I have my Nanny’s (maternal grandmother) old sewing machine at home, though I haven’t made the time to use it yet. I have been a bit reluctant because I felt that I didn’t have the skill, but talking to Helen has brought back a flood of memories to the contrary.
My mum taught me to knit, and I remember making basic jumpers as a teenager (and wearing them!). My sister and I would sew our own dolls clothes from scraps of material. They weren’t perfectly made, but they were ingeniously designed by us kids. I started a dressmaking course in the evenings, when I was at college and bought a second hand sewing machine for £20. Between working nights and keeping up with college work, I soon gave up on the dressmaking course and the sewing machine never really worked properly. I had no money for a proper sewing machine so I hand-stitched items instead. The week my eldest daughter was born I was hand sewing some pyjamas for my husband. We were rather poor, so I made quite a few baby clothes by hand and my mum knitted all the baby jumpers. My favourite outfit was a yellow spotty playsuit that I made.
The material was bought cheaply from the market, and you really don’t need much to cover a baby. The patterns were free in magazines or I made them up myself, and then used them over again, but with different coloured materials. It is the small delicate details of babies clothes that are perfect for hand-stitching. When my second child came along I ran out of time and all I sew now are name labels and Brownie badges, but even that gives me some satisfaction. I really enjoyed making things and just the memories bring a warm glow. This is definitely something that I would like to start doing again and get my youngest daughter interested in.
I also designed and built a pirate-ship bed. My son loved it, and it had a den inside, under the bow and storage shelves for toys at the stern. It was special for the kids because it was unique and magical. Really I am rather amazed at how I just worked it out for myself without any help, then had the courage to build it. (I can’t find any photos, but it was before we had a digital camera.)
The adult response to the bed was rather negative – beds should look like beds, plain, boring and professionally made, preferably by a man. It’s sad because now, 13 years later, I am questioning whether I am competent to put up some shelves, which I have managed perfectly well in the past. Maybe I have been influenced by negative comments, or perhaps building flat-pack furniture saps all your practical skills.
There are a number of projects which I would like to try my hand at, but was feeling a bit apprehensive. All these memories have reminded me that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. It is always worth having a go.