One of the reasons I love vintage fabrics is the stories they tell.
These fabrics take me to places in my imagination that fuel my brain for a good story.
Take the above piece of Writer's Fodder.
I was going through some of my vintage pile for Baby Girl's Baby Girl's Quilt.
I pulled out this nice brown and white plaid, folded up small so I couldn't see just how completely incomplete is was. Once I started unfolding and saw this little piece of someones history, the cogs started rolling.Here was this hand made, tattersall plaid from another era. An era where shirtwaist dresses were de rigueur for daily wear for ladies. An era when sewing your own clothes seasonally, was what you did. When matching plaids and utilizing all kinds of sewing interest, was a signature of your skill.
So I did what all sewists do when an archival piece of sewing history is put in your hands.
You iron it carefully, paying attention to the details and admiring the structural skills of some unknown, smallish young lady of yore.
Then the writer takes over and the story begins:
Miriam Gets the Job
Miriam Wilkerson graduated top in her secretarial class. She was highly skilled in Gregg shorthand, Dictaphone and transcription. The other girls in her class envied Miriam her skills, but the jealousy ended there. Miriam was a shy girl and self conscious of, what her aunt called, 'strong features'. Miriam was aware that she seldom drew the attention of boys her age and she accepted that dating opportunities were slim to none.
Miriam applied for the job at the firm of Clairmont & Styles two weeks after she graduated from school. Her teacher, Miss Portsmouth, personally recommended her to Mr.Clairmont and the interview was forthcoming.
Miriam's classmates were eager to leave town for more interesting sites, but Miriam was content to stay nearby her family and to familiar things.
Miriam surpassed Mr. Clairmont's expectations and her start date at the firm was one week from her interview. Miriam's parents were thrilled with the results of her appointment and invited her out to dinner at The Front Porch Diner, her favorite place. Mrs.Wilkerson fussed with pride over Miriam's achievement. "Just think, Daddy, our little Miriam is going to work for the most prestigious firm in Winnebago County! Didn't we just know that she would do so well! Our little gem!" Mr. Wilkerson smiled sweetly at his youngest daughter and patted her hand.
Mrs.Wilkerson was eager to send her daughter off into the work a day world in a fine array, so she arranged a shopping date uptown the following Friday. Miriam had learned to sew from an assortment of ladies in her life; her mother, her home economics teacher, and her 4H leader. Despite her youth, she had skills that surpassed many in her community. When Miriam received her mother's invitation for a shopping date, she knew that it meant to the fabric store. Anything the Wilkerson women would wear would most certainly come from their sewing room.
Miriam and Mrs. Wilkerson arrived at The Corduroy Cottage prepared to select material to sew a small wardrobe for work, fitting for a professional woman. Mrs. Wilkerson was very knowledgeable about fabrics and she helped Miriam in her decision for the three shirtwaist dresses that she intended on making. Summer time demanded cooler fabrics, but Miriam wanted to maintain decorum by not giving in to sleeveless dresses like some of the more modern young girls were doing these days. She felt that a capped sleeve or a shorter sleeve was more appropriate for the workplace. She added fabric to all the dresses she made to keep a modest length. Her mother had knitted her several little sweaters that she could toss on her shoulders, attached to her sterling sweater catcher, that her grandmother bought her for her last birthday. When the days grew cooler, her shirtwaist dresses would look swell with a cardigan.
Miriam enjoyed sewing her work dresses almost as much as she loved her job. Her bosses were amiable and almost father like and her older coworkers were congenial to the young employee. Miriam's clever sewing skills brought her compliments on her daily wear. This encouraged her to pursue her craft and deepen her interest in sewing and design. The one dress that brought on many comments was the brown and white tattersal plaid cotton that her mother bought her for her at the beginning of her career. The double breasted bodice with the double tucks and the notched collar, set off Miriam's features nicely. True to her principles, she added a nice cuffed short sleeve, setting off the bodice nicely.
As the years passed, Miriam's advancing secretarial skills offered many promotions. She kept current, taking business classes once a year at the community college and workshops when her employer offered them. Parallel to her office skills, her sewing skills kept right up with the times. Miriam was the first in her town to buy the newest technological advanced machine and she found that younger women were coming to her to ask for sewing advice. Her days were filled with work assignments, tutoring young girls in private sewing lessons on Saturday mornings, and church league activities throughout the week.
Miriam stayed with her parents till they left this earth, taking good care of them and their home. She stayed in her neighborhood, even when the changes from a sedate older block turned into a younger, family oriented group of people. Miriam found that she enjoyed having these families, particularly the little children, around her. She liked being asked for donations for school activities and handing out treats at Halloween. Miriam found herself being drawn to one little neighbor girl in particular. Amy reminded Miriam of her own shy self as a child and that kindred feeling toward her grew over time. Amy was entranced by Miriam's old fashioned house and her plethora of sewing paraphernalia. She enjoyed fashioning Miriam's old scraps into items for her stuffed animals and dolls. Scarves, hats, diapers, and crude little dresses were designed by Amy in Miriam's sewing room. Miriam enjoyed her chats with Amy's mother when she came to gather up the little girl for bedtime.
It was during one of the chats that Miriam discovered that Amy was adopted. She came to her family via a local adoption agency that had worked with a pregnancy center nearby. Amy's biological mother came to that center as a fifteen year old, scared, overwhelmed and twelve weeks pregnant. The help that she received at the center allowed her to seek an adoptive family for her unborn baby and Amy was allowed a life of loving care in the arms of her loving 'adoptive' parents. Amy parents had tried for years to conceive but after many avenues were explored, they decided on adoption. Linking the two situations together proved to be an answer to prayer to both families and to Miriam.
After forty years of service to Clairmont & Styles, Miriam knew that it was time for her to relinquish her job to a younger person. Her dreams of retirement were as humble as the life she lead. She was content to putter in her garden, entertain the neighborhood children, teach sewing and of course, continue on in expanding her sewist repertoire. It was on an early fall day that she decided to start on a quilt as a winter project. Miriam opened her fabric closet and inspected a vast assortment of colorful scraps that she had saved throughout the years. She was amazed that even some of her mother's scraps had been included from the long ago sewing adventures with her. Miriam knew exactly what she would do with these lovely pieces of her life. She would place them together in a kaleidoscope of color and warmth for the new babies that came through the pregnancy center in her town. She would think of and pray for the young moms that entered their doors needing the counsel and direction that Amy's mother received. She would use up all her fabric and pieces of memories and place the finished product in the arms of a new mama.
Miriam decided, as she began to take apart a bodice of a still bright, brown and white tattersal plaid shirtwaist, from another time, that the first quilt would go to Amy........