Throughout my childhood, memories of my mother seated at her Domestic Imperial Automatic sewing machine remain vivid. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can recall the whizzing hum of the belted wheel, that she occasionally had to give a little manual spin to start its rotation as she guided fabric through the fiercely bobbing threaded needle to form an even seam. I can hear the clink and gentle metallic crunch of her sharp chrome finished scissors slicing through fabric that was strategically laid out and pinned with delicate thin sheets of tissue pattern pieces forming shapes of sleeves, collars, bodices and skirts.
I watched as she patiently moved the pattern pieces around on the fabric to carefully position all to fit and then tacking their corners down with straight pins pulled from a red tomato shaped pin cushion. Occasionally she would prink her finger slightly wincing with a little jolt.
I was called to her side many times as she held pinned together pattern pieces and later partially sewn pieces of fabric against me, to ensure the perfect fit as she reached for pins held between her lips to mark were a seam had to be taken in or ripped open for a proper fit. The satisfaction she must have felt from her completed garments, encouraged her to master more difficult patterns and designs over the years. All so that we could both look fashionable on a tight budget.
When I was in the third grade she labored for hours, hand sewing over 500 sequins on to my ballet and tap costumes for dancing school. She tacked on each sequin individually with a small glass bead stitched over the little hole in its center. A year later for Christmas, she had taken multiple fabric scraps and formed them into Jacqueline Kennedy fashioned dresses, coats and gowns for my Barbie doll. As a teenager of 15 I was invited to a prom. She made my soft yellow chiffon empire waist gown and found little wired chiffon butterflies she placed in my hair. Later when my own Jr. prom came around, she had gained enough skill that allowed me to draw an image of a dress I had seen Marie Osmond wear on The Donny & Marie show, and recreated it in a soft pink chiffon.
As more and more women over the generations, joined the work force, sewing became a less predominate domestic skill, and the ease and convenience of department stores made buying ready to wear clothing more desirable. In fact, I envied girls who were able to buy clothes in stores, while they envied my one of a kind designs created by Mom that I was of course too young to truly appreciate at the time.
For this year’s Remembering Moms Tea, our theme is in honor of the mother of two sisters who not only made clothes for each of them, but made a living as a seamstress. While this was their mother’s profession, most of those in our group also have memories of their mothers or grandmothers sitting at a sewing machine, stitching fabric by hand with embroidery thread, crocheting or knitting.
STEP 1: Determining the theme- the names of each attendee was written on small pieces of paper and placed inside of a tea pot at the previous year’s tea. A name was pulled and the theme for the following year’s tea will honor that mother.
STEP 2: The invitation: Clip Art – with a sewing machine and notions – some areas sprinkled with a little white glitter, then adhered to card stock on one side ; printed invitation details with a small clip art mannequin on the reverse side.
I searched online for images of vintage pattern envelopes and chose a variety of the brands that I recalled seeing as a young girl either in my Mom’s supplies or my own from home economics class, i.e., McCall’s, Simplicity, Butterick and Vogue. I don’t recall any “Paris Vogue” patterns in my Mom’s sewing kit, but it was interesting to find the couturier and Christian Dior designs during my search.
A variety of pattern covers were printed [5″ x 7″} and then adhered with a glue stick to envelopes of the same size. The back of the envelop was sealed and then a slit was cut at the top edge of the pattern image. Each envelop now resembled an opened vintage pattern envelop and was included with the invitation (both fitted into a larger envelop). The message below was inserted into the pattern envelop (like a book marker).
Please Bring: Your memory notebook; your framed photo of Mom & if your mother sewed (or stitched – cross stick, embroidery, etc., crocheted or knitted) find a photo of something she made, place it inside the pattern envelop and bring all to the tea.
**See Post: “Gathering/Tradition: Annual Tea in Remembrance of Mom” for info on notebook and framed photo and the story of how this tradition began.
STEP 3: Favors – inspired by the teacup pin cushion on the clip art used for the invitation.
