A Scottish family that has always sewn. My Grandmother Lillias sewed. She was a maid in a ‘Big House’ when a young girl and was sometimes given pieces of old garments from the Lady of the House which she sewed into clothes for herself. She once made herself a skirt in the new fashion, showing the ankle, but after the Church service with the rest of the staff and family, was told by her Mistress never to wear it again. Even as an old woman, she laughed at this memory.
My mother Isabella sewed all our dresses and kilts and taught us to sew too, from around age 8 onwards. We would be taken upstairs [to where the old Singer Treadle machine lived] at set points in the making of a garment to be shown for example, how to set in a sleeve or gather the skirt of a dress. When a kilt was being made, the woollen tartan was laid down the length of the living room floor and one of us would be told to lie across the fabric and not to move. Then my mother gathered the pleats using both hands, entirely by eye. After weeks of work, the kilt was complete, half-lined, with leather fastenings and pleats that our hands could disappear into.
As a teenager and then in my twenties, I made many of my clothes. It was quite common to make a dress on the Thursday and Friday evening, for a party on the Saturday!
Sewing today is mainly for the grand-daughters and great nieces, which is fun.