The morning started the same as any other day when I was going to Grandmother’s. Dad put me in my dress, backwards as usual, and then tied the sash with the ends sticking out the top of the bow and put on my little black patent leather shoes.
We tried to get out of the house quietly because Mom had just gone to bed after working all night as a telephone operator in the little office just a few blocks from our house. She had just settled in and any noise would have ended her sleep.
When I arrived at Grandmother’s she was immediately grumbling at my Dad about my dress being on backward. He chuckled as he gave me a kiss on the top of my head and then hurried out the door. He was headed to the T.M Deal lumber yard for the day.
Grandmother immediately took my dress off and turned it around and buttoned it up the back where it should have been buttoned and then tied the sash so the ends hung down the back of my skirt.
I had been dressed in one of my favorite dresses that morning. It was pink gingham with the short gathered skirt; the bodice had a peter pan collar and short puffy sleeves. Around the edge of the collar and the sleeves a tiny white lace ruffle sparkled.
Around the bottom edge of the skirt was a cross stitch design of hearts that Grandmother had worked in a deep red. The design was about 3 inches wide of alternating large and small hearts to form the border.
Once I was dressed to suit her, Grandmother sat me down at her dressing table and brushed my short dark hair and put little pink barrettes in the sides to hold it away from my face.
Now we were ready to fix breakfast for Grandfather; who had been sitting in his rocking chair watching the scene play out with a little half smile on his lips. This scene happened everyday my Dad delivered me to their house and Grandfather always remained an amused observer.
Once breakfast was over I wondered what was on the agenda for the day, would we make a pie or some bread? If I was lucky we would sew something for me on the treadle machine.
Once the dishes were back in the cabinet Grandmother led me back to her bedroom. She went to her dresser and removed a piece of red fabric from one of the drawers. Lying on top of it was some white lace that was similar to the lace on my dress I had on that day.
YIPEEEEEEE! I knew there was going to be a new dress made for me and I would watch while she sewed on the treadle machine. She took the fabric back to the kitchen and flattened it out on the kitchen table. She brought in the pattern she used for some of my dresses and laid it on the table.
Once she had the pins and the scissors she was ready to lay the pattern, which was made from newspaper, onto the red fabric. I pulled one of the chairs out and crawled up on it and then onto the end of the table to sit and watch her lay out the pattern.
I handed her the pins as she pinned down the pattern to the fabric. She could have pinned it a lot quicker without my help but she always let me participate.
Once a piece was cut she handed it to me and I held it on my lap like it was a treasure. After the last piece was cut she took all the pieces from me and pinned them together before we went to the sewing machine.
Back in the bedroom she removed the cloth that covered the machine and folded it and laid it on the bed. Then she opened the machine and pulled it out from the wall just a little to allow the fabric to fall between the machine and the wall as she sewed.
She brought in a kitchen chair and placed it in front of the machine. She sat down and threaded the needle and filled the bobbin with red thread. As soon as that was done and she picked up the first piece to sew I immediately scrambled onto her lap.
I sat facing the machine, with my legs dangling down beside her thighs so she could get close enough to pump the treadle. There was only one rule, when I watched her sew, I had to keep my hands folded in my lap and not touch the machine. If I touched the machine anywhere, especially the work surface I had to get down.
I remember sitting on her lap watching the fabric move under the pressure foot and along the red nail polish mark, that showed her where the 5/8 inch seam allowance was. I was mesmerized by the motion of the fabric as it became my new dress.
After an hour the little dress with short puffy sleeves with the white lace around the edges and the gathered skirt was finally ready for the hand work. She would hem it and add the buttons by hand.
That day I managed to sit still until the little red dress was complete. I wonder sometimes how she managed to run the treadle with a 3 year old child sitting on her lap, but she never complained or made me get down unless I broke the one rule.
I think the red dress buttoned down the back but I can tell you with certainty that it would be on me backwards when Dad dressed me in it, just to aggravate Grandmother.
Other than making the cinnamon crisps from pie dough, sewing on the treadle machine was my favorite thing to do with Grandmother. To contact Sandy: email@example.com