I can’t remember how old I was when I first learned to sew. I might have been 8 or 9 when I learned to use an electric sewing machine. Younger when I got to try my grandmother’s treadle sewing machine and younger still when I first used a needle and thread. My mother has been sewing the vast majority of her life and was quite capable of teaching me. She practiced great patience with me as I learned (and that is no small feat for her). In an act I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, she even let me sew myself a skirt from Marimekko she brought back from Finland! (Whenever I doubt her belief in me, I should remember that.)
Despite her own skills as a seamstress and teacher, at some point she encouraged “lessons” with other friends of the family. It was during my “tween” years that I was as likely to be found hunched over a sewing machine in the company of my 40-something mentor as I might have been hanging out at the mall with my peers.
I really didn’t think much of the fact that my mom was farming out my lessons in this particular domestic art. We had started down the path of niggling comments (hers to me) and eye-rolling (mine to her). I figured she just wanted me out of her hair. As the parent of my own ::ahem:: spirited daughter, I now wonder if there wasn’t more intention behind it. Giving me space to spread my wings with other women she knew would nurture and encourage me. Time to spend in the company of women with whom I would open up and share in ways I couldn’t or just didn’t with my mom. Even though the sewing skills I developed then have long since atrophied, the time I spent with those women holds a special place in my memory. Thanks, Mom, for that gift.