My Sew and Sew Journey by Thelma Harmon
I was sewing at 9 years of age. I remember well the doll dresses and hats I made to match them. I was not allowed to sew on Sundays so on that day I made hats with cardboard brims and fabric crowns using flour paste. The summer I turned 10, Daddy cut a perfect 3-inch square of cardboard template and I made 20 nine-patch quilt blocks that were never sewn together. The fabric was salvaged from Aunt Nell’s scrap bag. I still have them; they are over 70 years old.
By the time I was 14, I was quite proficient with the Singer treadle machine. I made broom stick skirts (if you are in your 80’s you know what they are). I made more nine-patch blocks with a 4-inch template and am so proud of the stitches and the accuracy in all of the seams.
As a high school freshman I assisted our home economics teacher in laying out and cutting patterns. She and I tried, with little success, to teach the girls to use a thimble.
My friend, Marie, and I made our skirts, blouses, and dresses all through high school and into college. We even made ourselves a bathing suit. She ventured out into tailoring and I envied her and the beautiful articles she whipped up. I bought fairly expensive woolen material and a six-gore princess style dress pattern, and I did not allow extra fabric for the 4 or 5 inch plaid of the wool fabric. The teacher and I spent hours and hours in class and after school laying out that dress. When finished, the plaids matched neck to hemline, and even the sleeve stripes matched the bodice. That hard lesson is still effective today with me.
As a young bride, my husband and I were living in a Kentucky coal mine camp. Our church was a Quonset hut and very primitive benches. Farther on up a “holler” a church group was meeting in an abandoned school building. Two girls and I thought the children there needed something like a Vacation Bible School. They took the younger children and I took the 10 to 12 year olds—5 girls and 1 lone boy. When I told them we would learn to sew he said, “I don’t do girl stuff.” I told him I could show him how to sew buttons on his shirt—he stayed.
I bought ½ yard of fabric for each of 6 aprons. When we returned the next morning, a 16 year-old pregnant girl was there to learn to sew. She was told she was too old but I said I had an extra apron and she could stay. She learned to sew! They left with their own needle and a simple apron gathered on a band and all the buttons sewed on a shirt.
I sewed for a son and a daughter, but eventually my nest was empty. It was then the early 1970’s and we were talking U.S. Bi-centennial. I taught myself to quilt from a McCall’s book from the library. By 1976 I had made two beautiful quilts and knew from that day on I was born to quilt—I had found my “thing.” Quilts are hot in summer so I started making aprons as hand therapy to keep my fingers limber for quilting. I give them for gifts. My favorite everyday apron is one I made for my mother for Valentine’s Day, 1988. I estimate I have given at least 30 aprons in the past years, and will have 12 new ones ready for this coming Christmas (2008).
Aprons are now a fashion statement and very sought after even on EBay. Every fabric store in town has them hanging from the ceiling and on the walls. Patterns are duplicates of the ones our mothers wore in the 1930’s that were made of their feed sacks. So get with it; make some aprons and—-
Have a Sew and Sew Day.<