The first summer after we bought our lovely old home in Kansas City, we went to a lot of estate sales in our neighborhood. Keep in mind that the homes were all built around the turn of the last century (ours was built in 1905) and many of the homeowners were the second set to own the homes. So it makes sense that they were beginning to shuffle off.
Most of those sales were unremarkable and just filled with the odds and ends of a long life. Mostly we glimpsed the way the houses looked before people started updating them or modernizing them. We wanted to stay true to the era of our own home so we loved seeing these houses.
One estate sale was different. Eva Brancato had been a war bride from England and she’d outlived her husband by many years. I have no idea if he left her with a pension, but she was able to keep her home and it was in decent shape. She’d also had a sewing business and one table was full of her equipment and supplies. I wasn’t in the market for more machines or anything, and her fabric was pretty old and not to my taste. But her sewing basket with scissors, needles, thread etc were there, along with two zip lock baggies full of interesting buttons and trims. I bought all three of those items and still have some of those things today.
People have sewn their own clothing forever; I know my fiddle farting around is nothing new and isn’t ground-breaking in terms of clever sewing or exceptionally well-designed patterns. But I do like feeling connected to the women who’ve sewn before me. My Mana (mother’s mother) sewed a lot, my own mother made lots of our clothing when I was growing up, and she still creates artisan quilts today. Kent’s told me about how much his mother, Ardis, sewed—not only clothing but a lot of crafts too. Then there’s Eva, this woman I never met, who supported herself through her sewing. It’s like being a member of a very old, very well-established club.