old-fashioned sewing machine

My mother was trained as a seamstress in Italy when she was a young girl in the 1950s. It was a valuable skill in a country where nothing is wasted.

When she came to America with me and her husband, who was in the U.S. Navy, she continued her trade. She stayed home with her children and continued to sew for her customers. To her, clothing had value, it was not to be discarded because you got tired of it.

And if a shirt got a rip in it or needed to be repaired, she would do it. Waists could be taken in or out, and hems could be raised or lowered. Even a shirt with a permanent stain could be worn under a sweater.

Or, as she would always say “wear it around the house.” I didn’t like that idea at the time, but now with Mom gone, I realize that I miss her skills. What’s wrong with wearing a sweater with a few repair stitches? It keeps me nice and warm at home and reminds me of her.

Another benefit that I got from Mom’s work was that I would get a lot of clothing from her customers. Items that no longer fit them were passed along to me. I still have so many of these hand-me-down garments because Mom’s ladies purchased clothes with an eye for quality and the silk blouses, coats, and blazers have lasted me for years. And each one comes with a memory of a special friend that I met.

Although I have inherited virtually none of my mother’s sewing abilities, her lessons are well learned.

This article was originally published on January 16, 2019.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.