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REFLECTIONS - June/July 2022

by Katie Butler Johnson

One dreary day last April when it was threatening to storm outside, I decided to stay in and clean out my “Fibber McGee” closet.

That closet was crammed with stuff, then packed tighter with even more.

Sorting through it all, I found two large boxes. They’d been there, unopened, since we moved into the house in 1984. I wrestled the boxes out of the closet. Both were filled to the brim with the McCall, Vogue and Butterick patterns I’d used from the 60’s to the 80’s.

Besides those patterns, I’d also saved some of the dresses I made for my daughters when they were in jr. high and high school. Instead of going to a store like Sanger’s and buying a dress off the rack, the girls and I would head to Hancock’s fabric store. I’d sit with them as each chose the pattern and fabric they wanted. They never ran into someone wearing the same dress.

I remember my flurry of activity during prom season: cutting the fabric, piecing it together and fitting it to the girls. Several years ago, I gave each the dresses I’d saved that I’d made for them years ago. Today I have pictures of my granddaughters dressed in dresses I made for their moms when those moms were teenagers!

I learned to sew during a summer Singer Sewing School course when I was 14. I got my first sewing machine, a Singer model 503, for Christmas in 1961. It was an extravagant gift for my grad student husband to give, but it turned out to be thrifty in the long run. For many years, I made my own clothes, my daughters’ clothes and some of my sons’ Halloween costumes. I’d like to donate those boxes of patterns to a s charity. Do any of you know one that would use them?

I don’t have that 503 anymore. Years ago, my husband surprised me again. For my 50th birthday, he secretly traded my 503 in on an upgrade to the latest fancy computerized model. The upgrade model was just too complicated for me. Why would someone trade in a trusted metal Singer “Stradivarius” for a temperamental glitzy plastic machine? After he passed away, I gave the diva model to someone who understood it and bought the bare-bones Singer I use today.

Ever wonder who invented sewing? Its origin has been lost over the millennia. Archeologists date hand sewing to the last ice age or around 17,500 B.C. That’s when primitive sewing needles with eye holes for thread start to appear in archeological digs. Those ancient needles were made from animal bones and tusks and used to sew skins and furs. Experts theorize they might have used catgut, veins or sinew as the first thread.

We are blessed with many who volunteer both time and sewing skills to lift our spirits. There are numerous groups and individuals that do that and two of them are IFAQH and the Hat Lady.

“IFAQH” (I Found A Quilted Heart) began in 2014 when three men stumbled upon a small handmade quilted heart left in the back of a remote cave in Nevada. There was a message attached: “I need a home.” From there it’s grown into a worldwide act of kindness movement with hearts being handmade and left in random places to be found to brighten the finder’s day. There is a website that gives the background, explains it all and tells you how to join the movement:

During the pandemic, we had a lot of down time. My friend, Phyllis Frodsham, had been active for years in Ryan’s Cases for Smiles Ministry in Pennsylvania and wanted to do something special for the doctors and nurses. She decided to make bright and cherry scrub caps for them.

All by herself, Phyllis created and gifted over 2000 scrub caps in a variety of colorful pattern, seasonal themes and college logos to the doctors and nurses at Lehigh Valley Health Network. Those caps stand out amid the sea of blue scrubs and bring smiles from the patients, nurses and docs. Today Phyllis is known as the Hat Lady. And, always thinking of what more could be done, that Hat Lady emailed me: “It would be awesome if one of you readers want to do the same in her area hospitals! I’ll sent the patterns!”

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