To merge the tea and sewing theme, I used small espresso cups, printed fabric (with spools of thread); cotton balls for stuffing, dark pink twine, and a gold rimmed pearl embellishment to create mini pin cushion favors for my guests. A few years ago I found this measuring tape cotton ribbon and decided to buy it for “one day”. I’m so glad I did, because it makes the cutest bow on top. The card of sewing charms I found at Walmart and secured one charm with a pearl head pin into the center of the bow. Six pearl head pins are pushed into the padding to complete the look of the tea favors.
STEP 4: Time sensitive items: Some mothers made garments on sewing machines, but others may have knitted, cross stitched, embroidered, or crocheted. When I found these sugar dollies on Pinterest I couldn’t resist. I chose the cameo lace pattern that is reminiscent of the past and has a lovely silhouette of a lady – like moms and grandmothers. https://www.etsy.com/shop/NinisSweetCreations
STEP 5: The finishing touches….Decor, table runner and napkin rings.
Drawing from memories of my mother, I began to form the decor for this sewing themed tea a couple of months in advance to allow for time to find or create items I wanted to use. Neither my friends or I had retained our Mom’s sewing mannequin that I originally imaged for my decor, but then I remembered I have a small jewelry mannequin and decided it would make a sweet centerpiece with a little decoration.
Sifting through my gift wrapping tissue, I chose a sheet of light pink and an orange floral. Each were folded into a stack with 6 to 8 layers. Various sized circles (similar to the size of a quarter or smaller) were cut and then pinned to the form with a pearl straight pin. From the top layer to the bottom, one at a time I scrunched the layers around the pin head to form little rosettes. I made the same layered circles with pieces of tissue from the one pattern I found among my sewing items. A small pattern piece (for a cuff) was used to create a pinned pattern resembling a skirt. A 12 inch piece of cotton measuring tape ribbon was formed into a bow at the center of rosettes on the shoulder.
I searched for a printed fabric of sewing notions to create a table runner, but I was unable to find anything with the correct color palette. So I pulled out Mom’s old sewing machine and stitched together five pieces of the “Fat Quarter” 18″ x 21″ fabric used for the pin cushions. While adding the dark pink rick rack, Mom’s machine came to a halt -protesting any further action. I had to employ the help of a friend to finish sewing the rick rack to the edges of the fabric to complete my table runner.
I originally toyed with the idea of tying rick rack around my battenburg napkins forming a bow, but as I surveyed the items left over from my pin cushion project I decided I could do better. With a cup of tea to sip I began to create nine different napkin rings.
- Cut strips of fabric, ribbon and rick rack into 6″ strips.
- Fabric about 2 inches in width – seams top and bottom folded and ironed in place.
- Hot glue used to glue rick rack or cotton ribbon over open seam of fabric (or)
- Rick rack hot clued to top and bottom edges of measuring tape ribbon (last pic side views if base)
- Hot glue ends together to form ring
- Top with bow, charm, buttons, etc. (see below)
While searching through a bag of buttons I’ve had for years (those little bags attached to garments with extra buttons and beads), I found a set of dark pink buttons with small sequins and matching beads that reminded me of my sequined and beaded costume that Mom spent hours creating. I had to create a napkin ring in memory of her loving labor.
STEP 6: Getting the garden ready…..
Spring has just arrived and now is the time to freshen up the herb garden and feed it some liquid fertilizer to encourage edible blossoms to form. Violas and pansies also edible make tea sandwiches and soups even prettier. Chives and their blossoms (below) were used to adorn these dainty deviled egg baskets a couple of years ago.
The foundation of my Mother’s Tea is now ready. A month prior to the scheduled tea (mid-May) I hope to have the Menu decided. I’ve asked the two sisters whose mother is being featured to think about some of their mother’s favorite flavors and foods. I hope to translate some of those thoughts into the soup, tea sandwiches, scones, pastries and possibly even the sparkling cocktail.
Watch for the future post following the event sharing the menu and pictures with the full presentation. I hope the ideas shared here will encourage and inspire tea traditions everywhere! Please share this post with your friends and family and offer your ideas and feedback with me. Thank you!