Sunday, April 7, 2013


Wikimedia Commons, via Year of Reading

My Grandma Grace, who is one of my all time favorite people, was an amazing seamstress and made almost all of her own clothes and many of my sisters and mine. When I was nine or ten she taught me to sew. I loved looking at the pattern books at the fabric store and had very definite ideas as to what my dress would look like. The finished product, however, turned out very differently.

"Sewing Lesson"

Grandma Grace
in a stunning
cardinal red wool coat.
"She made it herself,"
my mother says.
"I didn't inherit the sewing gene, 
But she can teach you to sew."

At the fabric store
we sit on high stools
perusing the willowy brunette models
in wide swirling skirts
that spin across the pages
of the Butterick and Simplicity catalogues.
I imagine twirling through the halls
at James Madison Elementary School
my own wide spinning skirt.

Grandma Grace commandeers
the dining room table
and we pin rustling paper patterns
to colorful cotton cloth.
My grandmother exhorts me
to cut carefully
makes me re-pin
more than once.
I  draw blood and
Grandma Grace
dabs my finger
with a tissue wadded
from her apron pocket.

And then we are ready for the machine.
I practice on scraps of cloth
until my grandmother declares
me ready to assemble the pieces
of my gorgeous swirling skirt. 
It is hard to make straight seams
and I become well-acquainted
with the seam ripper. 
Zippers are harder still.

When my dress is done.
I model from my runway
on the dining room table
disappointed that
the chubby little girl
in the straight cotton shift
with the resewn seams
and crooked zipper
looks nothing like
those willowy brunette models
in their beautiful swirling skirts.
 Carol Wilcox, (c) 2013


Cathy said...

I think I remember someone telling me that she couldn't write poetry, however I can't imagine it was you. Your poems are a-maz-ing!! I love stopping by to see what you've added to the wiki conversation. Like you, sewing memories take me to my grandma. She used to make my dresses when I was little. I loved them.

Personally, I can hardly sew a button. When I was in college I had to make pillows for an ed art class. I went to Grandma's and she patiently helped me to sew the pillows. It was a delightful afternoon. She made it seem so easy. Now I'm crying along with you and Mary Lee as I remember that day.

Anyway, I digress. The story you told through this poem is beautiful. You are able to develop a rhythm in your free verse lines that makes the words dance across the page. I love your language: willowy, exhorts, commandeers, swirling.

You made me laugh as you got a lot of practice with seem ripper and the final product of your work. I'm sure it looked better than you remember. We're always hardest on ourselves.

I have to think there might be a poem there about the dining room table as well --- and more about Grandma Grace (just her name is poetic).


Mary Lee said...

Oh, yes! The pattern books! We also shopped lots from the Sears, Penny's and Montgomery Wards catalogs, so I grew up almost exclusively with clothes that NEVER made me look like the model.

Beverley Baird said...

I so agreee with Cathy. Your poems are amazing stories in verse! I love them
It made me laugh tho to remember my own sewing mishaps. I ended up cutting a whole in a blouse I was working on for school. I cried and cried - my momn ended up remaking it. My aunt nd her duaghter both had the sewing gene - my mom and I lacked them.

Shannon Mashinchi said...

I remember looking at those books and wishing that my things looked as fabulous. They never seemed to. I definitely didn't inherit the sewing gene, but should dig out my machine...maybe it could be useful!

The Other Side of the Equation

Linda B said...

Carol, I wrote quite a lot in response to your poem over at Mary Lee's blog-forgetting that I wasn't here! It's wonderful & brought back many of my own memories of sewing with my mother and grandmother and Aunt Barb (of the snake story). You're writing some great poems with Mary Lee's media!