Friday, May 26, 2017

Sewing Part 3: The Fashion of It

Sewing was a part of my life in the 1970s. The struggle with cutting out my patterns was real. I had to use the floor of our living room as my cutting table, and...well...we had this cat named Frisky or Friskie. She was ornery a spirited kitty cat. The minute I would put my fabric on the floor and she heard the pattern rustling, Frisky would pop up out of nowhere and race to the middle of my efforts, to rearrange the fabric and tear the pattern. 

The fabrics I used most, in sewing my clothing then, were double knits, seersucker and dotted swiss.  I also used a pinwale corduroy (only) twice because it was difficult to keep the nap positioned correctly. Too much trouble! 

I made this short sleeve jacket from seersucker fabric and this pattern:

 

I made two corduroy suits (unlined jackets). Shown in the black and white polaroid photo is the tan/gold color suit, my favorite (and my mom's, too). I made it from this pattern:
Just me and my twelve string
posing.





















Other patterns in my stash included this dress with butterfly sleeves (not sure what they were actually called). I made the short version and loved how it looked and felt on body. I made a few dresses from dotted swiss fabrics and this pattern. Most of the swiss fabric I used was flocked. The sleeves excited me!!! Is that so wrong?




I also made a few smock tops to wear with my elephant legged jeans, a trend that girls were wearing my senior year in high school. I don't think I have any photos of me wearing one, but one stands out in my head--a blue gingham print.

I also made two prom dresses, but I'm not sure what pattern I used on the first one. I still have the dress.

My final prom dress was a halter style dress. I loved halter tops then. My prom dress that year was not fancy and made out the middle view with a dotted swiss.


Finally, I didn't make this dress, but my Grandma Minnie Powell offered to make my wedding dress. She had made so many of my childhood dresses and my blue carnival dress seen here. Of course, I said YES!



Wedding dress made with love by my Grandma, Minnie Powell. (This was right before I "marched" down the aisle.) She also made the floor length veil and headpiece, as well as, a garter.  



Here's the other half of the photo. I'm with my mom, Joyce Powell, in a dinky room/closet that was chosen for my dressing room at a church. 




The End!




Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sewing Part 2: Good and Proper

Sewing as a teenager, and as an adult, allowed me to get more wearables for my money. This skill was demonstrated to me by my mom, grandmother and aunt. My freshman year of high school, I repurposed a couple of other hand-me-downs into garments that I could wear to school. After that, I sewed clothing from patterns and took a home economics course, and it changed my everyday life.

Learning

The wife of our school superintendent, Mrs. Ferrell Mallory taught our home economics classes, similar to the FAC’s class of today, but not really. She taught many life skills for the average girl of that day, which included managing a household and sewing and cooking. There could have been something about child rearing, but I don't remember that part. 
When it came to sewing, Mrs. Mallory was strict. Our sewing had to be good and proper with nothing handed into her for a grade unless it was nearly perfect. Tearing out seams and re-sewing garments again and again was tedious work, but it became the normal and I (eventually) appreciated the outcome. Mrs. Mallory's skills and knowledge base seemed vast to me. During my time in her class, I ate Baked Alaska and caviar for the first and last time. My group tried our hand at a soufflĂ©. We also learned to cook several dishes, including her version of American Asian food. I tried it out on my family, but--um, they didn't like it and said so. Mrs. Mallory taught her students how to identify furniture styles including Duncan Phyfe and Queen Anne. It matters for nothing these days, but I can still identify styles of furniture. She walked our class to her beautiful home, a block away, to see firsthand the styles of furniture she had taught on. I loved it! We also walked downtown to a fabric store. There we viewed and discussed fabric. This aided our class in creating fabric books for class. 
One more note before I move on. Even though she taught us how to dress a table, use our manners and get in and out of a car properly while wearing a dress, Mrs. Mallory never said or implied that we owed our future husbands these skills, or even that we needed husbands. She taught what she believed were important (girl) skills for the day. However, she also encouraged us to be what we wanted to be.
The First

