12. The Sewing Club

Used to, they all sewed on work-shirts,
Heavy denim, overalls and pants.
Needles half as long as crochet hooks–
Thick cotton thread–
They mended. Pockets, always ripped
From nails and knives.
Pants-legs that got sliced up
Tractoring. Dresses had been
Torn from garden chores.
Clothes that were too worn
They pieced together.
Or made over:
Man’s shirt to a boy’s.

Last few years,
Since Bud had left farming
For the bank,
Patty’d brought new work.
One day she came
With a dresser-scarf,
Linen, pure and white,
And tatted round the edges
The whole time. Next week
She’d brought Bud’s new kerchiefs,
Stitching his initials
To each one. Mrs. Parr
Said later on, to Riah:
“That ain’t sewing.
Can’t say what it is,
But it’s not sewing.”
Today, Patty
Had a tiny square
With no purpose to it, not
To wear, cloth
That she sewed words on:
“Home Sweet Home.”

Riah didn’t pay it
Any mind. Some
Club members fussed–
Started bringing kerchiefs
Too. She did not.
Sewing, to her,
Was like picking cotton.
Make one motion,
Do it once again.
Over, over.
Stick the needle in,
Pull it out.
Picking: stoop and stand.
Either case, you went on
Down the row. Seemed
Slow if you pondered:
She did not.
What other way?
Bolls were splitting,
You knew what that meant.
Pile of mending,
You knew what to do.
Patty seemed no more
Content, to Riah, with
Her fancywork–uneasy even,
With the flimsy scraps across
Her knees, while they sewed
Great patches.

Mrs. Parr might grumble.
Riah simply thought:
To each her own.

4 Responses to “12. The Sewing Club”

  1. Lisa Abraham Says:

    So cool that this begins “Used to” and the way the sewing shows the situation. Wonderful details of denim and lace.

  2. sshaver Says:

    I’m glad you caught the cadence of that “used to” phrase–I wasn’t sure about it. Unlike my grandmother, who made my wedding dress, I was always very clumsy with a needle, a failure in Home Ec, so I think women who have that talent always seemed to me to have been invested with some mysterious power!

  3. Sunny Shaver Says:

    This epidose reminded me of Mrs. Goldwater’s sewing class-does that ring a bell> Sewing certainly was much more difficult in Dust Bowl Days. I have some catching up to do here; I need to read the entire story. Your sense of the era and minute details amaze me.

  4. sshaver Says:

    Thanks! I would love to have more people like you who are talented at sewing (and others at quilting) to comment on these episodes. Sadly, I have no talent in either, so I’m just imagining!

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