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The Sew What’s New Archive

This archived content is from Mary Wilkins’ sewing and quilting message board “Sew What’s New,” which was retired in August 2007. It is being provided by “Sew What’s Up,” which serves as the new home for many members of “Sew What’s New.”
From: kathleenfasanel
Date: 05-18-2007, 12:25 PM (1 of 8)
Sewing is my life. Call it sad or tragic but it's true. I don't know who or what I'd be without it. I wouldn't have had this life without it.

Long story but I'd sewn since I was five. I had problems in school and life so I dropped out of high school and was working on the sanitation crew at a potato chip factory. Every weekend that meant shoveling a week's worth of rotting corn (oh the stench) and potatoes out of the in plant sewer lines. It was hard messy work but I didn't mind it. It paid well considering my background and I had a younger sibling to support.

A friend of mine was getting married, she asked me to be her maid of honor. Her mother was dismayed because the family was educated, middle class (she was a home ec teacher) and I was poor white trash and very fat (almost 275 lbs). Anyway, in the process of working on the gowns (a year in advance), my friend's mom realized I wasn't such a dope and she told me about this school in Dallas (we lived in the suburbs of Dallas) where I could learn pattern making. I had no idea such a thing existed or that you could learn to do that. I guess I thought sewing patterns floated down from heaven.

My life changed in that instant. I went down the next day, took a lot of tests (no diploma) to prove I wasn't a dope, and signed up. I quit my factory job and moved to the big city the next week. I went on a diet too and lost almost 100 pounds by the time of the wedding (my friend's mom was really surprised and happy then).

I was terrified in school. I'd burst into tears at the drop of a hat. I was surrounded by these fashiony classy people, some already had degrees and I didn't fit in -at first. At any moment I was expecting somebody "official" to grab me by the elbow and say loudly, "I've caught her everyone! you don't belong here" and make me leave.

It turns out that I had a real knack for patterns. Learning pattern making remains the strangest experience I've ever had. I didn't learn it. I remembered it. Of course I didn't know any of it but when the teacher would do a demonstration, I had this really strange feeling of deja-vu, like I knew this, clawing away at the fog and dark from the back of my mind, I remembered everything as it was taught to me.

I guess the rest is history. I sincerely doubt I'm the best pattern maker alive but I'm probably the best known one (not in home sewing obviously, I write about industrial sewing and manufacturing). Like I said, I don't know where I'd be without sewing. Maybe I would have become a shop steward in that potato chip factory, that wouldn't have been a bad job, just hard, nothing to be ashamed of being honorable and honest work.

The most ironic thing is, I never took home ec in school (they were making dopey aprons when I'd already been making all of my own clothes) but it was a home ec teacher who set the course of my life. I bet my friend's mother, the home ec teacher would be dumbstruck if she knew how I ended up. Who knows? Maybe she reads my blog :).
Nurture people, not products
User: kathleenfasanel
Member since: 08-26-2005
Total posts: 15
Date: 05-18-2007, 01:34 PM (2 of 8)
Wow sewing is such a heart felt thing isn't it.My grandmother sewed linings for coats in the fifties and told me "as long as you know how to sew you'll always be able to provide for your family".How right she was!I learnt to sew because my mother often bought me clothes from jumble sales that were too big and downright ugly sometimes:)i've taken sewing and alteration jobs over the years to earn extra money and now i sew outfits as christmas gifts for my daycare kids.Visiting a fabric store is pure heaven for me and i tend to buy my fabric by "touch" as much as by eye.I always said that i could lose my legs(my sister is in a wheelchair )but if i lost the use of my hands i'd be finished ,sewing gives me a fullfillment that is all my own .
Member since: 03-09-2006
Total posts: 22
From: Patty22
Date: 05-18-2007, 04:01 PM (3 of 8)
WTG Kathleen :up:

It's all about attitude and passion for what you are doing.