The first garment I sewed for my class was this jumpsuit. I made it from a funky rust color, ribbed double knit in the short version (surprise, surprise). Everything I wore was short: dresses, skirts, halter tops, shorts. This jumpsuit was a perfectly sewn garment. Trust me on that. Eventually, I made another short version, from another double knit, but the color was either purple or blue and white. I wish I had photos of me in one. I didn't like wearing the heavy double knit of the 1970s, but that is what we had to work with and wear. I also made garments from corduroy and cotton.
At that point in time, I would ask my mom for my clothing allowance to purchase fabric and patterns to make my wardrobe for each school year. In the long run, I got more for the bucks. However, I remember the first time the huge Sears (and Roebucks) boxes arrived at our house, a few weeks before school began. I was the only family member who did not have clothing inside, except for underwear. I was sad. My mom was sad for me. Such is life.
Learning how to sew was awesome and changed how "much" clothing I owned and later how I decorated my home. Come back next time and I'll show you patterns (several) of the day, in Sewing Part 3: The Fashion of It

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sewing Part 1: Resuscitation

Back in the day, I was not alone in sewing the clothing I wore. Many of my friends also sewed. To say  that I've sewn a thousand garments, household items and gifts combined, is probably an understatement. I used to sew a lot.

Then I stopped.

There is a new generation of young women who are sewing! This not only loads my heart with happiness because sewing is a great skill, and I feared a lost art, but also inspired me. These particular ladies have YouTube channels and vlog (video blogging) about their “makes” and experiences.

I've started sewing again.

Machines and Things


With my daughter's help, I concluded that I stopped sewing (my clothing) in the mid 1990s. During that time, I was responsible for raising our kids alone and running the household while working a full time job, due to my (then) husband living about two hours away and finishing his degree. My busyness and the fact that I could find clothing for less money at places like Tempo and TJ Maxx, for my family, I stopped sewing clothing.

Then a baby quilt changed my mind! My niece had a baby and I wanted to )make her a quilt. I doubt if she’ll use it. The quilt is rather blinding bright, but my niece seemed to genuinely appreciate the effort. It was a fun project. After that I decided to remake some thrift store buys because I loved the fabric (inspired by my early days). Then  I seamed up a couple of tops, from patterns. Oh and I decided to make another simple quilt. It's cut out and stitched, but not all together.
A couple of Christmases ago, my daughter gifted me with a serger. I didn't really use it until this year. Recently, I replaced my old 1974 New Home model machine  (seen here) with a Singer. 

New Home machine circa 1974
My old machine (see photo) still sews, but oh so slowly (probably needs a new belt). Plus, it’s all metal and super heavy. The new machine makes buttonholes kind of on its own! My old one does not. I haven't used the new buttonhole feature, yet, but if I read correctly, I pretty much place the fabric under the foot, click the heels of my ruby red flip flops, three times, and bam buttonholes are born! Okay, it's not that easy, but almost, especially compared to how I made them in the past.

I'm about to tell you more history of (my) sewing, so, get a pot of coffee, a cup of tea or a gallon of wine, I don’t care. It's your drink. Or if you're bored, you can opt out.

A Little History

I've always felt "creative". I think growing up rural with limited TV time helped me find things to do to fill my creative mind and free time. By the way, I can't ever remember ever being bored in my lifetime. What a great way to live--responsible for my own entertainment. 

My parents worked hard to provide for their family of five, but there was little extra money, for a clothes hungry girl like me. In about fifth grade, while we were still living in Washington, Illinois (Trading Lives), I started noticing fashion and asked my mom if I could pick out my own clothing. She said yes, forked over the money, and let me wander through a huge store until I found what I wanted. It was a magic day. (I did get lost from my parents, but I don't think I ever told them.)

Back in Missouri, during my junior high years, I felt the pressure of possessing lots of clothing, because the other girls did. I knew that sewing my clothes would be the answer. The tides were changing at school and we were allowed to wear pantsuits to school, for the first time ever. Previously, we girls wore dresses to school, rain or shine, hot or cold temperatures. That year, I reconstructed my first garment, from a sleeveless shift dress, opening it up to resemble a vest. I sewed this on my mom’s Sears brand sewing machine, along with some hand sewing. This idea came to mind when I remembered my Grandma Minnie sending me a dress, while we lived in Illinois, made from a hand-me-down. The dress was gorgeous.


There would be a lot of sewing in my future. Come back for additional posts and see my first sewing pattern and what I made. In high school, I made this dress (see below), a very short mini dress.  

This dress was made from a double knit fabric:



With this pattern: 



Coming next post: Sewing Part 2: Good and Proper

What fashion from your day has been worn in modern day? What shoes were you wearing your senior year in high school? Would you wear them today?


Saturday, May 6, 2017

When a Snake Bites!

