Saturday, October 30, 2010

Five Yards for Five Dollars

Wal-mart did away with their fabric section a couple of years ago. I remember feeling sad that they had decided to take away the little "dream" section, where I could find the fabric I needed for any given project.  Now that is not to say I have done a great deal of sewing in the past few years, I have not, but I still enjoyed having the "option" of whipping something up, without a long drive over "across the water" to the real fabric stores.

This afternoon I went to do some much needed grocery shopping.  While in the one-stop-shop Wal-mart, I spied a table laden with bolts of fabric.  Each bolt had five yards of fabric, and each bolt was priced at five dollars.  Now, the fabric was gaudy and very poor quality, to be sure, but I still stopped and looked.  I swear, had there been a single acceptable pattern, or a decent piece of fabric, I would have bought it, JUST to encourage them to keep offering it.  But there was nothing I could find on that table for which I could imagine a use.

Disappointed, I moved on, no bolt of fabric in my basket, thinking about those very early days when I would use ANY fabric, just to afford myself the opportunity to sew. In those days, I rummaged through the attic, nabbing ancient and hideous black and white floral design curtains with which I made an equally hideous blouse.  I walked the mile and a half to the fabric store where I could purchase three yards of "something" for a dollar.  And those purchases of "something" became shirts, skirts, blouses and such.

Now, admittedly, the early works were only acceptable to me because they were "done."  They were not pretty.  They were not well made, but I had finished them, by George, and I was determined to wear my creations.  Thankfully, that was back in the day when there were a fair number of kids whose mothers still made their clothes... so mine did not stand out too badly (at least that is how I saw it.)

Always more of a "giver," I was anxious to share my work with my family.  I made shirts for my four younger brothers -- shirts which, I am fairly certain, they wore to please me, not because they liked them.  My poor mother, a home economics major in college, had to bite her tongue numerously as I, frustrated with some zipper or dart or something, asked her for help, and then declared she didn't know what she was doing.... Mom and I never did see exactly eye to eye.  She'd want me to baste my seams -- I'd want to just pin and stitch... I wanted to be DONE -- she wanted me to have a decent product.

As much as I really struggled in those early sewing days, I persevered, for I had a dream of getting a sewing machine my very own one day, nevermore to have to share the old knee-peddle Singer with Mom, or pay my sister for buttonholes on her new Kenmore.  And so I sewed and sewed and sewed....  One day, one of my brother's friends was over and asked me if I'd make him a shirt.  That was the day I was confident my work had reached an acceptable level.

I continued to whip up shirts and skirts, dresses and blouses, shorts and pants for several more years before, on Christmas of my senior year in high school, I found in the Christmas tree, an IOU from SANTA... I'd get my sewing machine when they went on sale after Christmas.  By this time, I was really sewing because I loved it, and I loved the creations I made.  In fact, when I started dating my first serious boyfriend, during my senior year, I made him several shirts.  He wore them, and I continued to add to his homemade wardrobe over the several years of our relationship.  When we eventually parted ways, the shirts went with him, but I kept sewing. In fact, when I met the man who was to become my first husband, my brothers asked him, upon meeting him for the first time, whether I had made him any shirts yet. I imagine he must have thought that a rather odd question, but to my brothers, if I really loved a guy, I would be making him clothes!

Over the years I continued to make a good portion of my own wardrobe, add my husband's wardrobe, and to make a LOT of the clothes my children wore, until they reached middle school.  By that time they were less impressed with the "Mom made this for me!" and were more interested in getting their clothes like the other kids did.  I was finding also that to make the clothes was becoming more expensive than purchasing them from the store... not designer brands, of course...just the basics.

Jenn in Mom's Creations
Stephen, sporting a Mom-made shirt

So, my sewing machine was used less and less... sure, I made Christmas stockings, mended holes in pants, and made the occasional dress for a "special occasion," but I was not living in the fabric stores as I had done for years.  I was happy Wal-mart had a fabric section with reasonably decent selections, so that when I DID have the desire to get creative, I could do so on the spur of the moment.  But those moments became further and further apart, and I suppose Wal-mart just couldn't justify continuing to offer all of that fabric, if everyone was like me... less and less.