Can't wait to read your blog!
User: Patty22
Member since: 03-29-2006
Total posts: 1194
From: gunny
Date: 05-18-2007, 10:20 PM (4 of 8)
Sewing has enriched my life in one major way. Since I was medicalled out of the Marine Corps in the early 90s, I had a hard time accepting my limitations.
If you had asked my husband and boys, they would have said I was a workaholic in the Marines. Well, I loved to work. I was never a TV addict, and soaps just never appealed to me.
My mother had taught me to sew my own clothes when I was around 10 years old, and I sewed nearly all my school clothes and my prom dresses. In fact, even though I was a workaholic, I also sewed my boys clothes until they told me they preferred "Real" jeans to my homemade ones. :up: Though they would still let me sew shirts for them.
Anyways, when I was out of the Marines and recovering after 3 years of surgeries and recovery times, I sorta fell into making and selling crafts at craft shows. In fact, I became our American Legions Craft organizer for 3 years, until it became too much for me to handle.
Well, eventually craft shows ended up burning me out, so I was looking for another avenue to keep from being bored. I fell into quilting, and now I am addicted. It literally saved my life when I had a major stroke. I was determined to be at my first quilt show within weeks of having that stroke on vacation. They told me I'd be in the rehab hospital at the minimum 8 weeks, and then only to a nursing home for a while. Well, my dh took me home within 18 days (though I had to fly home instead of being driven), and he took me to my quilt show in a wheelchair 2 weekends later. Within 3 months I was back driving again, abet, against my dh's best wishes.
Ergo, I feel that having something you really love, can actually save your life, and definitely my sanity. If it hadn't been for quilting, when I had my stroke at 43, I might have listened to my MIL and just laid back in a chair and let the world do everything for me. But, I didn't, and I love to create. It is a lifesaver!!! It certainly was mine!
Semper Fi in closing, gunnywendy
User: gunny
Member since: 05-18-2007
Total posts: 1
From: Cathie.Tombs
Date: 05-19-2007, 12:10 PM (5 of 8)
I read Kathleen's amazing story (and I do read her blog, and love it). I am 57, and a home sewer now, though I used to sew for people, at my home, and also made costumes, was paid for this, and made costumes for a charity, which were made out of rummage, and rented, to raise funds for more humanitarian projects. Without whinning I could say that I had a very difficult life. Born unwanted totally by my mother, I created a separate world which revolved a great deal around sewing, and fabrics. I had a lovely maternal grandmother, very, very elderly when I was born, and her family had been into custom sewing. As a special treat I would play with her bag of luxury scraps, which I adored. Not wanting to go home, I often made a pilgrimage to a high end fabric store, to touch everything, and read the fiber content. The sales ladies were also very kind, and answered all my questions. Eventually I met a very kind man, who nurtures my sewing passions. He doesn't ask why I must read sewing books every day, but asks me about new, special ones. We love to find fabrics (designer and vintage) at charity shops. All this proving that necessity is the mother of invention. And, if life becomes "easier", often what we have learned is very, very beneficial. I love sewing, as a teen I said to friends - I never get sick of sewing, I could sew every day, and - I never worry when I sew. We can be transported to the land of What If, and leave the land of You Don't Rate. And, it was always something where I excelled. Like Kathleen, I did not take home ec. I figured it out for myself, examined garments (luxury), read patterns, sewing books. And now, there is the internet with wonderful sewing friends. Our sewing experience blossoms here, with sharing and caring, and new growth.
User: Cathie.Tombs
Member since: 08-27-2006
Total posts: 44
From: gwedem5995
Date: 05-19-2007, 06:27 PM (6 of 8)
after I got a divorce when I was in my 20's, I had to sew my own clothes with the help of a neighbor. They started out looking very homemade but I advanced so much with my neighbor's help.

Since then, I have had 12 grandchildren and they are kind of short, so I learned how to hem their pants and shorten their sleeves, etc.

Today my one grandson is ll years old and wears a man's 34 waist jeans, so I spend a lot of time redoing all his clothes so that he looks presentable. He isn't very tall.

With so many Christmas presents to buy, I started making gift bags so that I could eliminate all that wrapping. I have made at least 150 for myself. And each year someone else asks me to make them some. So I make about l00 plus each year.

Being able to sew has really helped me tremendously all these years and I also find it relaxing.
User: gwedem5995
Member since: 05-19-2007
Total posts: 1
From: pinkroses
Date: 05-21-2007, 03:09 PM (7 of 8)
Thanks so much for such an inspirating story.
You really have brigtened my day by reading your post.
I am so happy for you for changing your life and taking care of a younger sibling.
Thanks again for sharing. It is such a good treat to read. hugs pinkroses
I know I have a guradian angel watching over me. I am very gratefull. PINKROSES
User: pinkroses
Member since: 11-30-2005
Total posts: 64
From: grandson
Date: 05-26-2007, 02:53 AM (8 of 8)
Sewing was my salvation. When I was in jr. high, high school I was a big girl and I learned early on that I was not going to be wearing outfit like my friends where buying and wearing. I had a second cousin who would come usually in the spring of the year and she would always go through my Mom’s mending pile and sew up everything that was there. One day she came to me and she asked what these are doing in the mending pile. I explained that dad had bought those for me, because he thought I would like them; well.. they were light blue, western boot cut and the fashion was bell bottoms/floor sweepers, so Mom had decided we were going to cut them off for shorts. My second cousin took herself to town and came back with a little sack, ten minutes later she reappeared from the sewing room with my new pants. She had bought some material that had that same blue in it and many other colors and made me bell bottom pants and cut out some of the designs and sewed them on in random places on my pants. Since then I when ever I wanted or needed a top and needed it to be something like what everyone else was wearing Mom and I would go to the store look at what they had go to the fabric store and get the material and sometimes a new pattern and I would make my top. I use to do the same thing with my girls were younger. Need a new dress take the remnants I had laying around and would make them very elegant dresses for whatever the occasion. When my son started high school there just was not money for pants for him, and one day when he was with me in the fabric store he saw a pattern he just had to have, “Mom can you make these for me?” of course I told him I could and he went and found some $1.00 a yard material, his pants cost him all of $7.00 and he loved wearing them and was very proud to let everyone know his Mom made these for him.

I could not be happier then when I am sewing. The joy it brings to peoples lives. I sew for my children still and my grandson, and for a few close friends.

I would be lost without my sewing and crocheting. It truely is my salvation.

User: grandson
Member since: 06-14-2005
Total posts: 5
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