All I wanted to do was clean out my craft corner. Instead I time-traveled more than a hundred years, simply by opening my grandmother’s sewing basket. . .
My mother’s mother was an extraordinary seamstress. Born in 1902, she learned the domestic skills every young lady of a certain class was expected to master: how to make a creamy white sauce, how to bake a perfect pie, and the the fine art of decorative stitching. But she got a rude awakening in the early 1930s, when she found herself with an out-of-work husband, a house full of children, and no disposable income. The Depression had changed her world, and my Nanny – a social climber with nothing to climb – sat down at her sewing machine and literally made her dreams come true.
Nanny could walk into a department store, see an article of clothing she liked, try it on, turn it inside out, put it back on the hanger, go home, and make it for herself. She sewed all of my mother’s clothes, including her wedding dress and trousseau.
Though she dressed her children modestly, Nanny had expensive tastes for herself, and she did splurge on shoes, jewelry, and the occasional suit or dress. She was able to tailor her own clothing, so she always looked perfect.
I found evidence of her perfectionist tendencies when I went through one of my mom’s sewing baskets. It had belonged to Nanny first, and Mom had converted it to her own use over the years, adding her own notions but keeping a few keepsakes. Pinned to the inside lid was a label Nanny must have saved from a favorite garment. A single word says it all: