Bits and Pieces

Lois/mom in the house on the ILC campus

Bits and pieces describes the state of our dining room when mother was immersed in a sewing project. Bits of pattern tissue skittered with every slight draft of air, pieces of fabric too small to be of use congregated on the floor. Larger sections of unused fabric were set aside, first ‘just in case,’ then to be saved for an undetermined later project. The the tissue paper pieces pinned carefully and cut precisely were draped over the back of a chair waiting for assembly. Mother sewed miles of seams, first on her black, flatbed Singer, later on the free arm Bernina. She sewed everything from children’s play clothing to suit coats for my father. The suit mother models in the picture was a product from her machine.

Although Nan’s life is not my mother’s, bits and pieces of mother make their way into Steeple in the Distance. Sewing plays a part in bits and pieces.

“Under her mother’s watchful eye, Nan had sewn eagerly and confidently. Now, without her mother’s prompting, Nan hesitated. … With her tape measure, she checked the pieces for straightness to the grain and measured the length of the skirts. With a silent prayer and a deep breath she took up the scissors and began. The scratch of the heavy shears cutting through the fabric was every bit as satisfying of the scratch and growl they had made for Mutti. As a child she had practiced hard to attain the same sound when she handled them herself. Hearing it now gave her the sense of being grown up and accomplished. With her feelings of uncertainty gone, she briskly followed the edges of the paper pattern.”

My mother used an over-the-door hook near the kitchen for hanging any garment under construction. It kept an eye on mother, she kept a critical eye on it. Nan does likewise.

“Nan found more odd moments for sewing than she had anticipated. The small bits of time helped her focus on the small details of the work. She was meticulous about basting and pressing each seam. The row of tucks that ran parallel to the hem she measured, basted, pressed and measured again. Neatly she topstitched them with the machine and measured again. Comments would certainly come her way if they were crooked or uneven and she herself would be dissatisfied with a poor result. When the skirt only needed hemming, she pinned it carefully on a hanger and hooked the hanger on a nail on the wall. She stepped back to eye it critically. Perhaps the uneven appearance was due only to how it hung. “

The following passage describes the interaction between mother and her project.

“Nan added the vest to the hanger that held the skirt and hung them again on the nail next to the sewing machine. The wall was the farthest from the smoke and soot of the kitchen stove, as well as the spatter of food and drink. Mutti had used that nail for all her sewing projects. Often she would rinse and dry her hands, cross the kitchen, and tweak the garment. She would straighten a sleeve, even out a shoulder, or pull at the hem, critical of each detail of her work. The details, she had emphasized to Nan, were what determined the success of the seamstress.
Nan tried to emulate her mother’s exacting eye. She tweaked and pulled and adjusted, but whether she had the experience to find the mistakes, or none existed, she did not know. “

I wish I could say I acquired my mother’s seamstress skills. I have not progressed too far beyond the basics when it comes to sewing clothing. Quilting, now that’s a subject for another post.

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