Fabric Patterns and Homemade Clothes: A Tribute to a Mother’s Love

Reader Contribution by The Mother Earth News Editors
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This story is from Mary Conley and was submitted as part of our Wisdom From Our Elders collection of self-sufficient tales from yesteryear.

Mom was a hard-working farm woman and would put us present women, who sit in front of our computers, to shame. Like everyone, she had her share of faults, but hard work and know-how weren’t among them. After giving birth to five boys, she had me at age 40, and never expected to live to raise me. She was almost 97 years old when she died, so I guess a little hard work doesn’t hurt anybody. I found the following paragraphs in my files. I submitted them a few years ago to a Reader’s Digest advertisement about cotton fabric. Unfortunately, the ad discontinued the following month or they would have chosen my submissions for sure, right?!  We have a small farm, now, and I often wish I could tell Mom about it.

The Drawer: Fabric Storage

My mother made my clothing from layette to wedding gown by using a few patterns and a lot of creativity. She always had a dresser drawer full of fabric that she had purchased whenever there was some spare cash. As a child, I loved to take out all the cotton fabric and study the colors and patterns as if each selection were a piece of art. Then I became a teenager, and the drawer took on new meaning. Many a time, I would come home and tell Mom of a special occasion and the need for a new dress. We would go to the drawer, choose a fabric and discuss a style. There were a few times when I didn’t give her much notice. Then, the deal was made. She would list all the jobs that I must do so she would have time to sew. I did those jobs, but I also remember listening to the rhythm of her sewing machine long after I went to bed. Mom had sacrificed sleep for me. I realize now that it was much more than the contents of the drawer that was the fabric of my life.

Fabric Patterns Puzzle

I cannot think of fabric without also thinking about my mother who lived to almost 97 years of age. I especially value a story she often told me, because it is typical for her generation of creative, hardworking women. Mom had a husband and five sons before I, her only daughter, was born. During the depression, she would buy a large piece of blue cotton fabric and cut all six of her men’s shirts from it. She would lay out the pattern pieces for the big shirts first, and then arrange and rearrange the little pieces for the smaller boys until all the pattern pieces fit with hardly any material left over. Of course, any remaining fabric would be used for a quilt block. Mom and the shirts are gone, but I still have many of her quilts–treasured reassurances that my memories are real.

Photo by Mary Conley 

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