. Use them to your advantage every day. Pass what you know on to your children. Hand-made articles are so honest, and really bring comfort to their owners.

And always remember that it’s a sad day when we don’t learn something. Anything!

In summary: I learned how to make any kind of clothes, with any fabric. But, what I DID get from those courses was far greater.

They opened up my world and became part of my identity. The common sense it supplied gave me the courage to try anything.

I even made a man’s winter, camo, hunting overalls, and jacket with a hood and covered an old umbrella with camouflage for a duck blind. I didn’t learn that in a sewing course.

Regards, Corinne

Next week I am going to let you in on the side-effects of learning to sew…like being in the performing arts.

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  1. Wow! I didn’t know you were this talented in the sewing world. I just thought you were only into macrame. What a talented lady! And you have such a way with words to keep me interested in reading the entire blog, as well as look forward to reading more.

    1. Thank you Brenda! You are my first friend to reply! Did you read all 3 blogs? My next blog is about the side-effects of sewing, and one side-effect is macrame! I will be getting that blog out early next week.

  2. How fascinating Corinne! Loved this blog about how you got into sewing. I saw your handywork in Belgium and I marveled at how your finished product was as good if not better than store-bought. Just think, you could’ve gone into business making and selling your clothes way back when. Good luck with this new endeavor.
    Blessings, Elaine

    1. Thank you Elaine. I did sell some things at times, but I loved the craft for itself. I am so grateful you took the time to read. Did you see all 3 blogs? I hope that they made you laugh too!
      Am posting another one next week about the side effects of sewing. That’s where I will get into my macrame days – which is now.

  3. I am impressed by your writing and you know you are good at it when your topic is very specific, and even though I’m not into sewing, I was engaged in reading what you wrote. You captured and kept my attention so that says a lot!