As a professional seamstress, I have become used to the confused looks I sometimes get when people ask what I do for work. People assume that I hem trousers in a little tailor shop or they simply have no idea what being a “seamstress” entails. No, I don’t work in a tailor shop. What I do is design and manufacture various items, including sports gear from recycled sails, baby quilts and kids’ clothing, bespoke ladies’ dresses, table linens, patio furniture and window seat cushions, window awnings, and yes – throw pillows (to name a few). A buddy of mine was giving me a hard time recently about “just making pillows,” and “what kind of a job is that really.” I know he was only kidding around, but it got me thinking about just how important to our society being able to sew has always been. With the 4th of July right around the corner, colonial America leaps to mind, along with the short list of a family’s most prized possessions: musket or rifle, tinder box for starting fires, cast iron pot to cook in, the Holy Bible, and a SEWING NEEDLE. Sewing and embroidery needles of the time were usually made from bone or sometimes ivory, were not very easy to replace, and were handed down in families from one generation to the next. There were no department stores in the 17th and 18th centuries, and unless you were very rich, you made your own clothes and kept them in repair. A soldier’s gear always had a sewing needle and thread tucked away in a safe place.
Actually, thinking about sewing by hand the elaborate dresses, suits of men’s clothing, and the military uniforms of that era, it kind of makes my stomach hurt. I am no stranger to crewel embroidery and hand stitching, and it is not only very time consuming, but it takes a lot of practice to make continuous even stitches that will last for a long time and look presentable. The hard scrabble lives of Americans through the centuries have always warranted durable clothing, which is probably why we all love jeans so much. I think jeans (aka Dungarees, blue jeans, etc.) are probably the most iconic of American clothing, not just because they are so durable, but because they just get better looking the more you wear them. American jeans as we know them showed up in 1871 courtesy of the Levi Strauss company, and were worn by cowboys, miners, and Navy sailors up until WWII. I recall my parents and their siblings and friends talk about how difficult it was during World War II to get fabric to make new clothes, and how it became acceptable for everyone to wear durable and long-lasting jeans. Women were able to advance from wearing only skirts and dresses, and eventually could actually go out in public wearing shorts.
At any rate, before I get totally carried away and this turns into the longest post ever, I hope you all have a happy and safe 4th of July holiday! Cheers to being able to wear shorts and a t-shirt in this hot weather. What can be more American than that?
And that is what’s up with Mayflower Stitchery!