Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Tissue Paper and Velvet

 Me and my little sister, circa 1963

The whir of a sewing machine was a familiar sound growing up in our little farmhouse. Mom often had a sewing project underway. But with the arrival of December, all ordinary thoughts of sewing were set aside for the all important Christmas dresses that my sister and I would wear to the Christmas Eve concert at church.

As Little Sister and I would dream our way through the Eaton's Christmas Catalog, where page after page brimmed with beguiling pictures of wondrous toys and treats, Mom would begin her own kind of dreaming as she pored over the section which highlighted little girls' dresses.  She was looking for inspiration for this year's project. Then would come the trek to the fabric store to pore over pattern books, ponder and touch colourful bolts of fabric. I loved the smell that greeted us when we walked into a fabric store -- with its mile-long aisles of cloth in every colour imaginable, not to mention the millions of buttons to examine and all manner of other interesting notions like ric rac and lace.

The sewing machine sat ready on the end of the kitchen table amidst scissors, tape measure, and stick pins. Sheets of ecru tissue rustled as each pattern piece was carefully laid and pinned to the fabric.  Anticipation filled the air. It was always an exciting moment -- a little nerve-racking for Mom --  when we’d hear the snip of scissors pinking their way through layers of tissue and fabric. Soon threads littered the floor and we’d hear a whoosh as the hot iron pressed the wet cloth laid over a newly sewn seam. We didn't have a steam iron in those days.

We'd sigh impatiently as Mom pinned and twirled us around atop a kitchen chair; we were always a little nervous about all the pins holding the pieces together. Stand still, she'd say, as we'd fidget! And then the day would arrive when the last twirl came as Mom checked hems and seams one last time. We'd swirl our skirts out and it was such a proud moment to stand in our newest finery on Christmas Eve, when, with the rest of our Sunday school class, we'd recite mostly memorized poems and warble through partly familiar carols.

So many Christmases since those childhood days ... but no matter how many come and go, recollections of those lovingly handmade dresses and annual concerts in the old country church are as carefully wrapped in whispery memories as any treasured ornament.

As a young girl I didn’t fully recognize the love my mother had for me. I didn’t understand then the love (and sacrifice) that went into these beautiful dresses. The wonder of it is that these gifts of love were wrapped up in the celebration of the One who came to earth express the love of a heavenly Father to our love-hungry world. Who would have thought that the whisper of tissue paper on velvet would echo that love to this little girl?

First written for my dear Mom in 2006


  1. What a pair of beauties in your velvet dresses! Such a special memory and one I can relate to. My mom would sew my sisters and me something special every year to wear to the Christmas concert. My favourite outfit was the year she made us red velveteen vests and knickers. Thanks so much for sharing and helping me to remember!

  2. So cute. I realized I was smiling as I read because your 'paintings' brought back such vivid memories, WE got to stand on the kitchen table to get our hems pinned up;) Mom would say turn and we would spin in a circle in that I-can-touch-the-ceiling bliss! We got new dresses for the school Christmas concert so that was a double high-light.
    Also, I bet you can still recite some of those poems today huh?

    This is one I can remember,
    I studied my tables over and over
    and backwards and forwards too
    but I couldn't remember six times nine and
    I didn't know what to do!
    So my sister said to play with my doll
    and not to bother my head
    If you call her 54 for a while
    You'll learn it by heart, she said

    so I took my beloved Marianne
    Though I thought it a dreadful shame
    to call such a perfectly lovely doll
    such a perfectly HORRID name
    I called her my dear little 54
    Til backwards and forwards I knew
    The answer to six times nine as well
    AS the answer to two times two

    The next day at school Freda Blake
    who always acts so proud
    said six times nine was 52
    And I almost laughed out loud!
    But I wished I hadn't when teacher said
    Now, Janet, Tell me if you can
    I thought of my doll
    And what do you think?
    I answered Marianne

    Thanks, Brenda for the trip down memory lane. Sometimes it takes someone else's memory to trigger an oldie of our own!

    1. Oh, Janet, you made me LOL with your poem. That last line is priceless! I love dusting off those old memories.

  3. I had a lovely pale blue velvet dress. It was so special. I hadn't thought of it for ages, so thank you for bringing that memory back!

  4. Oh your mother must have loved reading this. I'm sure that it may have even surprised her that you remembered so beautifully. It took me back to my own fittings and pins. I was never quite as gracious about them as you. You and your sister sure do look sweet in your lovely Christmas dresses!

  5. Dear Brenda - precious is the only word I can find for this post of you and your sister as well as the lovely memories of your dear mother sewing. I am so very glad you shared this special time in your life. Take care and have a beautiful day.

  6. This is a lovely post, Brenda, that also reflects my experience. My mother sewed on the kitchen table, listening, after we children went to bed, to Back to the Bible Broadcast. We had new dresses every Christmas and every Easter. My first store bought dress came at the age of 11 or 12. Thanks for the memories.

  7. how fun and special, so many don't know how to sew anymore-it's not taught in schools...


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo