Author: Shelley Hong Date Posted:14 May 2017
My Mum Doesn't Sew
In fact, she’s not all that handy with most craft either.
My Mum is utterly lost around sewing machines. Though there was one thing that she enjoyed: knitting and crocheting.
From time to time, she would be so proud of her work that she’d dress my brother and I head to toe in her creations.
The most memorable was the daisy afghan poncho with matching barrette in shades of orange – in the most scratchy, hairy mohair that gave you a mouthful of hair whenever you attempted to speak.
And she made a matching set for each of us.
This picture doesn’t even come close…..
Then we would be paraded to the local parks for a family photos session, with Dad in toll as the photographer. On these occasions, my brother would wear his famous pout all the way, while I prayed that we wouldn’t run into anyone I know.
Mum and I never quite got along.
She was the first career woman of her family and she was ambitious. She was a music teacher at a high school that’s nowhere near home, so there was the tedious daily bus commute. By the time Mum came home, she would be exhausted and grumpy. I learn to dread the moments when she came through the door and promptly looked for things to get annoyed with. I stayed out of her way.
Her dream was for me to become a classical concert pianist, and my brother a violin virtuoso – all the while I had trouble sitting still at the piano – because all I ever wanted was to dance, whenever I heard music. These things didn’t go well and I’m sure we disappointed each other in many ways.
Mum loved having her students over.
She taught classical piano and singing privately and our place was always filled with teenagers who just adored spending time with my mum, and shared their thoughts that they couldn’t share with their own family. She was warm and caring to them all. And patient. I watched from a distance with envy, and marvelled at how different a person she was around these kids. How I wished that I could be one of them.
Then puberty hit me.
I grew into that awkward size that’s too big for kids wear but not quite the right shape for grown up clothes. I was in a dark place. While mum and I engulfed in head-on hormone-fuelled battles, there were also the rare moment of joy, when she would make times to take me shopping for clothes. Those were the most precious moments for me – even if we didn’t agree much on fashion sense. To this day, I’m pretty sure she never knew how much those trips meant to a dark and stormy tween.
We moved to Australia at the height of her career. Everything she built over the years vanished overnight. Mum went into her own dark place while we were all busy getting on with lives.
She went back into knitting.
Mum had a gift of making friends from random strangers – often on the train. She ended up receiving knitting tips, exchanging patterns, afternoon tea invitations, even farm visits! We never figured out how she did it, with pidgin English.
Parenting didn’t come naturally to Mum – she was generally frazzled. Though she did find peace in knitting me stuff to wear, and she was proud that I actually loved and wore them.
My favourite was an oversized boat neck jumper with unusual diagonal cables and roomy drop-shoulder sleeves – from a pattern we found in Women’s Weekly or Women’s Day.
To give you an idea, this is the best I can do:
In the actual photo from the magazine, the model was a ballerina doing her warm-up in a dance studio setting. The purple marle yarn jumper she was wearing went off her shoulder just so – and it reminded me of Flash Dance. So. So. Cool.
Of course I had to have it.
So mum and I went yarn shopping. She got started with some helps from her knitting friends because diagonal cable turned out to be more tricky than we realised…
While Mum carried on with the knitting, I eagerly waited and I day-dreamt about finally looking cool and feeling confident like the picture on the left.
Instead, my reality turned out more like the model on the right:
Instead, my reality turned out more like the one on the right (!)
But I love it anyway. It was Love at first sight.
Beside, it was the very last thing Mum made.
She did it while battling with arthritis pain in her hands – which also stopped her from playing piano as much as she’d like to. She never knitted another thing after that.
I basically lived in that jumper each winter – for years and years – refusing to give it up even when it was stretched out of shape and started unravelling with holes. Reluctantly, I had to let it go when the whole thing literally disintegrated.
Not a single winter go by without me missing that ballerina jumper Mum made.
Fast forward a few years, Mum is very much part of Sew Much Easier today.
