Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pillow Talk

I made a pillow today.

It doesn't look like much. But this was the first sewing project I have attempted in a long time. I'm not altogether happy with it, lumpy as it is, the result of attempting to recycle the stuffing from the old pillows. So first chance I get, I'm going to pick up some pillow forms, redo this little guy, and make one more just like him. Then I'm going to do two in turquoise, two in a smashing print, and use the print to make a little window valance. When everything is finished, I will post another picture.

It felt good to sit at the sewing machine again. I used to sew a lot. I was 22 or 23 when I took my first sewing class back in Peoria, Illinois - Stretch and Sew, anybody else remember that? - and soon after that I bought my first Bernina sewing machine. We moved to Raleigh a couple of years later, and during the hiatus from piano teaching, I got a job in a chain fabric store. I hated working there - hated the red apron I had to wear, hated the erratic schedule, hated the condescending behavior of management - but the retail experience helped me get my foot in the door of the local Bernina shop a few months later. My boss there was great; she made sure I received extensive training in the workings of all the sewing machines, allowed me to use my generous employee discount to upgrade to a top-of-the-line model and purchase a serger, and exposed me to many new sewing techniques: English smocking, heirloom sewing, machine applique and embroidery, quilting. It wasn't long before I started teaching classes myself.

I made clothes for myself and gifts for family and friends and, later, clothing for my kids. When I was pregnant with my first child, I sewed most of my maternity wear

and bought yards and yards of blue and white calico and made a crib set and matching curtains for the nursery.

I even made two smocked baby gowns - a white one with flowers in case I had a girl, a blue one in case I had a boy.

I never got to use the white one. But I still have it. Maybe a granddaughter will wear it one day.
As my children grew up, I made clothing for them, too. I especially enjoyed sewing fancy outfits for pictures and special occasions.

And Halloween costumes were a lot of fun.

Josh and Casey
But by the time Nathan came along, I had started home schooling and sewing necessarily became less of a priority. Mostly I did small machine quilting projects and made Christmas presents. One year I even managed to sew matching jammies for the boys to wear on Christmas Eve.

Josh and Casey
After my divorce, though, sewing really fell by the wayside. I had good intentions; I even set the sewing machine up in a corner of my bedroom. But hemming jeans and stitching patches on Cub Scout uniforms was about as good as it got. Finally, I decided the space could be put to better use, and I packed everything away and almost forgot I had it - until last spring, when something compelled me to paint my piano studio purple and turn part of it into a creative space for myself.

Mostly I have been beading. But when my sofa pillows started to disintegrate and I saw the price of new pillows - and couldn't find anything I liked, anyway - I decided it was time to start sewing again. I found the perfect fabric, fifty percent off, dug my notions out of storage, and set to work. I was afraid I might not remember how to thread the machine, but really it was like riding a bicycle. Although I don't recall what some of my tools and supplies are used for, maybe that will come back to me too, as I sort through fabric and patterns purchased long ago. I have some really great stuff.

I am already planning my next project: a pair of monkey print flannel pajamas. With the heat advisory here - and no end in sight - I guess I can take my time on those.

Have you ever had the experience of returning to a hobby after a long time away from it? What was that like for you?


Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

Loved your post, Pam. And thanks for sharing memories. What I know sewing-wise is self-taught, but in the past it was such an enjoyable hobby. My specialty was curtains, pillows, bath sets,place mats etc. Never clothes, but maybe one day I'll go back to it too.

Pam Asberry said...

Thanks, Lisa. I actually prefer sewing for the home, too, although I would like to get back into quilting and I love making gifts for people. Let me know if you ever decide to pull that machine out and do some stitching!

Melody MacDuffee said...

What fun to wander down your memory lane. Your boys are beautiful!

Pam Asberry said...

Thanks, Mel. Of course, they're much bigger now - 23, 19 and 15. But I still think they're beautiful! :-)

Leslie K. said...

What a wonderful post!

Pam Asberry said...

Thank you, Leslie. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Carol Burnside aka Annie Rayburn said...

My mom was a terrific seamstress and tailor. She made almost all our clothes except the boys jeans and Daddy's work stuff. Beautiful tiers skirts with ruffles and petticoats to match for Easter. In later years she worked in a men's shop, tailoring expensive suits.

She taught me the craft and I made a lot of my clothes for many years. Like you, I sewed things for the house and made my kids clothes and costumes and pj's, but life got too hectic for such a time-consuming task.

Last year, sadly, I inherited her sewing machine and supplies. I have a big 5.5' x 12' closet to sew in, but I haven't been able to face all the memories associated with that yet. When I was in high school, she and I sewed into the wee hrs of the morning many times, making something for a special occasion. Nice memories, but tough too.

Julee J. Adams said...

Great memories and pictures--thanks for sharing!

After years of cross-stitching all the time, I've hardly done any the past six months. Same thing with beading. I need to get going on the office, like you did.

Thank you also for the inspirations. Congrats for getting even closer to happy!

Christine said...

I love this post. I used to sew, too. I didn't make clothes, but I made a lot of curtains, pillows, etc. My last batch were okay, nothing spectacular. I also packed mine away in the attic when we moved to Alabama. No time to sew!! Sewing went by the wayside along with scrapbooking, decorating the house, shopping in general. I'm always amazed by all that you do.

Good luck with the pillow making. The room will look fabulous when you're finished!

Pam Asberry said...

Thank you for sharing your memories about sewing with your mom, Carol. I can see understand how it will be difficult to pull her sewing machine out and work without her. You will know when you are ready. And you will honor her with every stitch you sew. (((HUGS)))

Pam Asberry said...

Your cross-stitch is beautiful, Julee. I did a bit of that back in the day, but I don't think I have crossed a stitch in ten years or more. I still have all my patterns and supplies, though! Creating things, whether from beads or fabric or paper, satisfies some urge deep inside me. I think finding time for those pursuits is making me a better writer too, even though it takes time away from writing. It's kind of a wonderful mystery. :-)

Pam Asberry said...

Thank you so much, Christine. Once school starts, I won't be able to keep up this pace, but I sure have enjoyed going off on a few tangents this summer. :-)

SAIDFRAZ said...

you go girl, adding another creative endeavor to your activities list, I'm proud of you! Love seeing all the old photos and the things you made, you ARE very talented!

Pam Asberry said...

Thanks, Sherri! Coming from you, the queen of talented, that means a lot! :-)

Anonymous said...

Love, jus love the pregnant picture of you. That's just snuggy!

Eydie said...


I loved reminiscing with you during your sew memories. The maternity dress ... curtains and bedding for baby’s room, halloween costumes ...

All so precious.

I think you should be very proud of your beautiful pillow.

all the best!

Pam Asberry said...

Thanks, Eydie. So many happy memories. Thank you for stopping by. :-)