Mostly I sew, knit, crochet, garden, cook, preserve food, grow orchids and grands and iron stuff. That doesn't leave a lot of time for much does it?
I have been sewing since my baby sitter handed me a piece of fabric, needle and thread. I was 6. Her name was Mrs. Sheppard. Her parents were English emigrants, she was tall, thin, had long white hair, bright blue eyes, wore a corset EVERY day under a long dress and was an accomplished seamstress. She had the most beautiful treadle sewing machine I ever saw, black enamel with gold and red decals and shiny chrome. Oh how I wanted to sew on it like she did.
She made beautiful work clothes, suits and dresses of wool, rayon and cotton for my Mother and took care of me for rent. And that she did very well too. I learned my table manners; Oh! very strict ones I tell you. Sit up straight, but do not lean back on the back of the chair. Napkin on the lap before fork or spoon touches the fingers. No hands or arms on table, but rest in the lap, except for the one doing the eating. Soup was taken from the far edge of the bowl, gracefully dipped away from the body toward the far rim, gently brought to the lips which were not allowed to slurp it in! How to break the crackers in the soup without making crumbs fly. Milk at every meal came from a lovely glass bottle with a paper cap, brought by the milk man. Served in a clear glass, filled near to the top and had to be drunk without a mustache toward the end of the meal. How to sit, play and run in a dress. Sooo MUCH for a little girl to learn, how did I ever do it? I do not know. What I do know, is that you get more when you expect more, most of the time.
She identified and seized an opportunity to draw a little soul into the artsy world of creative works of fabric. She told me that before I could sew on her machine, I had to learn how to and I quote, "sew on your fingers." Now this was a horrifying concept and I wanted no part of it; but the rhythmic hum of that treadle and needle (I can still hear and feel it) drew me closer and closer until the day she said "This is what you do to learn and you only have to sew WITH your fingers Judy." and handed me that rectangular scrap of fabric, a needle, wooden spool of red thread and those awesome big scissors.
It was exciting and bewildering all at the same time. She convinced me that I could thread that needle by myself; that I had to cut the end at an angle, wet it with my tongue and press it with my lips. I DID IT! Then, very much like on the movie A River Runs Through It, she would praise my large stitches, counsel me to make them smaller, but to tear it all out first and do it again with new thread and smaller stitches. Oh! How frustrating. I would give up, sit on her sofa, watch and listen to that machine, look at the piece of fabric lying next to me.
There was nothing else to do. I could not read yet, there was no television. She did have a big brown wooden radio, but didn't turn it on very often. So that machine provided incentive and the fabric and thread provided something to occupy my mind and offer a path to the sewing machine. Every day, those stitches got smaller and closer together. I learned how to knot the thread with one hand, then how to secure it without a knot. Then I could also cut my own piece of fabric, that was pretty nifty! Eventually I learned how to embroider, then made a potholder with her help sewing it together and a completely hand sewn pillow with my embroidery on it. What a sense of accomplishment I was feeling. One day she said to me, "Judy, I believe you are almost big enough to sew on the machine."
I could hardly believe my ears. I caught myself eyes blinking staring up at her, with my mouth open (which of course was forbidden). I quickly looked away and closed my mouth only to look back into her smiling face to feel my chin drop again in disbelief. I was 8 years old. All the hours of steady focus practicing sewing on my fingers was about to pay off. It Was Amazing and Very Exciting. I couldn't wipe that grin off my face for a week! It was certainly late August or early September, for school started shortly after that and one day when I came home from school, my Mother was there at Mrs. Sheppard's. I went home with her and she explained how the Dr. had said that Mrs. Sheppard was ill and would have to go live with her daughter in another state for a while.
Oh how I loved Mrs. Sheppard and pined about her leaving and what would I do? Where would I go after school? How would I learn to sew on a treadle machine? It felt as though all that focus, learning how to sew well on my fingers was for nothing.
As it turns out, it was good for me, for I am dyslexic and required intense focus to learn to read and do arithmetic. I practiced writing letters to Mrs. Sheppard and she would always write back, her penmanship growing ever more scratchy. She sent me a lovely huge book of Alice in Wonderland for my ninth birthday with a cherished inscription and date in her handwriting on the inside cover page. It too, was good practice for me, being rather wordy and British. I worked at reading it with relish.
You see, I had fallen behind my classmates in reading. There was a poster with little squares on it with all of our names on the left side of the poster and a square to color in for every set of books we finished individually. All of my friends had many squares colored in, but I only had two or possibly three at most. I was absolutely determined to make up for it by MAKING myself focus on only the words on the page, letting nothing break my attention and remembering what the teacher told me about always starting on the left side of the page and dropping down to the next line. After 'Alice in Wonderland' it wasn't long that I began to read everything in sight and learned that I could breeze through the books in my section at school and even answer the questions related to them. Those squares got colored in and I revisited that same old wonderful feeling of accomplishment.
During that period, my letter writing fell off and I did not write Mrs. Sheppard. Then toward my 10th birthday I realized I really did need to write to her. The letter I got back was in a strange hand. I carefully slit the envelope and was stricken by the words in the letter. Mrs. Sheppard had been unable to read my letters for some time and would ask the woman writing this one to read them to her. She explained how Mrs. Sheppard insisted on writing back to me even though it was a struggle for her to do so, she knew I would value her own handwriting. Mrs. Sheppard had gone home to be with Jesus while I put her lessons of dedication, persistence and focus to work to teach myself how to read.
Her lessons have followed me through life. Make mistakes, fail, begin anew with diligent concentrated effort and focus. Keep working at it, improving each chapter until you get it like you want it. I am better for it, can share the profile and reason to believe in yourself and do well with anyone who asks, and possibly help them too.