More than two years ago, I set a goal to sew my granddaughter a dress. I’m not quite sure why this became a burning desire, but it might have to do with some complications around sewing I experienced growing up.
Until I was seven or eight, my mother made most of my clothes. We had Sunday dresses and school dresses. Just enough for a week of school. I always felt pretty in the dresses Mama made. My favorites were a blue organdy dress with ribbon trim and a red-and-white gingham dress with a round, white collar trimmed with red rickrack. I wore it on the first day of first grade.
My sisters began sewing in their teens and soon took over making many of my clothes since I was the youngest. I remember loving a navy corduroy dress with a square “sailor” collar. Another dress was blue with a white collar, red insets in the two box pleats, and red piping. I had a matching hat with a ribbon down my back. I wore this outfit to walk across the stage as the High School Choir performed “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” from the Broadway show, “Gigi.”
In 7th grade, it was my turn to learn to sew. It was a DISASTER. I couldn’t sew a straight seam, nor could I visualize how pattern pieces fit together. I had no ability to solve problems of fit; my sleeves always puckered; and having very little chest at the time, darts were a joke. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t sew. It seemed like a rite of passage that I was failing at. So I turned away from even trying (lacking growth mindset for sewing) and focused on piano. We discovered many years later that there were REASONS I couldn’t sew, not the least of which involved my teachers making assumptions about what I already knew. That’s another story.
50 years later, I wanted to try again. Maybe at this time of life the stakes are lower. So I took my time. I sewed until that anxious feeling bubbled up. Then I stopped. A few days later, I gave it another go. I thought about the little steps that I COULD do until I was brave enough to try the part I wasn’t sure I could do. I have worked on this one little dress for a month and it has made me happy on so many levels.
All that is left is to sew the buttons on. Maggie will have a new dress for spring and I’m a happy grandma who pushed back at an old feeling of failure and was mostly successful. There’s just one little part that I did backwards, but unless you’re my sister, you wouldn’t know.