Eliza and I have been reading through the American Girl "Meet Kit" series, which focuses on the life of a fictitious girl living in the Great Depression and weathering, along with her family and friends, the ups and downs of her father's job loss and their resulting struggle to keep their house and a bare minimum of possessions. While to Eliza, I think it's just a good story, for me it's a reminder of what scraping by without a safety net really means, in a way that I think our current generation just can't imagine.
In one of the stories, Kit's Aunt Millie comes to visit, overflowing with tips for truly thrifty living. Kit and her two friends decide to record these ideas in a book they call "Aunt Millie's Waste-Not, Want-Not Almanac." Ideas like resewing a worn sheet to give it an extra ten years of life, cutting up a cloth chicken feed sack to make a desperately needed new dress, using bruised apples to make pies, etc. It makes me realize that, even for those of us who've given the temporary nod to some level of poverty, our first instinct when something's broken or worn is usually to buy a new one, rather than to think outside the box a bit.
Anyway, while I was in Boston, I brought a project along with me. Have you met my mother? She is a genius with the sewing machine. During my high school and college days she was in a throw-pillow phase. We used to tease her that we couldn't sit on the couch anymore because the fifteen beautifully trimmed pillows were hogging all the room. Turns out that was only the warm-up for her real hobby, for she is now an amazing quilter. Every birth, wedding, graduation merits a special quilt, which means hours upon hours of intensive but loving labor. Here's Caroline with hers, almost three years ago:
Now, my style when sewing is what one might charitably call slapdash. That line looks straight enough -- let's cut! I'm a card-carrying member of the "Good Enough" school of craftsmanship. My mother, on the other hand, is like the Yoda (Sew-da?) to my bumbling young Obi-Wan Kenobi. Instead of a double-bladed light-saber, she wields this:
And a giant cutting mat, and multiple measuring tools, and everything you could need to leave you absolutely no excuse for not coming up with four straight, even edges, finished off by perfect French seams (Mom: Were you planning to do French seams on this? Me: What are French seams?).
We worked together, Mom and I, on a new duvet cover for my bed that cost me zero dollars. I used a top sheet from the set recently gifted to us by my mother-in-law, and -- channeling my great grandmother here -- refashioned the curtains that used to hang in our bedroom in South Carolina for the top layer.
I had to finish the project at home due to pesky interruptions by flight schedules, so a couple days later found me at the sewing machine with my own daughter on my lap. Something seemed rather fitting about that, starting the project with my mother and finishing with my daughter. What scraps of wisdom and skill will I pass on to her? What will our hands create together in the years to come?
The cover is finished and graces our bed as of this morning. Thank you, Mom!
I think Aunt Millie would be proud.