All Twisted Up
Early on in my Navy career, I was assigned to a receptionist-type job where my superiors decided it would be more appropriate for me to wear civilian clothes instead of my military uniform. Until then I had no need for much in the way of civilian clothing since the only time I wore “civvies” was after work or on weekends. Naturally most of my off-duty clothes were of the jeans-and-Tshirt variety which, of course, were definitely not suitable for the workplace, especially back in the early 1970s. On an impulse, I decided to spend a big part of my small savings on a sewing machine and fabric to make my first outfit.
The pattern I selected was simple: a one-piece jumpsuit with bellbottom legs, raglan sleeves, and a zipper closure in the back (similar to this). I picked out a bright red polyester fabric—it was the 1970s after all and polyester anything was all the rage!
My previous sewing experience was limited to what little I had managed to learn in 9th grade home economics, so it was a good thing that my roommate, Gloria, had been making her own clothes and crafts for some time. She was especially helpful when it came to laying out and cutting the pattern since, at that time, my understanding of grain lines and such was almost non-existent. She also gave me a few pointers about the sewing machine before she went out for the day.
With no guidance to the contrary, I decided that if the recommended stitch length of “3” was good, then a smaller stitch had to be that much better—so I dialed the stitch length back to something so short that the fabric barely moved as I sewed. Things seemed to be going well, and I even managed to get the zipper in without incident. Since it was such a simple pattern, it wasn’t long before I had the basic garment finished. Having clipped the last thread, I sat back to admire my handiwork and…discovered that somewhere along the way I lost track of which was the right side of my fabric. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get all four limb sections to be right side out at the same time!!
I was discouraged, but I was determined to figure out where I’d gone wrong and fix it—until, that is, I tried to take out the itty-bitty stitches I used to sew the garment. They were so small and the thread was such a good match that it was almost impossible to see the stitches, and it was even more difficult to get them out without damaging the fabric. I gave up on that project, but Gloria saved it all and eventually managed to remake the pantsuit for herself.
Although my first experience wasn’t a success, I did continue sewing and over the next few months completed enough blouses, slacks, and dresses that I ended up with a full closet. I even made my own wedding outfit (that’s a story for another day). Later, when I was pregnant, I made a few maternity tops and, when our daughter was a toddler, I sewed up all sorts of cute outfits for her. I stopped making clothes a long time ago but do still pull out my sewing machine for the occasional home decorating project. In fact, I’m planning to make a new valance for our kitchen window over the upcoming Labor Day weekend!