This was one of those pearls of wisdom phrases I heard often in my childhood. My ninth grade sewing teacher, Sister Mary Seamstress might have used it more than once in the hour we had to sew on our projects. My mother said it but I cannot recall why…unless we were talking about mending a loose hem in a dress of a split seam, which in that case seemed very appropriate.
Yesterday I was hard at work on a sewing remodel task. I had two articles of clothing, both over forty years’ old and obvious favorites because they were still in my closet. My project involved making bell shaped sleeves from a well-worn white dress to insert in the even more well-worn shirt to replace sleeves had been cut away earlier.
It was day two, time to insert the newly fashioned sleeves into the arms of the shirt. I carefully pinned both sleeves make certain to match length on both. As I prepared to sew the first sleeve, I sat at the machine and heard the tugging voices in my head-who spoke louder was a toss-up. The female voices, in chorus, said: BASTE THOSE SLEEVES before you sew.
Although not a novice, it had been almost a decade since I undertook a real sewing project- sewing a loose button or reattaching a loose hem was pretty much the long and short of it. Basting was something I had not ever done much of. I was an “oh, jut wing-it” seamstress. I let the hum of the machine drown out mother’s and Sister’s voices. To my credit, I DID pause after the first sleeve. I decided to try it on -just to check. To my horror, the sleeve was stitched in, at fine tight stitch setting inside out! White thread, vintage, frail white fabric and 71 year old eyes that need new glasses… The heavy sigh I uttered allowed the chattering in that sewing room in another place to resume. It took just over an hour to rip what I sewed in less than two minutes.
I used my time spent ripping to ruminate again my infamous Ben Casey shirt, made when I was thirteen and fourteen. Sleeves were both sewn inside and upside down. I stared at it in near shock before throwing it in a corner where it remained for the rest of the summer. It emerged in the spring of the following year. I had completed my sewing projects for school and needed something else to work on. Sister Mary Seamstress brought the new project to me-that damned Ben Casey blouse had been hauled to school and given to her by my mother. Until I finished that blouse, I was making nothing else. I am certain the phrase: BASTE THOSE SLEEVES, was spoken again during this event and burned into teenage brain cells that day in 1963, filed away until needed again at age seventy one yesterday.
Now to fashion some lacy something to fill in the bleach shredded bodice…
One thought on “A stitch in time”
This has me laughing (at myself – in recognition!) and thinking about the 2 identical blouses (one white, one purple) hanging in the laundry room – I will NOT put them in the closet until I have made the neck opening a bit smaller to preclude revealing bra straps – a promise made to myself after wearing them on recent summer travels and several times experiencing a helpful hand adjust my neckline. (Some men might be turned on by glimpse of bra strap, but not MY man …)
I, too, tend to be a wing-it seamstress. But I will heed this post as my inner Sister Mary Seamstress guiding my process: BASTE first. Even though pulling those basting threads back out is a nuisance, it’s far faster than pulling machine stitching. Soo … THANK YOU!