Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How I learned about straight grain

My sisters will possibly recognize these shirts as ones our mother made for our father many years ago. they are made of wool flannel, with an acetate yoke lining, and one of them (the green one) has leather patches on the sleeves. I suspect the green one is the older of the two in part because I remember Daddy wearing the red one frequently, but the green one shows more wear. I remember Momma sewing the red one. On this shirt, I learned to establish straight grain.
I must have been around six years old. (I'm not admitting to how long ago this was, but there were only 3 networks on our black-and-white TV.)
I remember helping Momma straighten the fabric by pulling opposite ends (I realize now that I couldn't have been much help with this part), and watching as she played with and placed, and re-placed pattern pieces until every plaid matched perfectly side-to-side, and top-to-bottom. She did this on the dining table while interrupting herself to go tend to dinner. When she was satisfied with the placement of each pattern piece, she pointed out the grain line arrows on the pattern, and the "lines" of the yarn-dyed plaid, and instructed me to make sure that each piece was "on grain".
In retrospect, having raised 4 children, I now know that her primary function on that day was to finish dinner without my being underfoot. I have done this, myself!
Nonetheless, I learned about grainlines; and about matching plaids, taking time to do the job right, respect for quality fabric, tenacity, multi-tasking, and helping children learn new skills. All have served me well.
If you look closely ( I hope that the pictures are of sufficient quality for yu to do so), you can see that, on the inside there is not a raw edge in sight. Every seam is flat-felled, even the sleeve insertion is flat-felled. There doesn't appear to be any interfacing in the front plackets, and yet, the machine-made buttonholes are perfectly straight, tight, and flat. Amazing. These shirts are truly a work of art as well as examples of exacting technique, and I am grateful to have them.
Momma passed away 4 years ago, her sharp wit silenced forever by Esophegeal Cancer. She lives on in the sewing skills she taught my sisters and me (which I have, in turn, taught my 2 daughters); and in the love of reading she instilled in us. Momma always said, "If you have a book, you have a friend." Thanks to great public libraries, I have many friends.
Rest in peace, Momma. We miss you.


  1. Ah yes, I remember stretching out fabric many a time. I don't think I realized I was aligning the grain at the time. But I remember.

  2. What great treasures! Love this post--thanks for sharing. It's all that is good about mothers. I've even benefited from those skills.
    One of Katie's friends--we chatted at L's birthday party.