I've been sewing since I was very little. First with a blue toy sewing machine and then by hand. My first stitches by hand were taught to me by my mom. She taught me how to sew buttons, make buttonholes, make hems, and mend. She didn't sew on a machine, but she did other tasks like crochet and embroidery.
With her I learned to embroider because of the crochet, although I tried, I barely got to the chain. Sewing was and is my passion. When I was little, I sewed my dolls’ outfits. Later, in middle school, I started sewing by machine. I would have been like 12 or 13 years old. Since I didn’t have a machine, I sewed with my cousin, Sary, who was already an adult and had inherited the machine from our grandmother. It was a Singer hand-handled machine. It had been passed on to my aunt and then to my cousin.
My mom was my accomplice so my dad bought me a machine. They both noticed how much I loved sewing and saw for themselves when I took the home economics class in middle school. My first machine was second hand, turquoise blue, I think the brand was white. My dad bought it from a lady in the neighborhood who didn’t sew anymore. When I was in high school, one Christmas, my dad gave me a new Kenmore sewing machine.
Yes, I’ve sewn a lot. Some years more than others. I can’t list what I’ve sewn, but I can list my most memorable pieces. My first big project was for home economics class; an A-line flower cotton skirt with elastic and zipper. That was in 1978. The skirt gave me a lot of work and to top it all off they gave me B! The reality is that the pattern was the most complicated of the whole class and I didn’t want anyone to help me.
After that project, I sewed all of my school uniforms, from eighth grade through high school. The uniform I remember the most is the one I made as a senior, in ’81-82. A pleated skirt, where the pleats are closed to the hip and then opened. Ah! And I made one just like mine, for one of my friends. How daring I was!
When I was in college, I made a lot of buttons on shirts and also skirts. I also remember two short skirts; one in denim and one in royal blue cotton. But the most memorable makes on my college days were two overalls I made between 1986 and 1987. Those overalls walked the halls of iUPI (University of Puerto Rico) many times. One was made of denim, carpenter-like, and the other was made of royal blue cotton fabric. I wore them with tube blouses, made of elastic fabric, which were widely used at that time.
I also can’t forget the pieces I made for college parties and to go to the disco in San Juan. Among them, two sets. Both in stretch fabric. One was a royal blue set (have you noticed my preference for blue?) with pants and a tunic with dolman sleeves and a slit that began in the middle of my back. The other set was a long, tight-fitting skirt with a slit and a long-sleeved tunic with a slit from the center of the back. This one was made of white knit fabric with black dots.
That outfit was borrowed a lot by my roommates. At that time, I bought a lot of fabrics in a store called Almacenes La Riviera, on Paseo de Diego in Rio Piedras.
When I was in graduate school, I sewed shirts for my boyfriend (later my husband, Allan). That was by the late ’80s and early ’90s. At work, they began to ask him about the shirts and from there I made more and sold them. I sold the shirts for between $12 and $15. The fabrics, likewise, I bought on the Paseo de Diego in Rio Piedras. It wasn’t for long that I sewed shirts to sell because I was studying full-time and working part-time. I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures of those shirts. The one I remember the most was a pink and gray one I made for Allan.
In 1989, I did some costumes. I remember two very much, the one for my friend Rosa and one for me. For Rosa’s was a gypsy costume. I used a printed cotton fabric for a short top that tied in the front and a long skirt, tight at the hip and then gathered. The skirt has a slit on one side. Mine was Morticia’s. A fitted long dress, in black, in a knit fabric and with a slit on one side.
I remember sewing a dress for my mom in the 90s. The dress had pintucks that I made on the first serger (“overlock”) I owned, a PFAFF Hobbylock. She liked it very much and that made me happy.
As if that wasn’t enough, my most memorable memory was making my wedding dress in 1994. I remember buying the fabric at the “Telar”, located at that time in Borinquen Towers, on Roosevelt Avenue in Hato Rey. I bought the fabric for $20 a yard and it was brocade, pearly white. I also added beaded pearls and beads that I bought at La Casa de los Botones on Kennedy Avenue. I used a pattern from McCALL’s (6881) that I modified. I also made the veil, the crown and the ring holder. It was the most complicated piece I’ve ever worked on, but certainly the most indelible.
From 2000 I remember a chartreuse green set of jacket and fitted skirt that I loved. It was made of stretch bullet fabric. In 2007, for the 25th anniversary of my high school graduation, I made a sleeveless blouse and a long skirt out of a brown stretch fabric with sequins. I still have it and it’s ready to be transformed into another piece. I’ll see what to turn it into!
Also, I have sewn many pieces for my home such as curtains, runners, cushions and potholders. But the memory that springs to my mind is a fabric curtain from the movie Monsters Inc., which I made for a Volky that my brother had. The Volky was painted with the theme of that movie and he asked me to make the curtain for it. He was very happy with his curtain and I was happy because he liked it.
The most recent sewings that have given me the most satisfaction are those I have done for others. Like the “Jeffrey” shirt I made for Don Eduardo, the dad of my friend Rosa. Also the dresses for the “Dress a Girl Around the World” project. Even the “Madeline” purse, for my friend Diana. Knowing that I cause happiness in others for something I do with passion and with all my heart, fills me with a lot of joy.
Take your time. Reflect and look back. Even if you’ve only been sewing for a short time, you’ll find that you’ll always have favorite pieces that you’ll remember. These are mine! What are yours?
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