My grandmother was a very capable woman. She could make the most drab and lifeless rental house become a beautiful and tastefully decorated home, using (I’m sure) nothing more than some rubber-bands and safety pins. OK, well maybe it was that she was marvel at the sewing machine, and had an eye for the potential beauty of an old and unloved piece of furniture in the junk shop.
In her early teens she made clothes for herself and younger sister; and in her late teens she became apprentice to the famous Melbourne milliner Thomas Harrison. Then after marrying and having children, she invented ‘Model Yu’; a custom dress making body cast tailor’s dummy which ensured a perfect fit to your body, without any dials getting in the way when doing the pinning. In the days of WWII her invention was economical, relevant and very successful. She travelled Australia and New Zealand demonstrating it. As I said, she was a very capable woman.
Of course, she taught my mother to sew; who then taught me. And there were rules to follow when sewing to ensure a crisp, professional finish. These are the things that my grandmother taught me.
Never cut and sew on the same day: Allow one day for cutting and a second day for sewing. If you try to sew on the same day as you cut, you are more likely to make mistakes.
Press every time you sew: The mantra is press press press! You can’t iron too much! Every time you finish sewing a section, iron it to ensure a crisp, professional finish.
Clean your sewing machine with a feather: Yes, that’s right. When you are out for a walk, keep a look out for a long wing feather. They are perfect for cleaning the fluff away from around your bobbin holder, as they are strong, flexible and nature has provided microscopic little hooks which grab the fluff!
Match colours in daylight: When picking thread to match your fabric, go outside – NEVER use artificial light. This might mean dragging the shop assistant outside with you, but accuracy is more important than dignity, right?
Get out your knitting needle: When turning things the right way out, use your big knitting needle (for creating your chunky knits) to gently but firmly push out all the corners properly.
So tell me, what did your grandmother teach you?