I mentioned the other day that I learned how to sew when I was in my early teens. After that wraparound jacket with the miles of braid along all the edges, I’m sure I was a bit turned off to the whole process. I didn’t do too much sewing actually, until I got to college. My work-study job was in the costume shop in the theatre department. When I went for the interview there were three other students also vying for the few work-study jobs that were left on campus.
The director of the Shop was Jan, a tall women who commanded the room as she waltzed in with kaftan and long brown hair flowing. She was talented, smart, a perfectionist and just a bit temperamental. She designed costumes and some of the sets for all of the shows. The year I worked for her the fall performance was a musical, Stephen Sondheim’s Company. In one scene the entire cast was to sing the title song as a chorus dressed in choir robes. Although the theatre department had a huge costume closet the choir robes needed to be all of the same style, and that just did not exist in the vast cavern of dresses, suits, shoes, hats, and just about any other item a wardrobe mistress might need.
Enter Kelly, the newbie when it came to working in the wonderful world of The Theatre. Couple that with the fact that I may have stretched it a bit when I told Jan that I had mad skills when it came to sewing. My first assignment: twelve choir robes, full length, made from sheets and then dyed several different pastel colors. I had about three weeks to get them made, and remember, I still had to go to class–this was just a part-time work-study job!
Jan critiqued each one as I completed them. The first was probably the most difficult and Jan didn’t pull any punches when we were talking about the quality of my product. What she did do was show me how to do it correctly; finishing off seams, steam pressing edges, managing the mountain of fabric on top of the sewing table. At the time I became an expert at sewing choir robes. Subsequently the skill has served me well. I’ve made some of my own clothes, fun arts and crafts projects, and I’m about to embark on making pillows for the porch swing my husband currently has under construction.
It may have been the nice lady at Sears who initially taught me to sew, but it was Jan who taught me about being a seamstress. Thanks, Jan.