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A Bag of Surprises

Threads #217, Spring 2022
I never know what that bag holds for me to sew until I open it.

I began sewing 30 years ago, making garments primarily. I sewed most of my wardrobe for every season and enjoyed it. Eventually, I delved into quilting and home-décor sewing projects. My sewing involved making a variety of patterns, relying on classic techniques, and improving my skills through repetition and sewing classes. Nothing prepared me, however, for the joy I have experienced by sewing for my nieces, Lucianne and Audrey, and my nephews, Ian and Domenic.

Sewing for my nieces began 13 years ago for their First Holy Communion. I lived in California and they lived across the country, in Pennsylvania. It was difficult to meet with them for fittings and alterations. After talking with their mother, who’s my baby sister, Cheryl, I purchased patterns based on the dress types the girls wanted. Then I made three sample dresses for each of them, from sale cotton fabric. I sent them the sample dresses. Lucianne and Audrey were able to try on the dresses for fit and style and let me know which ones they picked. The process worked, and I sewed each Communion dress from white satin, and embellished them with appliqués of the girls’ choice. The dresses turned out well, and my nieces looked beautiful. The best part was that they were so happy. The mock-up dresses were worn for “play”—they loved those, too.

I recently moved to Pennsylvania. Sewing for my nieces and nephews has taken on a whole new dimension for me. I love when they visit and call. Each is special. They have a fun way of asking if I can sew something for them. Their requests come in a bag. It is filled with the clothing they want to alter or redesign. I never know what that bag holds for me to sew until I open it. I soon discover that I am about to start a journey to learn something new— it’s a “how-to” adventure for me. I listen to all their instructions and visions of what the garment needs. I begin thinking to myself, “I can do this, right?” For 47 years, I worked as a nurse and nurse practitioner, surely I can master new sewing skills.

During the past six years, my nieces and nephews have given me a variety of sewing projects. They have included: mending winter jacket pockets; altering a groomsman’s vest; removing jacket collars; making changes to prom gowns and a homecoming dress; restyling sweatshirts; making Halloween costumes of the characters Elsa, Wonder Woman, and Belle; hemming men’s trousers and altering skirts; altering a shirt for a cat; and lining a bralette.

Each project prompted me to search out and view sewing tutorials. I reread past issues of Threads for instructions, studied how to purchase fabric online, revisited the rules for taking body measurements, and analyzed ready-made clothing. I learned so much about garment construction and deconstruction. Each project pushed me to learn more and enjoy sewing more, try new techniques, sew with different fabrics, improve on my past sewing habits, and develop my own methods as I combined or refined what I learned.

Because of these sewing projects, I spend more time with my sister and her family, and having them in my life is a blessing. Sewing for my nieces and nephews brought so many opportunities to learn but also more fun, happiness, and love. Spurred on by that love and the imaginations of Lucianne, Audrey, Ian, and Domenic, I have renewed my interest in sewing and want to learn more. There are more bags of surprises to come, which are bound to inspire exciting new adventures into sewing. I am ready.

Barbara Regis enjoys sewing for family in Harrisville, Pennsylvania.

Do you have a sewing story to share? Email it to [email protected] and you could be our next Closures author.


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