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Hear That Whistle Blow VIII - Starting School with Homemade Dresses

Updated on August 21, 2017
Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie tells of the many adventures and emotions of a little girl growing up in a large family in the 1950s.

Katie had always been bought all her clothes for the most part by her grandmother but now Katie did not live near her she must have forgotten about Katie and now her mother would be making her school dresses. Money was more scarce and of course Katie would not say a word about this although she noticed her big sister would not be getting homemade dresses.

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Homemade Dresses

Katie had bought many hair frills with her prize money she had won on the Easter egg hunt, plus a brush, comb and mirror. She had even bought two stout head bands for her mother's thick course hair, who wore them almost daily doing her many chores. Katie's dresser was so pretty with all these new things laid out. Mostly she wore pony tails but she would need all these other things for school that would be starting soon.

Summer was almost over and cooler weather had set in and it had been a long time since Katie’s grandmother had bought her any new clothes and she was growing fast. Her mom had bought some patterns and material and said she would have to make some dresses for Katie with her going to school needing something nice to wear every day.

Her mother had her pick out her barrettes, hair bows and ribbons to match the material she had bought for dresses. There was pink, blue, yellow and white. The barrettes were also silver and gold and some had pearls. Her mom said he should save the nicest for special occasions.


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Getting Smarter Every Day

Katie was starting to get excited about going to school and her older brother was giving her a new word to learn every few days. She could even print short sentences. Her brother said her printing looked very good. He was left handed and his writing was slanted. Katie thought it was very pretty though and he could write cursive. She could not wait to do that!

Her brother had a job for the summer so he had not been around much because he ran around with his new friend that was brother to Katie's friend. This friend of her brother's would help her brother mow their grass on Saturdays and Katie would peek at him from inside her sweet pea house. That was about the only time she saw him because then her brother helped him mow his grass and they mowed grass for other people too.

Her sister didn't work but when she was not spending the night with her new friend she was there until suppertime or after every day it seemed. Sometimes the friend would come to their house but not very often.

Katie liked her very much and she had an older brother and a brother Katie's age she would be going to school with. Katie had been to her house with her sister a time or two and she liked her parents too. The were very nice and polite. Their house was real pretty with very nice things inside and they owned it. Katie and her family were only renting.

She was learning things like this she never even thought about before. She was getting an education about life before she had even started school.

Homemade clothing

Did your mom or anyone else make any of your clothing as a child?

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Another Lesson Learned

Katie came into the house unexpectedly one day and saw her mom in her room with her sister looking at her new school dresses. Her sister always dressed very nice and grown up being a big girl but still this was a shock to Katie that her sister would be getting new dresses and she would not.

Katie stood staring for just a minute before going on out to the back porch hiding her hurt feelings. She had been excited about her mom making her dresses and matching up bows, ribbons and different hair pieces but now it just did not feel right her sister would get new dresses and she would not.

Her mom must have read her face before she walked away because she came out to the back porch and sat beside Katie after her sister had left with her friend. They both sat watching the wind bend the tops of the pines with neither saying a word for awhile. Katie felt like crying so she knew not to say anything.

Finally her mother tried to explain to her that little girls clothes were easy for her to sew but she could not make the clothes like her sister wore and even if she tried her sister would not agree to it without a big fuss she was just not up to. Big girls did dress a certain way and she was not a real seamstress. She was just learning.

As it was she could not sew pants and shirts for Katie's dad and the brothers she told Katie, so that was money that would have to be spent, too. Katie's things were all she could do to save money on, besides the things she made for herself. Things would be better after winter and they had time to save some money.

Her mom never looked at her but out into space with that faraway look the same as her father, Katie's grandfather. She promised to do a very good job on Katie's things and make her some extra things from material to go in Katie's hair to match her dresses.

Katie felt very embarrassed that she had even cared. If her mom could wear the homemade clothes which she always did except for special occasion then of course Katie could. She never even paid attention to clothes until her friend's grandmother started dressing Katie in her friends clothes so they would look alike. It was never really even fun for her but just done for the grandmother. She was too caught up in living to think about clothes!

Still, Katie was too full of emotion to speak. Her mom came out of the clouds looking at Katie and promised she would be very pleased. Because Katie had many things that did still fit her she could make her things to go with what she had and she would have double the clothes of her sister! She would be as pretty or prettier than any first grade girl in the school, her mom promised.


Mix and Match

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Sewing Up a Storm

Katie's mom got busy the very next day and every time Katie walked into the house she could hear her mom in her room pinning the machine faster and faster. Scissors clipped and material covered her bed.

Katie was anxious to see a finished dress but she did not want to bother her mother. She often climbed in bed with baby brother when he fussed and fell asleep listening to the spinning and snipping. This was so much better than store bought dresses. Dresses made by her mother's hands would be so special!