Dad on a river, probably the Niangua.
My favorite picture of him
With my dad’s passing, I’ve been thinking about our family’s version of Indiana Jones.  Dad was called that more than once, the Indiana Jones of Missouri.

Recently, I read an article, here, that reminded me of him, about a young man bitten by a copperhead. We’ve had torrential rain and devastating flooding, all over MO, and have been reminded to watch for relocated snakes, but of course we don't think about it.  

Snakes are a part of rural life (city too). As I’ve mentioned previously, I happen to like snakes. I think they’re cool. I don’t tell people that information much or there is a big possibility I will lose friends. Snakes are not on my fear list, but if at this moment there is sweat forming on your brow and your heart is racing, then perhaps you have a snake phobia. If so, then you should not click on the links in this post, and you should not travel with me down the rural memory road.

I asked my dad once about how many snake bites he’d received in his life. His eyes twinkled when he grinned and said, “Oh I don’t know, Teresa, too many to remember.” (He almost always said my name in sentences, even if I was the only one there.)

I told him I remembered once when he’d reached inside a feed bin (made I think out of a refrigerator on its back or maybe an old freezer) and he came out with a snake bite. His hand looked pretty bad, swollen and somewhat bruised after that. He said it was a copperhead that had bitten him. Even though he was bitten a few times in life, it never changed my mind about snakes. Knowing the way he felt about doctors and hospitals, I don’t remember him visiting a doctor, either.
When I was a kid, I remember dad owning a snake bite kit, something like this found on Ebay. The cylinder thingy had a blade inside to (maybe?) cut the bite open. After that the suction cup, one half of the cylinder, would be used to suck out the venom.  

John Miller a “snake expert” said in the aforementioned article, in the Springfield News-Leader, that in modern day there is no cutting the bite area or sucking out the venom (paraphrased). You just need to get to the hospital as soon as possible and keep the bite below your heart (edited). He said there is no reason to take the slain snake to the doctor for show-and-tell since the modern anti-venoms are great.

Oops, I might have taken a brown recluse, live spider, in a brown paper bag to the doctor’s office when I was bitten. I felt the need for show-and-tell, to prove it was what I said it was because I knew they’d say something like “I doubt if it was a brown recluse.” And they did! And...I was ready to point to the brown paper bag, I’d placed on the counter in the room, with the spider inside (yes, it was in a jar, but they didn’t know that).  


Dad as a young man, holding a snake!
My dad always respected wildlife and nature and more than that he loved it. When a hawk that he was nursing back to health landed on his arm and dug his talons in flesh, Dad said, “He didn’t do it on purpose.” Dad always said that about snakes. They don’t seek out people to bite them. We intrude or scare them. He also said that about spiders, how they have their place in the world and that some...are...beautiful. Of course, I tuned most of that information out because spiders and I go way back and it's not a pretty story.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

When One Moment in Time Becomes Another


I can’t remember why I was there without my other family members. Perhaps I wasn’t. Maybe, I’d ridden along with my dad, while he did something on the farm. Perhaps he’d told me my purpose for that day and I don’t remember. Maybe that purpose was for me to sit with my grandfather, his father, Hurschel Powell, while my grandmother Minnie did things around the house.

The life she’d agreed to, as a bride, was difficult. They lived miles from the nearest town, in the country, on a working farm. No telephone. That was hard enough, but now she faced an impossible thing; her husband was dying. He had Parkinson’s disease, and she had become his nurse.


At 11 or 12 years old, I did not begin that moment in time by sitting next to my grandfather’s bed. I could have, but it was too uncomfortable to look into his face. No one had told me, but I knew that my robust, congenial grandfather was in the clutches of death, from a terrible disease. So I sat nearer their regular bed, my side to his bed, donning curlers in my hair, and intent on painting my fingernails.

“What are you doing?” he said, in whispers.

I was forced to turn and look at my grandfather whose devout love for me showed in his face. He grinned and a familiar twinkle appeared in his eyes, reminding me of my dad.

“Painting my nails.”

“Can you come here and show me?”

It was like I was finally given permission to do something that I didn’t know how to do. I wasted no (more) time in pulling my chair closer to his bed. My grandfather said that he thought the polish color was pretty. He asked me if I had a date. I laughed and blushed as I always did back then. His face grew serious after that. I'm not certain why, could have been the disease, fatigue, but I think now it was because my grandfather knew he would not see me in my dating years. He would die soon after that, in his mid fifties (I think). One last thing I remember about that day was when he lifted his trembling hands to move one closer to me, but finally surrendering it to his sheeted mattress. These were the same hands that had played with his grandchildren. The same gentle hands that lifted me to sit on the tractor and picked me up to soothe my wounded finger after a turkey bit it, then calmly used the moment to teach me the importance of obedience.