Not because they had to – we have a warehouse team for that.
They did it because they LOVE getting involved and be part of our little
Because it gives them a sense of purpose.
The thought that you might be delighted by the beautiful fabric that they lovingly packed and hand-addressed, gives them an immense sense of satisfaction.
It became clear to me that having daily orders keep my parents busy with their hands and brains – while giving them something to look forward to each day.
I’m so grateful on so many levels – especially when I realise how fast their bored retired friends seem to be disappearing….
On this Mother’s Day, I’d like to give all mums (of real kids or fur kids) a Heart-felt Thank You.
Because each day is a gift, and being in the moment with each other, while doing more of what you love is what counts. And that makes us happy.
P.S. And here are some more stories from lovely Sew Much Easier members….. Enjoy!
Her sewing had simply outgrown the boundaries of their home. Her husband fully supported and encouraged her to take this jump of faith and it has been an amazing experience for everyone. The joy she gets from hearing those magic words- I love it!- is worth it all.
My mother taught her to sew. I had always dabbled and had fun with it, but never quite nailed the finer techniques required. My mother lives in New York, so my daughter and my mother converse by post ( which made me ,of course, really happy).
My daughter is unable to fly, therefore unable to go see her, and my mother is 80 this year, so a flight to Australia is in doubt. The letters give them a very special connection.
Thus the name, Dear Hazel, in honour of my beautiful mother, who so many years ago, taught her to sew. I
love when people come into the studio and ask about the name…and who is Hazel. I get to brag about my mother and daughter, all in one breath.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do it again. Loved your story!
This was a very heart-warming story, thank you for sharing.
Thank You for sharing your story with us!! I was afraid you were going to say your Mum had passed away so I was SO happy when I got to the end of your post.
My Mum has never been interested in crafts, she did do a little embroidery on a Duchesse set for her ” Hope Chest” when she was young.. but I am the only one who seemed to want to MAKE things, I started making my clothes when I started work on a straight stitch Singer. Then when I had my first baby I wanted to knit so I got shown a little by the lady at the wool shop and I knitted a pink parka and sewed pink fur around the face..I was so proud.. I later taught myself to crochet and finally I got hooked on counted cross stitch..All along my Mum encouraged me and admired my work.
In later years I discovered patchwork and quilting and since then everything else has taken a ‘ back seat”
I am so fortunate that my lovely mother is still here for me to celebrate with her.. She will be 93 in June. She lives in an Aged Care facility where she has her own lovely room and ensuite.. Whenever there are people wanting to come and see the rooms to maybe apply for a place there, they show Mum’s room!
Sometimes it is so hard to choose a present for Mum but a few years ago I saw a BOM from the lovely Jenny of Elefantz, who had a block of the month and it was a stitchery of the Lords Prayer. I did it for Mum, got a special hanger and it is on her wall.. Even the CEO who goes overseas to places where this church does relief work, took photos to take with her, so my Mum is very proud of her wall hanging.
I hope and pray Mum will be blessed with a 100th birthday here on Earth, but every day I get to talk to my mother is a precious gift.
I hope you and your family have a wonderful celebration with your mother as well, Shelley. God Bless.xxx
My mum has just given up looking after dad full time, he has dementia.
Mum was a working mum to 4 kids and a farmer husband who suffered from depression but she never gave up on him, even when he got violent.
After they both retired and moved closer to me, things got worse. Mum slept at my house and went home during daylight hours to clean and cook for dad. Eventually moving back home to look after him full time.
Mum deserves a medal.
My Nan and Mum both sewed, quilted, hand embroidered, knitted and crocheted.
