Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Art of Sewing

"Sewing" -- when you read that word, what comes to mind? What's your mental picture? The first one?

Here's mine: My grandmother sitting at her old Singer with her foot against the treadle, working it to provide new clothes for my only doll. 

I started sewing early, age eight or so, with micro lessons here and there from both my mother and grandmother. In Puritan days-- pre-America and afterward-- girls learned directly from their mothers and relatives, a  pass-on skill both utilitarian and aesthetic: utilitarian in the production of the practical--clothes and house wares, aesthetic in the making of trousseau items kept pristine until the young wife carried them off with her other new household goods.

Sewing is a tradition and a very worthy one. As circumstances should find me, I am involved in this passing on of traditions. Because I took two years of home economics in high school and made a garment each year, I feel I learned all the basic techniques that have served me well over the years. But now, in retirement, I am seeking more. I have been making and selling all kinds of sewing at local craft events, but I want more skills. I want finesse. To that end, I am taking various sewing classes at this particular fabric and sewing machine store. 

Fabric Boutique is owned by Shirley Warren and is located in Bossier City, Louisiana, just across Red River from where I live. Two years ago I bought one of her machines but did not take it out of the box for a year. I was intimidated by it. I would sit and stare at it. Oh, sure, I could do the basics: plug it, turn it on, thread it (there's a guide on the machine), wind a bobbin, and run it. But all those buttons and knobs--nope, wouldn't touch them.

Well, yesterday, Shirley assigned one of her teachers to show new owners beyond the basics. Yay! I learned so much! Then Carolynne (teacher) had us make a little make-up type bag, requiring the use of almost half of our feet. (A sewing foot is a specialized tool that aids, enhances, and celebrates the art of sewing.) So much fun and a nice project at the end!

So, what is sewing? Dictionary.com defines sewing as: joining or attaching by stitches, making or repairing a garment, and enclosing or securing by stitches. Do you see where I'm going with this? Yes, this definition suggest that sewing is utilitarian. 

Now let's look at the British Dictionary's more inclusive definition(s):

"To join or decorate (pieces of fabric, etc) by means of  a thread repeatedly passed 
through with needle or similar implement." 

This definition suggests the other use of sewing: "decorate" or the aesthetic. That's what I aim for--the aesthetic. The women who gather at this sewing establishment (Fabric Boutique in the northwest corner of Louisiana) are artisans, or working at becoming artisans. That includes me, novice though I am at the more delicate and intricate aspects of sewing. I am returning to the beginning to the first classes: Beginning Sewing, Beginning Quilting, Making a Tote, and so on. Each class is infused with those pass-on skills and artwork, the basic stitches, the crafted stitches, the artful stitches. Soon a class in Heirloom Sewing will be offered. That's what I mean.

I have taken several classes now with Sherry, who does not mind that I move several steps past the real beginning quilters in the current class. She has given me numerous tips to improve my sewing and glad I am that she is so tolerant. 

I just finished my 4-square quilt (It's called something else, but I can never remember what). Frankly, it is quite beautiful. 

There are other teachers. Phyllis, a polio survivor thus wheelchair-bound, yet  fiercely independent, is an amazing sewer. Amazing! She demonstrates techniques and stitches, really an amazing array of artistry. My favorite class, so far, was hers in which we took a block of fabric and turned it into a work of art through stitchery. One day I will turn my finished piece into a purse.

Shirley, the owner, is also a teacher and a veritable task master. I have learned so many sewing secrets which I've seen worked into other teachers' classes. That's how the pass-on tradition works. From one to the other.

Oh yes, the first Saturday of every month is the Bernina Club (half the shop is dedicated to those wonderful Berninas). What I love about this sewing club is the Show-and-Tell activity. Each person can show what she made recently. I LOVE this aspect because I love to show my own work.  

One more thing about this fabric store. Shirley has created a work space, a haven, a place to ponder and create, a place of work and creativity and beauty, and for some, a refuge. There is no other place like it in our two cities. The various other fabric stores in the area offer fabric and crafting products, but not classes, not this passing down of a skill and art form.

Note: the shop's web address:


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A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.