Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mother's Home Sewing

{From the Archives of Connie's Letters, November 2005}

Ya know, in the old days, the Mothers sewed all their families’ clothes. And when a garment would get a hole in it, the holes were patched.

I raised my first 3 children in the 1970′s. And, ya know, back then the boys just had about 2 pairs of jeans “for good” that they wore each week. Little boys love to play in the floor and the knees to the jeans often wore out long before the rest of the jeans did. So I had to patch their jeans. Then, if it was a big patch, the jeans would just be for play, not for school. Then the stores came out with the iron on patches, and they were nice, and the boys could wear these patched jeans to school. But most of the mothers sewed back then and we all had to do mending. There wasn’t the garage sales, etc. like they have now, or the second hand stores. I mean, there were a few. But once you bought your children’s clothes, you took really good care of them. And we always mended socks and underwear.

Often, after supper in the evening, I would do my mending. I just had a little basket I put my sewing in. At the Dollar Store, they have all kinds of needles and thread for cheap. You can buy all you need for a couple bucks there. They have light and dark thread to match anything ya need to mend.

Also, the old time mothers had boxes they put their scraps of material in. Like when a garment was old, then they would use the good unworn pieces for quilting. They always cut the zippers off and the buttons to use on other sewing projects. Or they would cut an old dress or boys’ shirts up in strips. And then they would sew the strips together and make long strips. Then they would braid the strips together and then sew it in a round flat coil. You can make a rug this way or little mats for your dinner table chairs. You can make little ties to hold them on the back of the chair. Or make a small mat to put hot dishes on the table. This would be a good project for the children this winter, to make these braided mats. Or you can crochet them, too.

My children all loved to sew and collect buttons in their own little button jars. I taught Christian Joy to sew at age 3. Well, Mary, too. Mary’s dog bit a hole in her couch and Mary just patched it with a little piece of matching material and needle and thread. My grandma taught me to mend and I taught my children. They all loved to embroider, even the boys.

Jim’s father, back in the late 1800′s, was 25 when he married his wife at 14. He taught Jim’s mother to crochet, knit and cook. She was almost an orphan and she married, really, to have a home. But Jim’s father was a good and kind man and taught his wife how to set up housekeeping. And all of Jim’s sisters also loved to hand sew and do crafts.

So way back in the old days, the mothers didn’t usually pass clothes on to another family because the clothes were too raggedy once the family used them. But like in the 1950′s, folks began to pass clothes on. And the clothes were in good condition but maybe were out dated or out grown. So mothers would take an adult winter coat and cut it down for one of the children. This is how they would do that. They would take the coat and carefully rip out the lining. I mean, on the seams, with one of those little tools to rip the seams out? Then they would take the wool coat, after the lining was out, and carefully take the seams apart. So the coat would then be in parts. Like maybe two front panels and one back. Then they took the sleeves off and took them apart in 2 pieces front and back. Then the cuffs came off and the collar to the coat. So you end up with about 10 pieces of the coat. Now, I am talking about, like, a woman’s wool dress coat or a man’s simple long wool coat. Then they would take newspaper and pin each piece on the paper and cut around it, making a pattern to follow. Then they would take each paper pattern and cut it down carefully to fit the child they were making the coat for. So the child would have to stand still and let mother pin the paper pattern to her sleeve to make sure it is long enough. So then, after making your pattern, you just sew the coat back together again. Now, I guess you would do the lining the same way. But, if it is a nice silky lining, I wouldn’t bother too much with it. If the coat is heavy wool, then the child could wear sweaters under it. But the wool cloth that you cut off the coat could be used to make a scarf or fancy muff to put cold hands into.

You need to draw your pattern on the newspaper and then cut the paper. This way you have your pattern to use again or to pass it to a friend. Make sure you write on the paper what is the front panel or back panel and left and right sleeves, etc. Then just carefully fold your pattern up and put it in your drawer.