It was weird to walk into either my family home, or my nan’s house and not hear a sewing machine whirring, or knitting needles click-clacking. It was weird not to have to fight my way over piles of fabrics, slink around the cutting table (our dining table) covered in paper patterns….which both my Mum and Nan could fold up so perfectly that an Origami Master would be put to shame……
And I will NEVER forget the sound of the Sewing Scissors, as my Mum and Nan cut patterns out, turning fabric into stunning dresses, amazing skirts, gorgeous furnishings….but most importantly…..heirloom hand sewn patchwork quilts (which had their signature embroidered into one corner). I still have my quilt, and I treasure how many hours I sat with my Nan, chatting about my day or week; complaining about some slight against me; pouring my heart out after a break up; and all the while she would sew hexagons together into a covering of pure love.
I find myself with tears now. My nan passed when I was a teenager, and I was never grateful to her when I should have been. I never truly appreciated how much of herself she put into her creations, and I wish I could turn the clock back and tell her just how much I adore her for what she did.
My Mum…oh wow….my mum sews better than any fashion house! Give her a pattern, and it’s tailored to your own body. Give her an idea, and she’s made it a thousand times better than you ever thought possible. And yes, I learnt from the loss of my Nan, NOT to take my mum’s amazing skills for granted. I asked her to teach me to sew, and she did. (She made me buy a machine, and patterns, and fabrics, and notions etc., but she taught me).
I, at the age of 47, sew. I knit. I crochet. I quilt. I make handmade cards. I scrapbook.
And all thanks to the never-ending love and support of the two most important women I have ever had the privilege to know.
Nan…Mum….. I love you both, to the moon and back – the longest possible way around.
My mother tried very hard to teach me how to knit when I was very young.
She started me off with trying to make a long cable knit sleeveless cardigan but As much as I tried I just couldn’t get into the hang of it. As much as she tried to encourage me I found it boring.
My mother finished that bright yellow cable knit cardigan a few years ago and she wears it everywhere.
I am now 58 did learn to knit, but I love my crochet. I thank my Mum for teaching me that doing a craft and making things is wonderful.
Mum now is in a nursing home and has dementia….but she still wears that Bright Yellow Sleeveless Cable Knit Cardigan and it looks like it was made yesterday!
I loved your story of your Mum, my mum was an absolutely wonderful sewer as was her mother, both had been trained in tailoring and mum could cut out a pattern for one of us 4 kids just by seeing the garment in a shop window.
I remember one year , us 3 girls and mum went into the city in Melbourne to window shop, and in a rather exclusive shop in Collins Street, my sister saw the outfit she wanted. Mum looked at it and later got material and made one for my sister, I didn’t find a dress I liked but I did see some lovely material in another dress, it had a gold thread running through it I felt like I was wearing real gold, some how mum found some very similar and I did a drawing of what I wanted. When the following weekend came we had our new clothes. Beautifully made by our mum and all made without a pattern to cut by.
Another thing I will always remember is mum sitting at her sewing machine until about 3 am making clothes for children we didn’t know, she would hear about a family or child at school without a decent thing to wear to school and mum would make a uniform dress or shorts and shirts along with lots of underwear for some one she could see needed help.
The material for most of these baskets of clothes came from some dressmakers and tailors who had shops in the city of Melbourne they saved their off cuts for Cath, they put them aside so they had plenty when mum went in asking if they had any. Some of those children got some really lovely fabric in the dresses coats or pants that mum made.
Mum taught me to sew and crochet but she never managed to teach me to knit, I still cant understand a knitting pattern it might as well be in hieroglyphics! Unlike mum I need a pattern to cut out anything.
This has been a lovely opportunity to record one of the stories of my mum
Loved your story about your Mum – it was wonderful.
I can remember my Mum knitting fair isle twin sets for us. We loved them. Mum was a separated woman with 4 children to raise alone. She worked hard all her life to keep us together. Sadly she passed away 19 years ago but we will never forget her.
I loved reading your story about your Mum.
My memories of My Mum she was always sick with nerves, and spent many months in those horrible hospitals….. Today I would say she had Pre Natal depression, as my niece had it too….. But I do remember when she was good she used to make pies and pasties and stews, and beautiful cooking…..thanks for letting me vent a bit Shelley……Regards.
