Things Every Southerner Should Know How To Sew

Like growing a decent tomato or making cornbread, these are skills we all need to master.

I have a memorable picture of myself, snapped with a Kodak Instamatic (flashcube required indoors) in 1972. I appear to be having a hissy fit while struggling to wrench a precut doll's dress out of the toy sewing machine I got for Christmas that year—likely ordered from the Sears Wish Book. "Crafts never were in your wheelhouse," observed my cousin Kathy when I showed her the picture recently. Understatement. Of. The. Year.

You can imagine my joy when Southern Living asked me to write a piece about the things all Southerners should know how to sew—I assume they mean without assaulting the Singer or the Pfaff. And without "talking ugly" as my grandmother used to say.

child sewing
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"Everyone should learn to sew a button and hem a pair of britches," declared my self-reliant friend Frank. Counterpoint: Men don't have to deal with buttons ranging from the ginormous to the tee-nincy (that's Alabama speak for REALLY tiny). And as for hemming women's britches? Would that be cuffed trousers, skinny jeans, bootlegs, capris, palazzos . . .

Even so, Frank wins the Facebook Brain Trust poll. Just about everybody agrees that we should all be able to sew a hem and sew a button on. "Going to a professional seamstress for a button seems extravagant and embarrassing," writes Carolanne. "That said, my husband sews ours and takes great pride in it (he says I don't do it right—how hard can it BE?!)"

Remember that scene in Steel Magnolias where Dolly Parton, as Truvy, says something like "Time marches on, and sooner or later you realize it's marching across your face"? Dolly might've added, "And it pauses for a minute to tap dance on your aging eyes."

Readers Beverly and Teresa both said threading a needle is the hardest part of sewing. "I used to be the needle threader for my grandma," wrote Teresa. "Now I really need my grands to get bigger so they can thread mine."

We heard from readers like Gail and Mary Beth, who loved sewing in high school, making everything from their Sunday best to prom dresses, but have retired their Singers. Reader Beth got her first machine for her 18th birthday and is still sewing away. Yet another Beth considers wedding and graduation quilts something we should all learn to sew. (What is it with the Beths and superior sewing ability? We must investigate.)

"I think I got the sewing gene from my father, who got it from his mother," wrote Susan. "I sewed most of my clothes in high school and some in college, and I took in sewing as a little job while in school. I must have thought I'd somehow be shirking my duty to purchase a ready-made wedding dress, so yes, I made my own wedding dress and veil, including making my own pattern for a circular skirt for the wedding ensemble in 1978."

At least I found a couple of like-minded souls in my cousin Jennifer, who says she makes the same contorted face that I do when she sews, and my friend Nancy, who made this confession: "I use tape for unraveled hems and safety pins for missing buttons until I can get to a licensed professional seamstress. In school during Home Ec class (back when such things existed), I lost my sewing project mid-semester. Both my teacher and I were relieved. I suspect my best friend may have "misplaced" the item on my behalf.

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