Mary D.

Memory of childhood clothing

My favourite item was a blue corduroy shirt waister dress that my mum made for me in the 1960’s.  I can’t remember the exact year but reckon I must have been about 9 or 10 years old.  What made it so special was that it came from a pre cut kit we saw advertised in a magazine and my mum had only recently updated her old treadle machine to a brand spanking new electric Singer, that came with little black discs for some decorative stitching! And I was allowed to sew on it, but I wasn’t making the dress.

I have a feeling that the colour was just a little disappointing as it wasn’t quite the turquoise I had imagined, but it was still a beautiful soft fine rib corduroy.  It also had a fake panel down the front rather than an opening, but it did have gorgeous little brass buttons down the front and on the cuffs of the long sleeves. As my mum was making it, I had to be content with the length she set, just above my knee, but I felt so smart and sophisticated in that dress. I loved it and was thrilled watching it progress on the machine, and as everything was already cut out, it all worked really well.   It was only a few years later that I was able to make my own clothes and remember a vivid red skirt I sewed with a pleat in front from half a yard of fabric…definitely way about my knee that one, but it was the swinging sixties. That did start a trend in my dressmaking though of always trying to get by with less fabric than the pattern would recommend, which I think still exists when I’m sewing. Learned to be frugal at an early age it seems! I think I was influenced by the make do and mend generation of my mum and aunts, who were always knitting and sewing.

This brings to mind memories of a holiday I spent with my aunt when I was about 7, who had no TV, so most of my evenings were spent drawing, knitting or learning to do lazy daisy embroidery stitch.  I remember being taught to knit by  my mum, but it was here that I kit a little baby cardigan(red again) with two tiny yachts with white triangular sails on the fronts, which I was so pleaded with, especially as I won first prize at the local agricultural show.  Something I had coveted for a few years, having managed only second place before this! It was close to the sea, so there was plenty to do in the day time, including climbing a big hill behind the house, in the hope that I would spot my dad’s bread van across on the distant headland……I think they hadn’t the heart to tell me that this was not even the correct direction to be looking…..never mind the fact that was way too far.   I remember also being particularly homesick, as I was on my own (no big brother or mother/father) and far from home, and the tick tock of the clock was often the only sound to be heard while we knitted.  This was far from my comfort zone, of constant noise in our house, although we were a small family, there was much more coming and going and the telly was constantly on in the background. My lovely aunt and uncle had to eventually drive me half way home where my dad met me in that same little blue bread van.