Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Slice of Life -- Hemming

One of the jobs on Mom's to-do list for me last week was to hem a couple of pairs of pants for her.

I should back up to say that my mom was a Master Seamstress in her day, trained under the iron rule of her mother, who was a Home-Ec teacher. (Raise your hand if you even know what Home-Ec is...yeah, I thought so...) When Mom started to teach me to sew, we nearly came to blows. She is a perfectionist. I am a generalist. But she cared enough that I learn to sew that she bought me sewing lessons from a teacher who was a little less like her and a little more like me. I became a functional seamstress.

Teaching Lesson #1 -- If you are not the right teacher for a student, have the humility to find the teacher who can best teach that learner.

After we got the pants measured and pinned, I went to work. I wanted to do a really good job. I wanted to make Mom proud that I'm at least a functional seamstress, and maybe just a little better than that. But I was having problems. The legs of the pants were tapered at the bottom, so the hemming was turning out bunchy. Since I wanted to do a really good job, I asked for help.

Learning Lesson #1 -- If it's not turning out the way you want it to, have the humility to ask for help.

I didn't even have the question out of my mouth before Mom knew what the problem was: the tapering. She came and showed me that if I switched the pins from horizontal to the hem to perpendicular to the hem my work would lay flatter. Then she confirmed my suspicion that it would help to take bigger stitches. Then she left me to it.

Teaching Lesson #2 -- Give just enough help to get the learning going again and then get out of the way.

Hemming the second pair of pants when smoothly. I didn't have to cut any off, the fabric was more considerate, and I was back in the groove of hand-hemming. My stitches were quick and even.

Learning Lesson #2 -- Just because one task is frustrating doesn't mean that every task like that is going to be frustrating. Don't give up. Persevere when things get hard...but also remember to enjoy the feeling when things go smoothly.

Teaching and learning...and hemming pants. Good stuff.


  1. Good for you for persevering and to your mother too for offering you gentle guidance. I probably would have just stapled the pants! :)

    Sweet Writing Life
    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

  2. I took Home Ec, but with 3 master seamstresses in the house, I could usually convince someone else to sew for me. Kudos to you for becoming a functional seamstress. I once used duct tape to hem the band uniform pants But I made sure my daughter had sewing lessons, and now she's a master seamstress...proof positive that those sewing genes can skip a generation. Love the lessons in your SOL!

  3. Raising my hand for knowing hat a home ec teacher is. Though I never took home ec myself.

    These are great lessons, Mary Lee.

  4. Even as old as I am, I never "had" to take home ec, thank goodness. I learned from my mom & other family. Love that you connected this with all learning Mary Lee-so apt! Glad you had a good visit with your mom!

  5. The lessons we learn from our mothers are treasured. As I help Anna set her own classroom I can only hope that I have the same positve impact.

  6. How lucky for you to still be learning from your Mom. Yes, I do know what Home-Ec was. Loved the analogy between the two.

  7. Mary Lee, I loved that you connected family learning with teaching and learning is such a clever way. I learned to sew from my mother who learned from her mother and am thrilled that my daughter took up the art. She learned from my mother who was a brilliant seamstress (even worked in a fashionable 5th avenue lingerie salon when she was younger).

  8. My grandmother was the master seamstress in our house- even sewed her own winter coats. She tried hard to teach us to sew, but she lived a thousand miles away and it never quite took. I did take home ec, though, both cooking and sewing! These are great lessons too! A gorgeous piece of writing!

  9. What a great post. My mom was a master seamstress. She sewed all of our clothes even through high school. I can remember how anxious I was while I waited for her to complete a new outfit for me. I wish I would have appreciated her handiwork more at the time. While I don't enjoy sewing as well as some of my other crafts, I do a decent job when I have to. However, I pride myself in my hemming. My mom taught me the taylor stitch and I still use it whenever I need to hem something. Thanks for your thoughtful post and for bringing back some great memories.

  10. I love posts about sewing and the lessons learned. :) It's a skill that doesn't ever leave us, it just gets a bit rusty but your mom knew just what you needed, as moms do.


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