Was cleaning out the wardrobe of clothes I don’t wear and bed linen that have seen better days. Going through the pile of fabric, I realized how much we have relied on Ma’s good sewing skills in our lives. She sewed all the curtains for my first house in Berkeley Garden and my second house in Eng Ann. She sewed pillow cases and bed sheets. My first born’s small mattress cover was sewn by her too. I bought a cloth with cartoon computer designs as the daddy was a computer professional. It is still lying in the cupboard after all these years. My firstborn will be turning 20 this month. It is time to purge so many old things but the memories I will keep. There are photos of him lying on that computer-design mattress I am sure, but for insurance, I decided to snap a picture of it before I pack it up.
Ma sewed clothes and material for so many people: her children, grandchildren, siblings, nephews, nieces, neighbours, in-laws and friends. She can sew anything, well almost. Shirts, skirts, dresses, sports wear, bed spread, curtains, cushion covers, pillow cases, kebaya, baju kurung, pyjamas, fancy dress costume. The only garments she couldn’t make was men’s trousers and jackets. She never had any training. Nobody taught her how to sew. She learnt by looking over the shoulders of tailors.
None of my sisters and I have the penchant for sewing. We do know how to handle the sewing machine and sew simple items, but certainly can’t do the whole repertoire like she did. When we were young, we had to help Ma sew buttons and hooks and hem the garments that she tailored for other people. When I was doing home science in secondary school, she helped me to sew a housecoat. But it ended up with too many buttons and the teacher was not pleased. When I started work, I took up a sewing course from a tailor. I reckon I would be more serious in learning the craft if I had to pay for it. Again, Ma helped me and the tailor was not pleased that I was doing work she had not taught yet. I sewed a brown blouse and a pink batik dress with a jacket before dropping out.
When the kids were young, I sewed PJs for them. In particular I remember a brown striped pyjamas for no. 1 and a yellow and red one for no. 2. I also sewed quilts for them, complete with matching pillow and bolster cases. For the house that I am living in now, I sewed all the curtains myself but for the dining area, the curtain which Ma sewed for my Eng Ann house is still in use, as are the bolster cases she sewed for the kids and the bedsheets she recycled from First Aunt’s discarded-but-still-good collection.
The sewing machine in my utility room can’t be used now. I can’t call up Ma and asked her how to fix it or bring her over to trouble shoot. It was acting up with floating stitches. She had taught me how to do it once, then the problem came back again. Just before she passed on, I tried to fix it but the parts literally fell apart. The machine which she had fixed with an electric motor was from her. I’ll have to get the repairman to come in. For now I have to do my sewing by hand-stitches.
P’/S: I had on the baju kurung she sewed for me in my other blog (top right hand corner). I no longer have that baju kurung as the fabric tore during the last wearing two years ago.