Sew Fun

Eileen Hopkins (Gramma Jamma)
Grandma’s Point of View

As the New Year starts, my calendar is once again dotted with special birthday stickers. What to do? What to do? Toy boxes are overflowing from the Christmas stash and some of my grandchildren are approaching the teen years with all the technology and dreams that entails. Obviously, going out and buying the latest and greatest gadget is out of my realm: a) I can’t even spell the name and b) the price is usually over and above my budget. This year, I have decided to try and focus on shared activities and building relationships. The most important thing I want my grandchildren to recognize is that my heart is full of a love that reaches around the block and across the mountains. How to communicate that in a meaningful, personal manner is a challenge.

I grew up in a sewing home – my mom stitched overalls and party dresses on her old Singer machine for me and my three sisters from the day I was born. At the age of five, I was sewing on that old machine with strict instructions not to move my finger if the needle ran through it! Many seams and hems later, I relegated my own machine to a dark closet with occasional frenzies of stitching up an apron, doll clothes or a figure skating costume here and there.

Recognizing my granddaughter’s increasing interest in fashion design, I suggested to the nine year old that I thought we could get together for her February birthday and sew an apron. She could design it and I would teach her how to use the sewing machine and put it together. Her eyes lit up and she pounced on the idea but could not wait until February. We moved it up to a Christmas vacation interlude and her eleven year old sister snagged an invite.

What a difference teaching my granddaughters to sew compared to teaching my own children. No big meals to worry about, no baby to feed, no grocery shopping to squeeze in and no driving to pickup/drop off someone for skating/piano lessons. Eight hours of time to devote to patience and jokes as we tackled the first step: practice sewing on paper patterns. I was able to download some templates for teaching sewing – straight and curved lines, boxes and zigzags. It reminded me so much of my 4H sewing experience! With one girl on the machine, I spent the time helping her sister to design the pockets for the aprons and then supervised while they cut them out.

The next lesson was how to iron. With a quick prayer no one would burn themselves, I showed them how to use the iron safely, barely avoided having my fingers steamed flat and watched their faces beam with pride at learning an adult skill. On to the sewing – each child’s face was a picture of concentration as they pursed their lips and even held their breath as they ran the machine on slow speed. Their eyes sparkled with the success of each task and soon we had two fabulous aprons.

It was so special to share not only my sewing skills, but some of the life lessons I have learned (and am still learning) along the way. I was quick to point out that perfection was not necessary – it was their first sewing project after all and practice would help them do even better with their next projects. When they were afraid to start the machine on the fabric for the first time, I re-enforced the understanding that all blunders can be fixed with a simple seam ripper and shared I was so good at ripping because I had made many blunders in the past. Of course, there were the lessons on sharing and patience too but, somehow, these were easier to explain and practice with them than with their mother and aunts!

During this time, many memories of my own mother teaching me to sew and patiently picking out the seams I had hurriedly zipped in her absence flashed before me. It felt good to be able to share this special time with my granddaughters and pass on a tradition of skill and a few life lessons here and there.

Next month – grandsons. What fun!

This blog posting is not a form of psychological counselling, advice, therapy, or assessment and should not be used as such by any individual. This blog posting is provided only as an article intended to encourage thought and discourse. For specific psychology related services, please contact an appropriate healthcare provider.