I keep hearing a voice saying, “Carol, make sure you press your seams open.”
“Carol, don’t forget to trim your threads.”
“Carol, take time measuring. Measure twice, cut once.”
The voice is my grandmother’s. She’s been long gone, dying at age 92 almost twenty years ago. Born in 1910, she lived through some interesting times. I never knew her to work outside of the home, but she often talked about the time she worked for Bonds Clothing Factory as a seamstress in Rochester, New York. If I have my timeline correct, during the era of my grandmother’s employment at Bonds, Rochester was a rapidly becoming mecca for the American clothing industry. Bond’s made tailored men’s dress shirts and two-pant suits. To put it less romantically, my grandmother was a factory worker, a seamstress among seamstresses, in a men’s clothing manufacturer.
However, it was there she learned the craft of sewing well. During the years my sister and I were growing up, she made nearly every piece of clothing we owned – from bathing suits to winter coats. Prom dresses were made by her, as were my first business suits, and later, my bridesmaid’s dresses. She also made a Santa Claus suit for a former boyfriend along the way, as well. She was talented! And, we were the lucky beneficiaries of her talents.
My first sewing lessons were made by just observing my grandmother at work. Whenever we stayed overnight, she was busy working on some sewing project. Somewhat of an enigma in other aspects of life, she knew her machine and cared for it well. My sister and I learned how to pick out fabrics that were appropriate for our clothing by making routine trips to the fabric store. We knew cotton from polyester knits from rayon and linen. We also became accustomed to being measured often so the clothes that grandma made fit us well! It was a good thing too because well into adulthood, I was a mere waif of a woman. Finding store bought clothes that fit was next to impossible for the first 25 years of my life!
If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’ve started sewing again. You know that I have my grandmother’s 1969 Sears Kenmore, a top of the line sewing machine. You know I’ve completed hundreds of fabrics face masks and one large national park quilt. What you don’t know is what my current project happens to be.
Unlike my grandma, my sewing history tends to be more home dec than clothing. I’ve done shades and curtains for two homes, baby clothes, baby quilts, crib sets, and many halloween costumes. We have a cabin in the woods with large windows facing the lake. It’s 15 years old and during that time, we’ve never had shades or curtains with the exception of in the bedroom. However, the time has come for that to change. Although the homes are not close together on our road at the lake, we now have neighbors. My current project is making two sets of roman shades for the first floor windows, six total, that face the lake.
After a decision making trip to the fabric store, I’ve had the fabric for the shades for over a month. But, roman shades require lining and some special “tube tape” that is attached to the back to draw the shade up with the help of a system of polyester cords. I measured the windows carefully with my husband. I cut out the material carefully, after calculating how much I needed to alter the pattern. Our windows are long and narrow, not exactly a “standard” width. I thought I did it correctly. Not only did the main fabric need to be adjusted, so did the lining fabric.
Today, after sewing the lining to the main fabric and carefully pressing my seams open, as well as trimming my ends, as my grandmother would have suggested, (And, I heard her whispering as I worked.) I discovered my shade was too narrow. Somewhere I had made a mistake!
I have made roman shades before. They were wonderful and worked beautifully. I knew I could make them again. But, somewhere, with this pattern, I made a mistake. I either altered the fabric according to mis-measurements or I misunderstood how to alter the pattern. In any case, the blind looks great, it just won’t fit the window – it’ll be too narrow by a couple of inches. Personally, I think I mis-cut the lining fabric, so when I sewed it to the main fabric, the shade become too narrow.
In any case, I was disappointed. I can hear my grandmother’s gentle reprimand as well as her continued encouragement. It’s a fixable mistake – I won’t even have to buy more fabric and my fix might add a decorative element to the exterior of the shade as well. It’s all good.
My grandmother was a huge positive influence in my life (actually, all my grandparents were – I have very fond memories of them all). The fact that I hear her words while I’m sewing is such a blessing to me. I know she has confidence in my skill – the skill I am trying to emulate from being exposed to her talent. I am determined that my shades will work out! Grandma would be proud! I just know it!