Everyone Except MomMom,
wearing a homemade shirt!

Still, today, when I happened on that table piled high with bolts of cheap, gaudy fabric, I could not simply pass by without HUNTING for one bolt that I could take home... but I suppose it was not meant to be.  Oh well, I still have a cedar chest full of fabric I have yet to use.  And the fact that the sewing machine is at the Pond house and her electric cord and peddle are here at the Farmhouse.... well, you get my point... I'm not exactly prepared to sew a new creation then, am I?

Yep, My Maternity Clothes and
Mom's Wedding Dress -- Homemade


Feral Female said...

Very cool! My MIL used to make dresses for my daughter when she was young,and she looked so cute in them!

Sharon said...

You're myself, except for the boyfriend shirt thing, and still having a stash! Very little difference between us, your Mom's wedding dress, my wedding dress, LOL! I no longer have the "sewing bug". But you're young yet, hee hee!

Have a great weekend!

Peggy Montano & Paintings said...

A great story. You are a talented writer.

I thought of those days( a long time ago,) when I would have this breathless feeling as I walked into a huge fabric store.

mixednut555 said...


Our Walmart here in Hawaii still carries fabric. Your homemade creations look pretty professional to me. My sewing talents only extended as far as making curtains, and covering furniture.
WV: pronare

Judy's Corner said...

Hey FF,
Yes, when I was a little girl, Mom made a lot of dresses for my sister and me. I don't think she made clothes for the boys. I recall one dress in particular.... it was pink and white gingham checks with black, embroidered along the hemline in cross-stitch, cats. She made matching dresses for Jeannie and me!

Judy's Corner said...


I also EMBROIDERED a HUGE tiger walking through the jungle on the back of a lightweight denim shirt for that boyfriend. It was a hue undertaking and I drew it, came up with the colors for thread, etc. myself, using a poster as my inspiration.... He was attending Princeton University at the time, and they, of course, are the Princeton Tigers...

Mom's wedding dress also has my self designed embroidery around the neckline....

I keep thinking that when I retire, I will start sewing more again... who know!

Judy's Corner said...


Thank you! Yes, that feeling I can never shake when I enter a fabric store. One of my favorite EVER jobs was working part time in the fabric store in New Carrollton Maryland, after graduating college, and finding myself with loose ends, only working a "day job." The fabric store job gave me discounts on my fabric which serves to fuel my appetite for the stuff!

Judy's Corner said...


That does it. I'm moving to Hawaii! Wait.... we JUST finished hauling all of that "stuff" from CA to VA... guess we'd better stay here a while, with or without fabric in the local Wal-mart!

The funny thing about sewing all the time, all those many years, is that I NEVER took photos of my work. If there wasn't a photo taken for some other purpose that just HAPPENED to have my creation being worn, well, it never was memorialized

When I went hunting for some photos of the "normalness" of my sewing, I discovered I had photos of my cousin (my kids' age) wearing hand-me-downs from my son....hand made hand-me-downs... so, those things got around and were well used!

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Judy, I remember when Wal-Mart had their fabric--But I so admire anyone who can sew! I actually failed sewing in Home Ec, when I was in high school--I couldn't even get the pin cushion project to work out right--My Mom fixed it for me. I have a friend who even makes prom dresses which are just stunning!! It's really a talent and one that I do not have!

Judy's Corner said...


LOL... I probably WOULD have failed sewing if I'd taken Home Ec... never did. When I was in school in England, we did have sewing class, in which I made a wool skirt and a wool poncho... and in which I managed to stitch into my finger when using the sewing machine.... The experience, in all, was not pleasing to me. Why I decided I HAD to have a sewing machine, and therefore HAD to prove to Dad I would USE that sewing machine, is still a mystery to me!