When writers talk about material, it means the fabric of our lives, used to inspire and craft our stories. My husband, the construction worker, is referring to drywall and lumber and nails when he talks about material. For me the word material conjures images of gingham and ribbon and lace.
My mother and her mother before her were seamstresses during my childhood. My grandma on my dad’s side was a seamstress too. For them, a new bolt of fabric was the possibility of a new dress and scraps were saved as potential for a quilt in the fall.
There was a closet in our house devoted to sewing. Mom and Grandma worked at The Garment Factory and at the close of a season, the factory hosted a fabric sale. Mom kept her bargain finds neatly folded in a rainbow of colors stacked on shelves in the sewing closet.
When I was very young that closet held cotton material. One summer, Mom made me a maxi-length red and white gingham pinafore with a ruffle around the bottom to wear in The Little Miss Windsor pageant during the celebration of our country’s bi-centennial year (1976). I won the contest and at 7 years old was an absolute princess in that dress.
A few years later, polyester was the only fabric to be found in that closet. My grandma made my cousin and me matching, sea-foam green, polyester pant suits with silver and pearl snaps. I was not a fan of polyester, it was scratchy, and it was becoming un-cool to wear homemade clothing. I entered my teen years and found every excuse to avoid learning the craft. I was required to take one year of home economics in high school and declared myself a failure at sewing, vowing to never pick up needle and thread again.
As an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate my mother’s and grandmothers’ skill. I especially cherish the quilts made by loving hand from scraps of our history. Not only do the quilts contain discount cloth from factory sales but in them can be found scraps of Grandpa’s pajama bottoms, and that old flannel shirt.
I’m still a failure at sewing; probably from lack of trying. But, I write, and I hope through my stories I’m able to capture a little scrap of family history in the threads.