Friday, February 28, 2014

Meet Mabel

This is Mabel. Yes, yes that is a pillow case stuffed with quilt batting, on a reused broom handle stuck in my yoga mat with a belt on.

I learned to sew in 7th grade. I made a stuffed animal pillow. That was it. Other than how to thread a machine and a bobbin and sew a straight line. When it was offered again when I was in high school, it was an elective. In my mind, the only elective I wanted was Yearbook. In 10th grade I had to take Basic Journalism and in our last semester we got to 'try out' for either the Beacon staff (our high school newspaper) or the Saga staff (our yearbook). I loved English-because I loved to read. The whole punctuation, pronoun, eloquent writing-it didn't matter. All I wanted to do was work on the yearbook. I dreamed about it since I was in Junior high. I didn't want popularity....well, I did. What 13 year old girl didn't? But I wanted to portray what life was really like in high school. My class had 424 students-if I remember right, but only about 399 of us actually graduated that night. We were big. So were many other inner city schools. But we were the Knights. The mighty, mighty Knights. We had spirit and pride. I wanted to show everyone the pride I took in my school. We had to write a story for our school newspaper to be considered for both the paper and the yearbook. I wrote about the Aqua Knights. It was a synchronized swim team that was making a comeback after almost a decade long hiatus from our school. I only had one critique of my writing (which surprised the heck out of me), but my story was published and I became a member of the Saga team. During my Junior and Senior year, I was the co-editor, then full editor of the Clubs and Activities section of our yearbook. I think it was the highlight of high school for me.

What does this have to do with sewing? I never took a Home Ec class again because I was to busy with Yearbook.

My Mom sewed a lot when I was young. She had to as we were quite poor.Back then it was economical to sew. The ready to wear fashion was way to expensive compared to today. Things ready made were quality products, mostly made in the USA.

When my parents were finally able to afford buying a house, my Mom went to work after I was in school full time. She found it so fun that we could take the bus downtown and she could afford to take us to Dayton's to buy an outfit. Dayton's was the epitome of high style. The stores were beautiful, the displays were exquisite and the prices were expensive-at least to us. Mom always preached that just because we were poor, we didn't have to look poor. This is why she sewed us cute outfits out of 'tent' dresses. They were always trimmed with rick rack and piping and ruffles. She ironed and starched. She set our hair in curlers. We always looked presentable.

She never believed in trends or had to have it styles. Classic and timeless were her goals. While I hated it as a child (I just wanted a darn pair of Gloria Vanderbuilt or Bill Blass jeans!), she was into jumpers, 'slacks' and sweaters. What she bought us lasted until we outgrew them.

When I got married, my husband wanted me to be a stay at home wife and mother. Well, 9 months and 2 weeks after we got married, we had our first daughter. Since we had one income and a baby, I bought a machine and started to sew simple dresses for our daughter. I made a dress here and there for myself. I bought a book and did some trial and error.  I was not going to be the next Calvin Klein.

We had a second daughter and things happened, and I needed to go back to work. Sewing took a back seat and then I found different things that helped feed my artistic side.

Our kids are now 20 and 23. One is about to be a mother-that is a different story altogether. We are feeling the pinch as I was laid off and when I found a job, it was making less than I had before. I love my job, but we can feel the purse strings tightening around us every day.  I had often shopped Goodwill and Savers for the girls because they grew so fast. It didn't make sense to spend $40 on a pair of jeans that they would wear for 6-9 months. The youngest couldn't wear hand me downs as a teen since her sister and her were shaped so differently.  I would never buy stuff second hand because I always thought that after growing up poor, I deserved to buy things I wanted.

Times change. Perspective changes. Life changes.  I discovered some refashion blogs just looking at Google about how to take in a pair of pants.  I started finding more and more people who were going to resale shops and making over hideous clothing into art.

I wanted to try my hand. See if I could do something like that.

My nicer machine went to college with our eldest daughter as she learned how to quilt her Senior year of school. I wasn't using it much, so I let her take it.  I bought a cheap Singer for myself. I need to look at a better machine. I waited for sales at Goodwill and Savers and purchased a few things. Cheap things that if I totally sucked, I wouldn't be out a lot of money.

Practically every blog I visited had a dress form.  I can't justify the money to buy one at this point as I don't know how this experiment will turn out.  So I measured myself, stuffed a pillow case with batting, put a belt on to pull in the ever so slight waistline I have, and stuck it on a pole.  For now it will help me at least with taking items in.

She isn't perfect, but neither am I. She is Mabel.


  1. Hi Tami! Just found your blog. I don't have dress form. I'm not sure I need one. I looked at dress forms before but they never seem to have the flexibility to contort to my weird body shape. I just try things on my body and occasionally ask hubby to pin up my back.Perhaps at my level it's not necessary. If I was creating lots of dresses that require draping I might need to have a dress form.

    1. There is hope for me yet! I'm not that far into refashion/sewing life yet that I would need one either-but makes the before pics easier. I need to upgrade my cheap sewing machine first :)