Friday, October 10, 2014


Lately, I've been getting requests from the grandkids for things like costumes, capes and other make-believe apparel.  Coincidentally, I attended the Maryland Renaissance Fair and watched ten-year-old Emma drool over the long, hooded velvet capes.  They were lovely, and I drew nearer to turn over the price tag only to find they were over $100 each.  The older I get, the more easily shocked I am at the price of anything made closer to home than China.  Of course, I didn't buy the cape for her, but began thinking it couldn't be that hard to make.  I thought of my long-neglected sewing machine, gathering dust in my closet.  I'd paid the then-outrageous sum of $600 for the swiss-made Bernina 801 Sport in 1983.  When my husband asked how much it had cost, I lied and told him $150.  It doesn't have all the computerized hoopla that today's $1000+ machines have, but it falls solidly in the 'they-don't-make-them-like-that-anymore' category.

The last time I sewed, Emma was four.  She wanted a gorgeous princess outfit, so I went all-out, spending $50 on the fabric, trim and pattern.  It did turn out beautifully, a pink full-skirted satin dream with golden trim, complemented by a matching full-length cape and headdress.  She was thrilled, and the outfit still hangs in the closet with a slightly frayed hemline from the steps and sidewalks she traipsed, wanting to show it off as much as to collect Halloween candy.

Perhaps I could reclaim my magic-granting status and make the coveted velvet cape, but the last time I did some repairs to torn fabric, my machine was acting quite perverse, threads breaking with abandon until I gave up and shoved it back in its corner.  I began to search for a repair shop, finally finding one that would take on my old war horse.

Having located a store, I lugged the heavy, swiss-made machine onto the counter.  The woman smiled when she saw it, commenting on what a great machine it was.  Her smile faded a bit as she pulled the cover off and saw its dusty, neglected state.  She asked when was the last time it had been serviced.  My face reddened slightly when I murmured, "Right before I bought it, I suppose."  And yes, that was also 1983.  She stroked the metal beast as if to comfort it and retorted, "Well, no wonder....".

As I looked around the quilting store, I realized I was the youngest person in the store...the only one who didn't have gray hair.  I wondered how many people actually sew anymore.  Or knit?  Women are so busy today with jobs and families that perhaps only the wealthy, retired or childless have the time to pursue homespun crafts. 

During my own childhood, families in my parents' economic strata didn't spend money on Halloween costumes.  We wracked our brains for what we could create out of odds and ends around the house.  I remember being a gypsy one year with a long skirt, my mom's shawl, a mask and heavy makeup.  Well, it was the chance to apply makeup without restraint that sealed the deal on that one.  Another year I was a butterfly, which consisted of a black leotard, black tights, wings cut out of cardboard that I had painted and glittered, and antennae attached to a headband.

My own kids had been skeletons - a loose black suit upon which I had sewn white cut-out bones, devils - the same pattern with a red suit and appliqued yellow pitchfork, a red cape and a cap with horns, princesses, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and a colonial maiden (we saved that outfit from a school play).  I've always hated the cheap store-bought costumes and, truthfully, my kids didn't like them much either, knowing I could make something much more fun.

The grandkids' tastes are mostly the same:  both Renaissance and super-hero capes, although the three year old girl wants to be Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty.  His dragon-fighting role is much more appealing to her than lying on a bed, waiting for true love's kiss.  

So I wait patiently with my repair ticket in hand, wondering how frustrating it will be to reacquaint myself with my old machine.  There will be cursing...a I stop and read how to turn a particular seam or finish an edge, but there will be joy also.  Young eyes will shine with happiness to receive something crafted for them.  And I will smile, hiding the band-aids on my fingers.