How a dare changed my life . . .

Image credit: <a href=''>alexeys / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Image credit: alexeys / 123RF Stock Photo

“I double-dog dare ya!”

Well, no it wasn’t like that at all, but I DID take up sewing on a dare.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a classmate whose mother was a seamstress.

Valerie (though that wasn’t her REAL name) wore the cutest outfits to school saying, “My mother made this,” and “My mother made that.”

It made me sick.

One day, I said, “Valerie, ANYBODY can sew.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, let’s see YOU do it.”

Mind you, this was in the early 1970s, and there simply weren’t many (read any) books on sewing for men. I went to the local library and found several books on dressmaking and adapted what I learned. The only difference between men’s and women’s clothing was whether closures lapped left over right or right over left, right?

I bought a pattern. I took a razor blade to several velvet gowns I found balled up in the back of my mother’s closet (with her permission, of course). I hand-stitched a black velvet buccaneer shirt with high Edwardian collar, deep lace-up V-neck, and gathered sleeves with red velvet inverted pleats down the length.

I wore it to school and announced, “I made this!”

(Valerie never said another word about the clothes her mother made.)

No lack of models . . .

I am the oldest of seven children: five boys and two girls.

After my success with the shirt, I convinced my parents to buy a better sewing machine (my mother’s machine was older than me, and sewed fitfully at best). I took to sewing clothes for my parents and siblings.

At the start of the school year, we would go window shopping to get an idea of the latest styles. Then, my siblings would pick the fabric, I’d pick the patterns, and I would sew their clothes.

My first attempts were not pretty (sorry to say), but my skills slowly improved.

My parents soon learned that “making” clothes cost more than simply “buying” them.

Sometimes, on Saturday afternoon, my mother would say she’d like a new dress for church on Sunday. I would sew through the night, and hem her dress in time for church.

My father wondered, “What the Hell does THIS mean?”

Well, of course it meant exactly what he thought it meant, but THAT’S another story for another time.

One day, he asked if I could teach him how to make a pair of jeans.

I told him, “Sure. Let’s buy some denim, and a pattern, and . . .”

“This is my pattern,” he said, tugging on the jeans he was wearing.

So, he took a razor blade to his favorite pair of jeans. (Do you sense a theme here?) I showed him how to press the pieces flat, lay them on the denim, pin them, and cut them out.

First, I showed him how to reassemble his original pair of jeans, then, I showed him how to assemble his new pair.

He was hooked.

Father/Son bonding

Some fathers and sons bond over baseball games. Some fathers and sons bond over hunting and fishing.

My father and I bonded over a sewing machine.

When I graduated high school and moved away from home, my father took over sewing for the family.

My mother and my two sisters never touched the sewing machine (that I know of). My father still uses it to this day.

Whatever happened to that first shirt? Well, the books I read taught me a lot about sewing techniques, but I must have skipped the fabric care section. My velvet buccaneer shirt fell apart in the washing machine.

I never sewed velvet again.

9 thoughts on “How a dare changed my life . . .

  1. A few years back when my husband and I were looking for more things to do together, he took up quilting which I already did and I developed an interest in his first love, football. After one quilt, he turned to me and said, “we need a better machine than this.” We have the best of every available tool out there. If he hadn’t started quilting, I’d probably still be using the school Singer I had at the time. He has turned into a much better quilter than I am and I’ve taken quite a liking to football.

  2. Hi Raymond. Happy New Year. Lovely reading your story, think I’ve read bits before but it’s nice having a background to artist’s whose work you like. You must have a talent for sewing tho as I learnt to sew at school but it took 6 months to make a wrap around skirt…don’t know what the heck I was doing it only had about 4 (short) seams??? What gave me speed and confidence was working in a sewing factory — we were paid by what we finished and any mistakes we had to pay for and got to keep .. I landed up with a few “Granny” nighties with the middle sewn into the side seam, before i improved haha.
    By the way, your art that I bought, looks great hanging in our guest room and cooling for our over hot days this summer. Thanks

    1. Happy New Year to you, too, Margherita!!

      Many think that I took classes, but everything I’ve learned came from reading and trying/applying what I read. I’m glad you liked the story; I’m thinking of doing away with my About page and continue posting stories like this one. I like your story too . . .

      Could you possibly send me a photo of the piece?? It’s comforting to know that at least a piece of me made it to New Zealand!!

  3. What a great story! I just found your blog, and I love your writing style. May even try my hand at a Celtic knot, now that I’ve found an expert. 😀

    1. Thank you, Lynne . . . I enjoyed the writing (and plan on doing more of it).

      There’s more Celtic knotwork coming up, so keep your eyes peeled!! And, if there’s anything I can do to help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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