March 20, 2011

Lost and Forgotten Skills

It seems that many life skills have been lost and forgotten. Take sewing for instance. How many people know how to darn a sock? Repair a hem that has come undone? I actually have many a friend who can do this. But lately, more people know how to program their Wii to stream movies, then can put a button back on a shirt.

There are lots of reasons why these skills are going away. The cost of clothing is one thing. You can get a T-shirt for $5. When a seam rips, you just toss it and get a new T-shirt. Also the convenience and variety. Any style pant comes in at least a dozen sizes, plus tall sizes, so you can always find the right length - no hemming needed. I've picked out a shirt at a store and some stitching had come loose. There was nothing wrong with the shirt other than that. I showed the lady at the cash register and she sold it to me for 50% off. It took me 15 minutes to fix the seam. Since then I actually look for clothes with minor, fixable flaws.

I learned this sewing skill, along with most of my domestic abilities, from my mom. She is a great seamstress. Growing up, Mom made all my and my brother's Halloween costumes. She made my wedding dress. And now she sews cute spring and winter dresses for Jordan. My learning started somewhere around the age of 10. I remember making a shirt and matching shorts outfit. It was really fun looking through the patterns, choosing fabrics. And then getting to wear something I made - bragging to my friends! It was great. Together we made many outfits including my 8th Grade Promotion dress, which was the first semi-formal I owned. Nowadays I have little time for big sewing projects like that. The last I did was a 1940's style bathing suit to wear as a costume. That was about 4 years ago. Lately the most complicated sewing I perform is turning Jordan's pants into shorts.

Last week one of my coworkers brought over a bunch of kids clothes for another. There were lots of cute dresses for her 3-year-old girl. One was a lovely homemade, white dress with little flowers stitched on the front. But apparently the grandmother had forgotten or ran out of time to add buttons and button holes. My coworker, Marisol, was saying "Well, I guess Vivian could wear it as a smock." I said "I could put button holes in that for you." "Really!?" exclaimed Marisol (in a tone as if I had just said I could perform open-heart surgery on my desk.) I said "Sure, I'd be happy to add some buttons." My other co-worker Roberta, with whom I share a pod, chimed in with "Could you lengthen the hem on a pair of pants I bought?" Probably. She offered to trade something for the work. She makes great food - maybe I'll ask for a home-cooked meal. Looks like I have a new side business at work, to go with my egg selling.

It's a little sad that people are forgetting skills like sewing or knitting or canning. I'm not sure why it feels sad to me, but it does. I guess that's why I refuse to forget. I spend hours growing, pick and processing green beans when there are perfectly good ones at the store. Maybe one day Jordan will be interested too and I can pass on the skills my mom taught me. That'd be pretty cool!

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