It is a woman’s lot, to be capable of turning her hand to just about anything. And so it was in the house I grew up in. An absence, in one way or another, of men, meant my mother stepped up to the plate every single day. It’s something women don’t get recognition for; the hours they put into the home – which is doubly insulting when you consider most women now spend substantial amounts of time in the work place. My mum worked full time, out of necessity, and then came home to her second job; raising my sister and I. She would spend hours at the sewing machine – a Singer Blue Magic – and produce school uniforms, or Sunday best dresses. My sister and I, despite my father’s efforts, or lack of, had enough, because my Mum worked non-stop to provide it. There was always something on the go, a project of some description, primarily for my sister, or me.
So I suppose it’s no great surprise that I’ve grown up to be a similar sort of woman. A woman of her own means, who has one eye on the rear vision mirror, and the other firmly on the road ahead. Which is to say, rather clumsily, that when I sit down at the sewing machine, or pick up the bamboo circulars, I am conscious of the women who have gone before me. Somedays I can see them, standing behind me, the continuum of women, as I partake in the domestic rituals. They are there in every stitch, in every knit one, purl one; my Mother (who is still here, just a little bit further away), my grandmother Freda Grace, who taught me to knit when I was five. But also the women along the way; Mrs Hanlon and Mrs Shaw, who taught sewing at high school. And lately there have been other women, women I know, others I don’t, who have contributed to my education, or who inspire me to learn new crafts or to master techniques, or who simply inspire me to just do it. An army of women, each toiling away quietly, without noise, without fanfare, at the thing she loves.
And although I have been making my own clothes for most of my life, with varying degrees of success, lately I’ve become incredibly disillusioned with it. Things came to a head a couple of months ago. I had spent the weekend meticulously sewing Butterick 5708.
I spent hours making a tissue tracing of the pattern, then of tissue fitting. I cut each piece with precision, I matched pattern as best I could, I hand tacked and pressed, and tacked again. I unpicked the first attempt at the invisible zip. I fitted as I went, hardly able to contain myself at how fabulous a dress this was going to be. I could feel myself sashaying around Sydney peeps, the men falling in a faint at my feet, overcome by such a fabulous frock.
And then with the finish line in sight, I tried the dress on again. And I hated it. Why? It didn’t fit properly. The armholes were tight and constricting, the bodice flattened my bust, the shoulders didn’t sit right, even the waistline felt tight at the back. I was so angry, so frustrated, so irritated. All that time and effort, and I couldn’t bloody wear it. A new F word came into my vocabulary. Fit. Fing fit.
I don’t mind telling you, I was ready to turn my back on 30 years of sewing. I was done with making my own clothes, I really was. I sulked for a week, and then went to Dymocks and bought this.
Because if anyone could save me, it was Gertie, Gertie who taught me about High Bust, and it’s importance in obtaining a proper fit. If Gertie could teach me about High Bust, what else could she shed light on?
Well Peeps, that’s what I’m here to discover.
I am going to sew my way through Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing.
Feel free to cut out and sew with me Peeps.
Happy New Year, Lovelies!