The 3 bedrooms, 1 bath occupied the north end of the 1960s rambler. A short hallway serviced these rooms, at the end of which was a bank of deep closeted shelves atop 3 oversized drawers. We called this the Linen Closet. Christmas lived for 11 months a year on the topmost shelf, we visited the next shelf anytime a gift needed wrapping, and the lowest shelf was the place of table linens and candles and things to make our dining area gorgeous.
Of the drawers, extra pillows and blankets, including, every moth’s favorite, the scratchy moisture repellant army-green wool, resided in the lowest. The middle drawer served as our hand-me-down depot and out-of-season clothing storage, while the top drawer, a space large enough to be a child’s bed, held the fabric. We had enough fabric on hand to play fabric store at a moment’s notice, complete with yard sticks and Fisher Price cash register. Even now I entertain thoughts of climbing into that drawer and just rolling around in the stuff. Part of our family economics included sewing clothes rather than paying 3 to 4 times the cost on Ready-Mades. We had a large inventory of patterns: Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick, and Vogue, sorted by size in boxes designed to store patterns. Fancy. My mom sewed our jammies, bathrobes, Easter & Christmas dresses, skirts, tops, costumes, and, for a while, our pants. Rather than my mom’s insistence that every seam be perfect, maybe it was the pants that put me off sewing.
I don’t have many memories of my clothes, outside of things I’ve seen in pictures. I know I had favorites over the years. I remember the fantastic green faux velvet choker Callie, the most elegant person in my 4th grade class, gave me for my 9th birthday. While I don’t remember much, I wonder if I’ll ever forget the pants. Sixth grade. Even in real-time it was a slow motion realization; a sort of, I look at them, I look at me exchange, the thought, the comparison sinking in: they are wearing jeans, made out of jean fabric, I am wearing dark blue polyester home-sewn pants with an inverted seam running the length of the leg. I don’t remember being teased, or anyone, not even Cheryl, the most popular 6th grade girl at Maywood Hills, saying anything, but the mortification set in. That was the last day I wore home-made pants to school.
Fast forward 30+ years. I own a basic, basic sewing machine. I have a few patterns on hand but tear those up for use in torn paper collage. I’ve machine-pieced some quilts, thrown together a couple of work-in-the-garden skirts, and I made a kick-ass bear costume for Halloween when Junior was 6. I like the idea of sewing. I love the idea of reducing my consumer footprint by DIYing cloth projects. When push comes to shove, though, my hands go up and, meh, I go to Goodwill or go without. The fabric, it still grips me. Like nice paper, or any blank paper for that matter, a bolt or roll of fabric is limitless, nothing set, fixed but I don’t have to sew the way I sometimes have to write. The texture, the fibers, the print, the potential of fabric, these are enough.