Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sewing in spite of Women's Lib

I grew up in the 70s when women's liberation was at its height and my mother was striving to be one of the front runners. My mother had grown up in the 50s when June Cleaver and Harriet Nelson were the models for women. Not only that, she grew up in the deep South, where being a wife, mother, and homemaker, were not only expected, they were revered. Suddenly she found herself thrown into 1970s Colorado where everyone had long hair (men and women alike) and the traditional model of a woman was a mystery. I grew up watching my mom wear aprons, sew, and be a terrific homemaker, but she was in a constant internal struggle. She told me regularly that I could one day grow up to be more than just a wife and mother; that I could do things other than change diapers, cook, sew, and clean house. She assured me that I could go to college, get a Ph.D., and pay someone else to do all those things.

Consequently, when I grew up, married, and had children, I had watched my mother do all the homemaker duties, but I had never really learned how to do any of them, myself. I soon learned, and as with lots of other things, I learned of the blessings of being a homemaker. But there was one area in which I wanted to make my mother proud: sewing. I had no interest in sewing and I could not understand anyone who did. When fairly inexpensive clothing and other products could be found anywhere, why would anyone want to waste their time sitting in front of a sewing machine? I lamented this to my mother, who readily agreed. She pointed out that she was forced to learn to sew and that she had to make her own clothes for financial reasons; but again, she assured me that I never had to learn to sew.

Fast forward into several years of marriage, owning our own home, having three children, and still carrying the baggage that my mother gave me about being a woman. As I decorated our home, I came to want a specific type of shower curtain that I was having trouble finding. I had my sights set on toile, my latest favorite material, and I wanted a black and white toile shower curtain. It had to be the cloth kind that hung over a plastic shower curtain. I didn't want plastic toile. I searched high and low. All my favorite stores had nothing of the kind. I searched on line and found only a few toile shower curtains, but they were all well over one hundred dollars. That was ridiculous to me to spend that kind of money on a shower curtain. So I began looking for material; I figured I could find the fabric I wanted and then pay someone to make a shower curtain for me.

After searching high and low, I finally found the exact toile pattern I was looking for; but I had another problem. I could not find anyone to make the curtain for me. Those who knew how to sew were busy, and I was surprised at how many others simply did not know how to sew. After months went by with my beautiful fabric sitting on a shelf, I finally decided I needed to take matters into my own hands. It turned out my shower curtain was going to cost me after all. I went to my local discount store and bought a sewing machine. I brought it home and read the instruction book from cover to cover. I was very intimidated by my new purchase; it had so many small moving parts, I was sure I would break it. But I carefully followed the directions and within a few hours, I was practicing sewing on small scraps of material I had bought for just that reason. I began to get excited about sewing. This was something I could do!

Two weeks later, I hung my newly sewn shower curtain above our bathtub; yes, I even learned how to do buttonholes. And I also hung the new matching valance I had sewn for the bathroom window, with some of the excess fabric. I was so proud of my creation that I decided to do some more sewing. Then I caught myself; what was I saying? Could it be that sewing is fun? Could it be that I am creative in this area? Well, perhaps, but please don't tell my mother.

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