A truly beautiful story, thank you for sharing it with us….
Hi, I just wanted to say I enjoyed your story very much.
All the mixed feelings of growing up and trying to find what is it that I can do that makes me feel good. Trying to please our mothers but realising how different we are.
My mum was also a knitter, like her mum. I also learnt to knit and did well at it finally and made many things.
But the urge to sew was always there from a young teenager, but nobody was around to teach me. You learn the basics in Primary school. I could have taken the subject in high school, but mum wouldn’t let me because she said I had to learn commerce. So I could get a better office job.
So when I left school at 15 and started work I would buy patterns and try to make clothes for myself. Mum had an old Necchi sewing machine in a cabinet she never used so I taught myself on that. Some things I made were wearable others not. at 21 I bought my first modern sewing machine it was portable it was a Pfaff, I loved it . I did a couple of sewing classes here and there, got married and two kids did more sewing for them. Then your working, raising kids, housework life is full sewing gets put on the back burner.
At 40 years of age I decided to rekindle my love and brought another Pfaff 1475 this machine was the ants pants wow. And the shop I bought it from gave lessons and had classes with other like minded people, I was in heaven. Then we moved to the bush to run a business and the machine hardly got used for another 20 plus years.
Now I’m 65 retired and all I do is sew, I belong to a craft group of like minded ladies we learn from each other. I have updated my machine to a Pfaff 4.2 and I have a Jamome MC9900, plus an overlocker.
I still lament the fact that I didn’t learn how to draft and tailor and learn dressmaking properly but TAFE doesn’t teach it any more. It seems to be a lost art. But hopefully ill keep picking the brains of my new friends in sewing and learn more. Plus there is the internet but my IT skills are limited.
I have been making lots of dolls clothes and that has taught me so much without costing a fortune. But I am now also entering the quilting world and sewing machine embroidery.
So life is full and finally I’m living the dream of being able to play everyday almost. I think my mum would be proud of what I do, I just wish I could show her the things I make now.
My own 35 year old daughter is just not interested in anything to do with sewing knitting or craft.
So I’m hoping my 3 year old granddaughter may have the sewing gene but sadly she lives 8 hours away, but time will tell.
I enjoyed your story about your Mum. My Mum used to sew and knit. When I was a teenager I would see a dress and say I just had to have it – as you do when you’re a teenager! My Mum always used bought patterns but would adapt them to fit my ‘dream dresses’ as closely as possible.
When I married and had my first child she would knit and sew for him and the same when my daughter came along. We lived in different places and my children used to be so excited to get parcels from her.
Now I have 3 wonderful grandchildren and, whilst I don’t get to sew, knit and crochet anywhere near as much as I want to, I enjoy making things for them too.
Thank you for your enjoyable newsletters Shelley.
That is such a beautiful story and brought such a tear to my eyes. My mother turned 89 today and now suffers from Alzheimer’s but one of the things she did for me was teach me to sew, knit, cook and embroider.
I have only been quilting for about 3 years (but sewing since i was 13) as I could no longer crochet or knit. I made her a beautiful crochet blanket last year and she loved it and was so proud. This is a far cry from the way she was with me when I was a teenager. Now, she is so proud of the quilting I do and always tells me how clever and patient I am. I would never have done the sewing and creative stuff I have without her influence.
How lucky we were to have such loving Mums.
This is such a lovely story about your relationship(s) with your mum-I laughed out loud at the dreams v. the realities!!
My mother and I never got on-long story-but she did make the most wonderful clothes for all of her 3 kids, and somehow I learned too…by osmosis!!
She was too impatient to teach me (or my poor left handed sister) to knit/crochet or sew, so I just taught myself, out of books!!! I’ve become an accomplished sewer and crafter.
Somehow the genes were passed on!!
REALLY love your story and so glad your parents are able to do rewarding work with you.