It took her mom many days to be done but it certainly was all worth it. Her mom called her inside one day and they were all lain out on her bed, dresses, skirts and blouses. There were also hair ties and ribbons sewed onto material to match a couple of the dresses. There were so many colors and patterns it made Katie dizzy. They were so pretty!

There were only five outfits that her mom had made but she had put out Katie's dresses, tops and sweaters she already had and showed Katie how she could change them around to look like a whole different outfit. One skirt she could wear with two different blouses and a sweater to look like three different outfits! It was like having a whole store full of clothes and when Katie's sister stopped by to see what all the excitement was about and made one of her snooty faces when her mother was not looking, Katie did not care one bit!

She gave her mom a big hug and let her know how very pleased she was and she could tell her mom was pleased too. She would certainly not be ashamed in any of these clothes and would have so much fun mixing and matching them for such a variety.

Only days after her mother had finished all this sewing a box came in the mail for Katie from her grandmother. There were new shoes and two very nice new dresses! One was for every day and pretty but the other was made of an embossed silky blue material with a blue feathered collar. Katie had never seen anything like it on anyone!

How could anyone be so lucky? Her mom and dad were smiling and so happy for her, too. They had never seen a dress so pretty either! Her grandmother from where the train whistle blew had not forgotten all about her after all!

© 2017 Jackie Lynnley

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  • Jackie Lynnley profile image
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    Jackie Lynnley 2 weeks ago from The Beautiful South

    Thanks Peg. I know I appreciate her more today than I ever thought to way back then.

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 2 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas

    School days and getting ready for back to school was so different back then. My mom sewed most of our outfits and even made clothes for my doll. This episode reminds me of the time and effort she invested in trying not only to save money but in making us feel special. Wonderful!

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image
    Author

    Jackie Lynnley 2 months ago from The Beautiful South

    Thanks for sharing those memories Rasma. You have some wonderful stories I am sure and ones I would love to see you share.

  • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

    Gypsy Rose Lee 2 months ago from Riga, Latvia

    A most delightful story. Reminded me of when I was 10 and mom and I were on our own after dad passed away. She was not a sewer but she had friends who made clothes. So I always got homemade clothes and it made things easier on mom.

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image
    Author

    Jackie Lynnley 3 months ago from The Beautiful South

    Linda, thank you so much for keeping up with Katie's story and I am so pleased it brought you fond memories!

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

    This chapter reminded me of my mother. She loved to sew and made many dresses and outfits for my sister and me. I'm glad that Katie was so happy to see her mother's efforts and her grandmother's gifts.

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image
    Author

    Jackie Lynnley 3 months ago from The Beautiful South

    Thanks Peggy, am so pleased to bring good memories. I don't think my grandma sewed, but perhaps she did in earlier years before money was abundant at the end of her child rearing days.

    So much I wish I knew now it is too late to ever find out.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 3 months ago from Houston, Texas

    My grandmother was an excellent seamstress and she made some of my very special dresses for me when I was growing up. This brought back some happy memories for me.

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image
    Author

    Jackie Lynnley 3 months ago from The Beautiful South

    No, Dora I didn't like all my dresses either, new or whatever. I guess my Mom wanted to make sure they fit me the rest of my life and often my clothes were way too big! She also was not apt to buy light, bright colors which I am sure all little girls prefer. I wasn't into fashion too much though until I became a teen so I just accepted what I had.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 3 months ago from The Caribbean

    This topic on homemade dresses brought back memories. Not all happy memories though. There were times when I didn't like the dress, but had to wear it anyway. Happy for Katie.

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image
    Author

    Jackie Lynnley 3 months ago from The Beautiful South

    I know what you are saying Bill, like what's it all about? I am pleased you are enjoying it despite lack of obstacles. There may still be a few. ha ha

    WK - Thank you. Sometimes I don't know where I ended and Katie began!

  • lifegate profile image

    William Kovacic 3 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

    I wonder, Jackie, how much of your past fit into this story. As writers, it seems we always include a bit of ourselves in our stories. Thanks for another delightful installment!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

    Here's the thing about this story...it really is a very simple storyline. I would be hard-pressed to name an antagonist in this story...there are no major obstacles in Katie's life other than growing up....but it is filled with love and precious memories we all can relate to, and as such it is a treasure.

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image
    Author

    Jackie Lynnley 3 months ago from The Beautiful South

    Thank you Eric and for the reason you liked it. Appreciate you sharing your story too.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Yes this is tender and sweet but I have to go with powerful. Love just oozing out of every line. Wiped my eyes several time in reading it.

    Dolly Pardon's Coat of Many Colors and Joseph's Coat.

    My mom sewed for me as a young boy. And many for my sisters.

    Actually being youngest of six, hand me downs covered most clothes and I cherished them as they came down from my heroes.

    Thank you for this story.