It is possible that my favourite place growing up was inside my mother’s fabric box.
I didn’t hide in there, I didn’t even sit on it that much (it was a wooden box with a groovy, orange ‘seventies’ fabric cover, made into a seat). Mum’s fabric box contained a whole world of beauty and potential to me. It was a box that set my imagination and my hands in motion. That box, along with my mother, started me on a path that has brought me here today. It was my favourite place because it was full of these bundles – fabric remnants from all her creations, each one rolled and tied with a leftover scrap. When I had an idea, it was the key in helping me bring that thought to life.
My mother is quite a seamstress. She taught me how to sew, how to crochet, how to knit (pearl first, as she informs me that Europeans knit with their needles the other way round), how to be clever and industrious with a needle and thread. As I grew up in a home with seven siblings, she had little choice but to make many of our clothes. Whilst second hand clothing shops, markets and swaps are in abundance today, I don’t think people took delight in op shopping back then, not the way they do now.
Mum loves to sew and the remnants in the fabric box were reminders of the many masterpieces that had gone before. My favourite was a bundle of hot pink and orange shot silk remnants left over from a shift dress she’d worn in the sixties. I felt it was fabric for a princess and I took every opportunity to examine it. The way the brilliant colour shifted as I turned, folded and scrunched it, and the bold stripes created by the frayed edges …
My parents’ love for music and each other meant a date to the opera or a symphony performance once in a while on a Saturday night. For me, those evenings held memories too: of the dresses she wore – incredible maxi dresses in green and blue swirls or black with bold pink roses. I adored seeing her in these colours and designs as she immerged from the bedroom, her ensemble complete with her high heels and lovely, long hair. I’d watch her making those dresses, and I longed for the day when I could be responsible for adorning myself in equally wondrous, handmade creations. Of course, she made long dresses for us too.
Mum was my inspiration, my teacher. The fabric box was my resource, holding the materials to making my own ideas a reality. And over time, my hand stitching gave way to the sewing machine. Looking back, I realize that some children caused their mothers grief due to their rudeness or rebellion. Thanks to me, my poor mother’s frustration came from a sewing room that, without fail, looked like a bombsite by the end of every weekend.
Remnants, snipped offcuts, needles, pins, broken machine needles, cotton everywhere and the occasional jammed sewing machine. Despite the occasional rant, Mum was incredibly patient, and intent on helping me, even, at times, to the extreme.
When I was fourteen, I remember her helping me finish a “last minute” project for school. I had asked her to show me how to use the decorative stitch feature on her machine and I insisted, but only because it was urgent. Ok, so she was in labour, and the contractions were fairly regular and frequent, but honestly? I just knew if I didn’t get her to help me before Dad whisked her off to the hospital, it’d be a good week before she’d be back, and I couldn’t finish what I wanted to do. Talk about desperate! Yes, I really was. I’m sure I thought, “she’s given birth before” (seven times to be precise), whereas I was a complete beginner at the decorative machine stitch. In my mind, I was the one that needed assistance.
It all turned out well in the end and I’m happy to report that Dad got her to the hospital with, I’m sure, at least an hour to spare …
So to begin, it seems only right to telling you about the wonderful fabric box, but more importantly, my beautiful mother who got this whole needle-and-thread-thing started.
Here I am, Miss Daisy and my sister Becky Bluebell wearing Mum’s crepe paper creations for our primary school Easter Hat Parade…