From My Mother to Me # 2; StraightGrain

By Victoria As-it-Seams - 15:25

It's the next  step on the "From My Mother to Me" series, a weekly journey to Mothers Day on May 11. And I can't tell you how delighted I am to welcome An of StraightGrain here to As it Seams. 
I confess, I'm a 'StraightGrain Groupie.' 

An's simple patterns have formed the backbone of Missy's wardrobe this past year. I've used both her Tinny and Hanami dress patterns time and time again.They are classic and adaptable. So I'm intrigued to hear a bit more about An's sewing heritage and the roots of her talent...Over to you An

Hi everyone. I'm An from StraightGrain, and I'm happy to be sharing some tips and tricks from someone with around 70 years of professional sewing experience! 

When Victoria asked me to participate in this series, my first question was: Does it have to be about what my mom taught me, or can it also be about my grandmother? My mother learned to sew when I was a child, but she was never really passionate about it. 

For her, it was a purely practical thing: hemming pants, fixing holes - in short, all the things we passionate sewists hate so much :-) She hasn't touched  her sewing machine in years, which might also be due to the fact that I'm using it now. Thanks mom! 

My grandmother Maria, on the other hand, used to sew day in day out. She learned to sew from a tailor at age 14, and was a professional seamstress for many decades, creating luxurious garments for well-off clients. Perfectionism is her middle name. 

My grandmother Maria with my daughter Norah
When I visited her a few weeks ago, I asked her what would be the most important tips she could give. 

Here is what she said: 
1. "I always have a hot iron ready when I'm sewing. Only by meticulously pressing each seam as you are sewing, can you achieve perfect results" 
2. "When the front and back and/or top and botton of a fabric are hard to distinguish, I always indicate them on the fabric with tailor's chalk before cutting my fabrics." 
3. "Immediately after serging my pieces, I always press the serged edges with a hot iron. This way, they are pressed deep into the seam allowance, which prevents them from showing through the right side of the fabric when you iron your garment." 
4. "Instead of pre-washing your fabric, you can also press it with a lot of steam in order to prevent the finished garment from shrinking." (when sewing for clients like my grandmother did, this is the only option, because you want your clients to get 'new' garments, which have not been washed yet). 
5. "I always use a 3 cm seam allowance, so I can make the garment wider when gaining weight." 

 I would lie if I said that I apply all these tips. Tip 1 is one always use, and tip 4 is one I use sometimes when I didn't have the time to pre-wash.  

So which tips will I give Norah and Ava? 

1. Always soak your garments in cold water and vinegar for a night to fixate the colors. 
2. Don't use fabric scissors to cut off zippers. It ruins them. I know. From experience. 
3. Treat yourself to beautiful quality fabrics. Making clothes yourself will always be cheaper than buying clothes of the same quality anyway, so indulge yourself! 
4. Use blind zippers whenever you can. They are easy and superfast to install, and stylish too. 
5. Don't waste money on expensive thread. Spend it on nice fabrics instead. 

This was fun! Thank you so much for including me in this great series, Victoria. 

Thank you An! I love the 3cm seam allowance for 'putting on weight' - I sometimes do this for Missy, in the anticipation that I can make things bigger when she grows. But I never do. I'm too busy thinking about the next thing to sew. 
And I love seeing Norah with her great-grandmother, in her Tinny dress. Your grandmother must be so proud! 
 Next Sunday Celina from Petit a Petit and Family will be here to share her mother's wisdom. Do pop back!

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this post An! You can tell that Maria is a stylish lady from the lovely jacket she is wearing. I too have a seamstress grandmother so this post resonates with me a lot, she'll be 90 soon - I try to eek out as much sewing wisdom as I can from her but I fear my skills will never come close to hers.

  2. Wow, vinegar?!!! Don't think I will be taking on that tip but your Grandma sounds like she was a pro! Thanks for sharing an:))

    1. Why so scared about the vinegar? Many people use vinegar as an eco-friendly alternative to fabric softener, and it has a bunch of other uses for fabric as well. Just google vinegar and fabric and you'll see! :-)

  3. Great tips, An! Your grandma sounds fascinating!

  4. Great tips! My mom was also not seriously into sewing. My Oma was a fantastic seamstress and we totally share that love.

  5. FANTASTIC! What an awesome Idea for a series! I love your Grandma already An! Thank you for sharing!


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