Treadle-Neck of the Great Depression

     Whenever I was around my gramma’ I loved hearing the stories of when she was younger. It din’t seem to matter whether she was telling about when she was eighteen or sixty-eight, her stories held worlds of wonder for me. Her ability to breathe life into a tale was nuthin’ less than magical. How I did love her stories.

     Have I ever told you that my gramma’ was a tailor? True story! In fact, she used to carry a tablet with her an’ whenever she saw a clothing design she liked, she’d pull out her tablet an’ quickly sketch her favorite parts. Back at home, she would figure out how to create her own pattern so she could include that idea in one of the designs she developed on her own. ‘Course, she wasn’t always a tailor. The story of how she learned to sew is one I’ve always loved.

     Gramma’ hadn’t been married very long when she decided she’d like to learn to sew. Knowing that her mama had a nice treadle sewing machine, she asked to use it. Her mama apparently was not the kinda’ person who shared with her children, as she told her daughter that she could use the machine for the mere sum of $5 per day; an enormous amount of money during the depression.

     At this point, my grampa’ decided to take matters into his own hands. He told my gramma’ to wait outside an’ he’d be out in a minute. Here, Gramma’ always added that she never did learn what was said in those few minutes, but they did not use her mama’s sewing machine.

     Instead, they went to a nearby town an’ bought a brand-new treadle sewing machine for the grand total of… are you ready for this? $5. That’s right; for $5 they were able to get a brand-new sewing machine. They also bought a bolt of material. When they returned home, Grampa’ told Gramma’ that borrowin’ would not be something they would consider doin’ in the future. Then Gramma’ took her new treasure an’ the bolt of material an’ proceeded to learn how to sew.

     Using one of Grampa’s farm shirts as a pattern, Gramma’ carefully took the shirt apart an’ cut copies of each piece, then sewed ’em all together. When she was done sewing, Gramma’ was very proud of the shirt she had made. She had Grampa’ try it on for size an’ that’s when the error was discovered. Evidently, Gramma’ had wanted to be absolutely certain that the neck wasn’t gonna’ be too tight, so each time she measured it, she allowed juuuuuuust a little extra to be added.

     When Grampa’ tried it on, everything fit perfectly… except the neck. Grampa’ took a handful of the neck area an’ pulled it about two feet in front of him, saying, “Well, Baby; ya’ dun real good. But the next time, you might wanna’ make the neck just a little smaller.”

     The next time Gramma’ used a pattern, she was much more careful in her measurements an’ she kept improving until her skills were such that she could make any item she set her mind to. She could make the patterns for an’ sew dresses, pants, shirts, jackets, wedding dresses, suits, winter coats an’ anything else she thought up. I’d say that’s not too bad for someone who had almost no formal education of any kind an’ who taught herself to sew; wouln’t you?

     Until the next time, keep a hug on.

~ Yaya


13 thoughts on “Treadle-Neck of the Great Depression

  1. How wonderful that your grandpa got her the one thing your grandma needed to try out a new skill?? That's the kind of encouragement that makes or breaks a hobby/career, isn't it? Thanks for sharing your precious memories, Yaya!

  2. I never met my grampa', but I've heard so many things about him that I think I could write a book an' still have some left over. LOL. I look forward to meetin' him in the hereafter, actually. Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Hema. ~ Yaya

  3. Hi YaYa, I am a YaYa too – for my little grand daughter Kylie Jo. I came across your blog via "Pleasant Places" with Jenny. She is a sweet, dear friend. I am enjoying your stories!

  4. Hi Mar-Cee-Ah,Thank you for your kind words. I do enjoy writin' 'bout all the things that happened in my family. It seems we have had a lot of experiences an' it would be a shame to let alla' those stories go, untold. ~ Yaya

  5. What a wonderful story! My grandmother used to bring home stuff left over from rummage sales and cut it up to make quilts. I'm not a quilter, unfortunately, but I have stacks and stacks of her crazy-colored quilt tops.

  6. My hubby's Grandpa learned how to read when he retired from the family farm…he learned by watching Sesame Street. He was a child during the depression and worked as a migrant farm laborer.

  7. So glad grampy stood up for her! Wish I could sew, but I have a legendary feud with anything Singer. It all started over an Elvis jumpsuit and Marti Gras.I'm still in therapy.

  8. Guess what? Yes, I'm a YaYa to my Grandkiddos too! I had to stop by from "Catch the Kids" and meet another YaYa. Your blog is very fun and you have great stories! My Grandmother, Mom , and Sis could and can sew like crazy, me…not at all! But hey, we all have our talents. I'm glad I dropped in!

  9. Hey Yaya! first let me say I was soooo Happpppy to see your comment on my post! I've missed you! Next, I thought the irony of her mom wanting to charge her $5.00 a day for use, and buying a sewing machine outright for $5.00 total was fantastic. A "God thing" if you ask me. Lastly, talking about sewing leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. My Freshman year of highschool I moved to a different town in the middle of the year, and needed more credits to graduate. I had to take an extra class, so they put me in Home EC. I asked them to put me in cooking because I knew nothing about sewing and since half the year was over, it worried me that I wouldn't be able to catch up. Well, they put me in sewing anyway. I tried, I really did I came in an hour before school started to work on my "Style show project," and stayed til 5pm working on it. The teacher kept ripping it apart and making me start over. Finally, I guess she got tired of staying with me and said "I don't know why you're trying so hard you're gonna flunk anyway. So. me being the rebellious teen that I was, my mom had just died, I had been shifted to and from relatives, and I didn't care anymore. I said a few choice words to her, threw the thing in the trash and walked out. Of course I ended up flunking home ec, and ended up moving back to El Paso so I wouldn't have to worry about the number of credits. After all that, I didn't even graduate. I lacked 3 months. I got married instead just to get away from my dad. what a bummer. Morally of the story is learn to sew on your own don't depend on your teachers at least the ones that shouldn't be teachers in the first place. She left a lasting effect on me I can't even hem a garment, and I can still remember that teacher's name, and it's not in a good way. Haha! See I could be a guest blogger my comments are so long! LOL!Come by and chat more often! I really did miss you. I promise I will if you will LOL! God Bless,PJ

  10. Hi Laurie,In later years my gramma' seemed to have forgotten all that she had learned as a tailor. That's the only reason I can think of that she would make my dresses three times too big for me an' send 'em through the mail. 'Course, the other possibility is that she was tryin' to find a way to send my mama an extra big supply of extra yardage. *grin* ~ Yaya

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