Sewing generations

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Hey, I can see early puberty from here!

Having children ushers in a period of reminiscing so profound you could be mistaken for the Garbage Heap on Fraggle Rock. It’s become fashionable amongst the aged to claim that we’re being increasingly unmoored by technology, but I don’t think that’s the case.

I spent part of this morning parked up in front of a laptop, browsing sewing patterns with my daughter. Being a fossil hunting pirate surgeon who makes machines that distribute water/food colouring/manky flour-paste over the lounge room does not preclude frocks.

The method might have changed, but the practice is the same.

As a kid I accompanied my mother to the sewing shop, where, under bright fluoro lights, I would select a dress pattern. The pattern books were huge and positioned on architect’s tables. There was a small wooden stool for little girls to stand on while their mothers leafed through outsized pages of sewing patterns.  Tabs marked the age categories in each book – babies, toddlers, 3-4 and so on.Boys were banned from the sanctity of the dressmaking shop.

My mother would heave slabs of pages over where they would land with a whump, blowing a cool, faintly vinegary breeze into face. There was a sense of order and ritual to this almost silent activity, my mother efficiently flicking through the pages, occasionally pausing on a pattern she thought suitable,

‘What about that one?’ she’d ask, in a whisper.

‘Yes’ I’d breathe, trying to imagine how I could possibly look as glamorous as the smiling, insouciant girl in the picture who was no doubt an American and also probably swallowed bubble gum.

Fast forward thirty years and we don’t go to sewing shops anymore. I’m sure the books still exist, now firmly in the domain of hipster crafting shops where women buy $100 a metre Japanese slub linen to look like they’re wearing an Amish horse cover.

The process is the same, though. My daughter still sits beside me, cruising through patterns, asking if that’s something I could make her.

“I like that one!”



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