I supposed she tried to teach me to pace myself too because you need to when you sew. You can’t complete a complex project in one night, she told me, and if you try, it will come out looking terrible.
I proved her right, of course, when she enrolled me in a sewing class at the Singer Sewing Machine Shop in Burbank.
I think I was about 10 years old.
Burbank wasn’t a pretty town back then. I always got the joke when Johnny Carson would smile into the camera, you know his sly smile, and tell the audience that The Tonight Show was being broadcasted from “beautiful downtown Burbank.”
Anyway this class Mom took me to was in one of those open malls where most the shops were closed down with people were sleeping in the doorways. Everything had a smoggy cement color cast upon it.
The sewing shop had a backroom with rows and rows of machines set up for use, and I sat down with my pink sewing box at one of them.
Right off the bat, two girls about my age began to pick on me. They teased me something awful, and I didn’t want to go back.
But Mom made me.
“Just ignore them,” she said.
Each student was to make a complete outfit like a dress or a pantsuit and compete in a contest like a runway model dressed in their creations.
Oh great, I thought. It was going to be hard enough just to make something and now I’d had to parade around in it and be judged inside and out.
I’ve never really understood this concept of competition when you’re a child. Let’s face it. Contests are fun only if you win, especially when you put your expertise, such as it is, on the line.
I suppose the “everybody’s a winner” that children deal with today is no better.
Well, I decided to make a teal dress with wide lapels and bell shelves and a crocheted vest. It was very mod, very early 70s.
The dress was coming along fine except for the back zipper. Zippers are tough. I waited till the last night before the contest, and in a moment of frustration asked my mother to help me.
“Oh no,” she said. “You have to do your own work.”
So I did, staying up late to finish it, and it wasn’t pretty. It worked though, and I participated in the fashion show.
The two girls who teased me didn’t finish their outfits. They sat in the very back of the audience with grim looks on their faces next to their mother who had a grim look too.
So I guess I learned that hard lesson on how to pace myself when I was a little girl.
Now I do it so well that I can put down a project and not come back to it for years.