The old time mothers would take garments apart if they liked the material and would carefully iron it flat and store it to make other garments with. If a man’s shirt collar wore out before the rest of the shirt did, this is what the wife would do. She would carefully cut the collar seams from the shirt and then sew the collar back on the flip side where the collar wasn’t worn. An old worn out shirt that was still good in the back part was taken out to make a mother’s apron.

When my little children were young, they loved to play in the snow. And their mittens would get so wet and their little hands would be so cold. So I would make little mittens without a thumb just for second hand mittens to finish a snowman in. Just sew 2 pieces of material together in the shape of mittens. Just make them big and use really heavy material. I made mine out of heavy sweater material. You can just cut the wrist part off a sweater and make mittens out of them. And in the cold weather, I always made sure my children had a lot of stocking hats and the big scarves to wrap around their necks and faces. You can get these for cheap at the second hand store. But you could make them, also, out of old heavy winter clothes.

I read a story once about a lady back in the old days. And she had a room just for sewing. And she saved all of the old clothes she was given. And when a family needed something, she just went in her sewing room and took something apart and made something new with it. Once a new mother came to her home with her little baby. And the mother didn’t have a warm blanket for her baby. This lady went in her sewing room and cut up a worn blanket and made a nice baby blanket out of the cloth that was not worn out.

And if you need a big heavy blanket and you have several lightweight ones, just sew them together. Sometimes it’s hard to keep children covered up at night when it is cold if you have a lot of little blankets. But if you have a big heavy blanket, it is easier. Just take your blanket and spread it on the floor, cut the other blanket the same size, and then sew it together. Then just sew some seams in the blanket so it will stay stable.

Always use the unworn pieces of your worn out garment to make quilts, etc. Because you have to go to so much work, you don’t want the garment to wear out quickly all in one place. So, yes, just use the good parts of the clothing.

I used to patch and patch jeans for Jimmy, who is now 39 years old. But when they were too worn or had gotten too short, I would cut the pants off for shorts for the summer. Also, I did the same with his little button-down shirts. I would cut the worn sleeves off and hem them up for the summer. But, see, back then, almost 40 years ago, you didn’t have a lot of clothes. You just kept the ones you had in good repair.

Little boys always wore a suit to church with a tie. Jimmy went to a Christian school. So the church outfit he wore on Sunday I put him in for school the next day on Monday. Since he had only worn his suit for an hour or so. And kids weren’t picky back then as what they wanted to wear. The Mother always picked out their clothes.

The family’s clothes were always under the mother’s care. And they were precious to the mother, as they were too expensive to replace. Like I said before, there weren’t garage sales like there are today. It was only in the 1980′s that I ever shopped at a second hand store for family clothes. I mean, we Mothers would pass clothes on to each other. But you couldn’t really count on that like you can the Thrift Shops of today.

And, ya know, making rags, too, for household use is such a good thing. Why use paper towels and all? Just tear up the old T-Shirts the kids outgrow. I just use the back and front, not the sleeves. Just cut up the flat material and have a special drawer for rags. This is a good project for the older children. Give them some clothes to cut up for rags.

Cut up old bath towels with holes in them and make several good rags for diaper changes. I can’t use those disposable wet wipes. I always use an old wash cloth to change my grand babies’ diapers. If it’s poopy, rinse it out and wash it. Poop don’t hurt ya! And, of course, I always used cloth diapers — except for the last 3 children, I used the disposable when I could afford it. The paper diapers do hold more and are less messy. The cloth diapers, you had to change after every time nature called. But, heck, ya get used to it.

I used to use old receiving blankets for night time diapers. Cotton flannel is nice for diapers if you have to make them up yourself. It’s not hard to get a bunch of cotton flannel and make some nice diapers. I think the homemade ones would be better than the store bought gauze type. You could make your own diapers as thick as you wanted. Or just look for the little receiving blankets at garage sales. These little blankets are so cheap. Some at only ten cents a piece. I bet you could find a dozen of them or more at sales in one summer.


nannette elkins said...

So nice to go back and remember!

He Sets You Free said...

Stopping by from Encourage One Another. I was never taught to sew but little by little I have been pushing myself to try new things. I enjoyed this post, thank you. Have a blessed day. Tara.


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