I only have one photograph of my mother with my sister and me.  That was taken when I was about six, and we are all in the cockpit of a sailing yacht, and my mother is helming.  My father must have taken the photograph.  I only have one other photograph of my mother and me together.  It was taken by a stranger, outside the Law Society in Chancery Lane, London.  I had just been admitted as a solicitor.  I was probably 25, and am wearing a skirt and top that I made myself.  My mother was very proud of me.

I am wearing clothes I made myself in most of the photographs I have of me when I was younger, from the age of nine or ten when I was photographed wearing orange corduroy hotpants (shorts with a bib).  I have a couple of rubber balls pushed down the front of the bib to, well, to make it stand out …  These hotpants were the first things that I ever made on a sewing machine. 

Here are three more old photos of me wearing clothes I made.  The first was taken on the Embankment in London.  I suppose I was about fourteen.  The fabric was a Liberty print cotton lawn which I would happily wear now.  I think it must have been fasionable to have a purse hanging round your neck.  The scarf was a favourite, made of silk and covered in paisley patterns.  I have had a long love affair with paisleys but they give my husband nightmares.

The second was taken at Law School after the Final Exams: I had made the pink striped skirt.  I was 22 and the sun was shining.  The final one was at a friend’s wedding.  I was a bridesmaid and had made my own dress out of beautiful silk bought from Borovick’s, an Aladdin’s cave of fabrics in London.  The dress is in a bag upstairs with two other bridesmaid dresses and my wedding dress.  My friend was marrying an East African Asian Ismaeli, a refugee from Idi Amin’s regime (and a doctor, now at the top of his field internationally, though that was irrelevant), and her father (my own father’s boss) refused to have anything to do with him or the wedding.  He never even met him, and died of cancer a couple of years later.  My friend is still married to her doctor husband, and they have two children, now both teenagers.   Her mother always supported both my friend and her husband, and is a wonderful Catholic woman.

 

And finally, a picture of Elder Daughter on her christening day, wearing a christening gown I made when I was fourteen, at school, and kept until I had a baby of my own to wear it.  I had to sew the lace on by hand with the tiniest stitches I have ever made.  Elder Daughter wore this gown for half the time, and for the remainder of the day she wore a gown that my mother and all her family had been christened in.  Now both of them hang in a cupboard waiting for the next generation.  I have four sewing machines.  One is an old hand-driven machine, more than a hundred years old, enamelled in black and decorated in gold with the legend “The British Queen”, good for my daughters to learn on.  Another was an 18th birthday present from my parents.  Another was bought with a small legacy from the spinster that my mother visited every Thursday for more than twenty years and who taught me in Sunday School.  The last one is an overlocking machine that I bought second hand, which cuts and neatens the seams at the same time, and which makes everything look much more professional. 

 

So many of my memories are tied up with my sewing.   My first sewing memory is making an appliqued picture of a horse, in felt, standing in a field of apple trees laden with red apples, sewn on to rough hessian.  I was at primary school and about nine.  It was supposed to be a wall hanging.  I sewed a small piece of paper behind the green felt of one of the apple trees, and on it was written the name of the boy I was sweet on at the time.   I still have it somewhere.

I can remember so many of the clothes I made, and all the things for my houses.  Endless pairs of curtains.  Clothes for my daughters (thank goodness they were daughters).  I made trousers for friends, and curtains for a log cabin in the Lake District that we used to stay in several times a year.  I made bedspreads and table covers and napkins and aprons galore.  I made a skirt and top for a very smart party I had to go to, that I was very nervous about, in France when I lived with a family in Bordeaux for a year.  I made fleece jumpers as presents for nephews at Christmas.  I still occasionally make fancy dress costumes for the girls.  The most recent costume was for Elder Daughter who wanted to be a Jam Tart for a food-themed party.  I made her a red net tutu with a frilled pastry edging.  This afternoon she cut off the edging so that she could use it to be a red fairy when she went on a fancy dress ride through the countryside.  She has red net wings and a wand instead of a whip. 

I have boxes and boxes of unused fabric, bought on a whim with a project in mind.  I think I stopped sewing almost at the time my mother died.  I ought to start again.  I enjoyed it so much.

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