In the notebook, five by eight inches, are examples of sewing arranged on lined paper that my mother made in high school. Cardboard, front and back, then a metal ring holds all the pages together. The examples of her work are in white cotton with white thread attached to each page with tiny gummed-back circles used then in photograph albums.
Her expertise shines in examples of the French seam, the hemmed felled seam, the mitered corner and the bias facing. Each sample pinked around the edges and labeled. The fagoted seam creates a small space between two pieces of cloth, ties them together with a single thread, barely catching each piece of fabric along the seam, twisting and looping the thread to hold the pieces together so delicately who could wear it without breaking? The example of a continuous placket was rated “good” in red pencil by the teacher.
The buttonholes carefully made: bound buttonhole, worked buttonhole with plain ends, worked buttonhole with bar ends.
The trade of tailors laid out: how to sew on a button, snap, hook. You can see how to smock, make a welt pocket or cord piping or the French tack.
She showed with shaped pieces of brown paper how to lengthen a pattern, shorten a pattern, change the pattern for narrow shoulders and larger hips or rounded back and flat chest.
Only the stitched felled seam was marked in red as “seam uneven.” For this, she received an “A-” for all her effort by her teacher.
Later, she could take the most complex Vogue pattern for a suit, lay it out on the wool or silk or cotton, cut it out, sew it up on a treadle machine, iron it and hang it in the closet (after the fashion show, of course).
She made her children’s clothes so each garment fit perfectly, so the lines flowed.
After World War II, she turned parachute silk into blouses with jabots. Then, some store-bought clothes appeared. Finally, she sewed no more. Then her fingers went still. She asked once late in life at a dinner party, what was the use of all this accumulated wisdom as we just die. Some days are like that, perhaps, but she did love to create beauty.