Recently, I was reminded of that day when I sat by my dad’s hospital bed. I noticed how his hands reminded me of my grandfather's hands. Not long after that day, my dad, Ronnie Powell, 81 years old, passed away, and...we are sad.



Sunday, August 28, 2016

Trading Lives


In the early morning hours, we leave our farmhouse, the outhouse, the best well water you’ve ever tasted, a large extended family and my best friend behind. My parents are trading a Missouri rural life for an Illinois city life, a new job for my dad at Caterpillar, a new school and a house on Hamilton Street. I feel excited for the adventure, but dread whispers a sad goodbye. 



Mom’s brother is tall, with black hair and tanned skin like her. He’s leaving his farm work behind (for someone else to do) to help us move. His wife has come along to help him haul some of our worldly possessions, in the bed of their pickup.

Along the highways, I switch from looking out of the side window of our car to the front windshield, between my dad’s red curly hair and my mom's head, to watch the pickup traveling in front of our car. Normally, my aunt and uncle fuss at each other, but on this trip, they are newlyweds again, laughing and using names like “honey” and “punkin”. At least temporarily, they trade their old relationship for a pre-marriage one. This new side, of my aunt and uncle, causes me to stare at them, much like people do when passing a car accident. 

After hours of traveling, we arrive on Hamilton Street where darkness has smothered the day and evenly spaced street lamps shed dim light. When we pull into the driveway of a dark house, my dad is the first to exit the car and enter our new home. From the car, I watch the house until blocks of light pop on inside the windows, from the back to the front. My dad appears again in the driveway, and we get out of the car to go inside. He and my uncle begin hauling our things to the house. 

Inside, I explore the unfamiliar two-story with basement, but leave both the upstairs and its basement for another day. I end up back in the kitchen where everyone has gathered. My mom’s tired eyes sparkle when she turns on the kitchen faucet and allows her fingers to dance under the flowing water, a convenience we did not leave behind. She giggles, but my dad says to turn off the water because we have to pay for it now. I’m saddened by his command and wonder how anyone can be made to pay for water.

Two men who seem to know my dad stop by our house. Even though they are old and in their twenties, like my parents, I immediately fall in love with the one called Anthony. He makes me forget my third grade boyfriend back home.

Before long, I follow my uncle and dad back outside, but when they return inside, I stay behind and walk to the edge of the driveway. Each house along the street is close to another and lit up. My eyes scan each one finally resting on the house across the street. Through sheer curtains, I see shadowy shapes of various body sizes darting around the room. My mind pushes past the weariness of travel, the heartache of leaving our Missouri place and a growling stomach to suggest that this is the adventure I’d been waiting for all my life.
My eyes focus on the ghost dance of my new neighbors, through their filmy curtains. “I hope kids my age live there." My voice sounds small on my new street and as it mingles with city noises that I am not accustom to, yet.

(The picture is of the house and me on Hamilton Street.  I thought I was alone in the picture. If you click on the photo, you might be startled by something or someone in the bottom left corner. I was.

Did you move as a child? Was it a good or bad experience? 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Laura Ingalls Wilder Love

If you know me at all, you might remember how much I love the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. In grade school and while we lived in Illinois, I began reading the Little House books. Our teacher read to our class Little House in the Big Woods, and well, you know how it goes, I was hooked on the books. It was after I’d read my favorite of the books, The Long Winter, that I decided I would write the author a letter.  

Guess what? She had already passed away. I still feel a little bitter about that. 
I'm so pleased that I live near Laura's adult home in Mansfield, Missouri. I visit there at least once a year. So you might imagine my happiness when they announced last year (or it could have been the year before)that a new museum would be built. 

It is built.

It has opened. 

I have visited. 


The old museum was wonderful, but a bit small. The new museum is larger and has a few additional items that were not on display in the old museum. If you get to Missouri, travel to Mansfield, stop by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and visit her homes. 

You’ll get to see the farmhouse.


And the rock house that their daughter Rose built for her parents (my favorite). 



Sincerely,

A huge Laura Ingalls Wilder Fan since grade school!

Have you ever read the LIW books? Visited any of the Ingalls' home sites or Mansfield, MO?