Wedding and birthday anniversaries are fun. When it’s the anniversary of a death, clouds descend. My mom passed three days after Christmas in 2008, so in addition to my usual seasonal blahs, feelings of loss prevail.
This year, I spent the day sewing, something my mom taught me as a girl. I remember the moment clearly, though I was only six. It started at school.
During arts and crafts time, they gave us sewing cards, cardboard pictures punched with holes and a shoe lace. We were to thread the lace in and out of the holes to frame the picture. Though mesmerized, I was also annoyed that I had to take it apart when done. I went home and asked my mom if I could sew.
She found the largest needle she had and an old sock. I sat by her knee on the floor, cutting the sock into shapes and then sewing them together. I completely lost myself in the activity.
I made a lot of my clothes in high school, and sewed for friends as well. I attended community college where I got an associate degree in fashion merchandising, taking classes in fine sewing and design. From there I transferred to San Jose State where I studied costume design, graduating with a BS in theater. I worked as a ‘stitcher’ at San Jose Repertory Theater, my first professional experience. I also spent three summers doing summer stock in Santa Rosa, working as an assistant cutter and later cutter for summer shows.
Making a living in the arts is hard work. I admire my friends that stuck with it, many of them working in academia to make ends meet. I drifted into different things, when the challenge of always looking for that next job, contract or summer gig started to wear on me. I miss it. You meet incredibly talented and creative people in theater, and you meet prima donnas and sociopaths as well. Everyone’s welcome. No judgment.
These days I sew for myself once a year at Halloween. It’s a wonderfully creative outlet. Whenever I haul out my machine, I wonder why I don’t find the time to do it more often.
During my day of sewing, I repaired a dress for my sister. Sharon is also a good seamstress, but her MS makes sewing a challenge these days. I did a bit of mending for my son, then learned how to use the overlock stitch on my machine. Oh happy day!
Two summers ago I made a slip cover for my garden swing. I piped most of the edges, but the two side panels were simply pinked (with my mom’s pinking shears). The loose weave of the fabric didn’t hold up in the wash, unfortunately, so the pinked edges frayed. I trimmed the edges even, then went to town with the over lock stitch. Be still my heart: it worked! I laundered the cover and put it away for the season. For some reason that really made me happy.
Last on the list for my sewing day: a pillow. My friend Melanie had a beloved canvas bag from her summer camp days. Her well-loved bag sported torn seams and a few holes, but it had great sentimental value. I offered to turn it into a pillow.
I found the perfect trim at my local craft store to add a bit of texture. Within no time the bag transformed.
The day was cathartic. I sewed for myself, my family and my friends and I sewed for the memory of mom. I used her pinking sheers that day too, and believe it or not, a spool of black thread that once lived in her sewing box.
As I put all this into words, I wonder if I’ve hit upon an annual tradition.
What helps you get through a ‘loaded’ anniversary?