Sewing Notions

By Karen Zey

January 11, 2016

Sewing Notions

After the funeral, my sister spreads the contents of our mother’s wooden sewing box across the kitchen table. Mom gave up sewing as she faded in old age, but she clung to these bits and bobs. We gaze at the jumbled spools of thread, loops of white elastic and packets of seam binder in yellowed cellophane. I spot the jar of odd buttons, a nest of tiny jewels from the past.

As a child in the fifties, I didn’t understand that my mother sewed our clothes out of necessity, not as a hobby. In the evenings, Mom hunched over her second-hand Singer sewing machine and pumped the treadle, turning bargain fabric into play clothes and pastel party dresses for her little girls.

On prom night, I swished across the gym floor in a chiffon creation made from a Butterick dress pattern. Like one of those sixties-nostalgia greeting cards, my grad night photo shows a skinny teenaged girl with a beehive hairdo and brown rectangular glasses. You can barely see my dyed-to-match shoes beneath the floating layers of my azure gown. At sixteen I understood enough to feel grateful.

My sister picks up the worn red pincushion dotted with pins. “Remember this?” she says, and I nod. My eyes blur as I study the scraps of rickrack and lace edging—wisps of loveliness that Mom stitched into everyday life.


Photo provided by Quinn Dombroski, via Flickr's Creative Commons license.

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