Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sew What?...A Tale of the Tape

All of my friends who knew my mother knew that she was a talented seamstress. She could stitch together anything from a simple skirt to the most complicated suit and would always put her 'Maxine touch' in each garment making each an original. That sewing gene must have skipped town when I came along as I find it difficult to sew on a button or do general clothes maintenance. My friend, Rae, learned that the hard way.

Rae's son was being honored with other students at a dinner. I can't remember where it was, but Rae had purchased a new pant suit for the occasion. This was not just an end of the year pot luck banquet but a dinner at some banquet hall in Columbus.

Rae came to me in a panic when the woman who usually altered her clothing became ill and could not hem her pants and 'take in' the suit jacket. The dinner was that night, she had said to me...that would be plenty of time to make a few alterations...right? Maybe she thought I had spent hours watching my mother sew and had somehow through osmosis knew how to 'make a few changes'...and anyway...she had called a few others and I was her last hope.

I knew I was in dangerous territory when I heard the words, "Okay, I guess I can try," come out of my mouth. But her transformation from pathetic pleading to joyous relief gave me that false sense of confidence that leads to disaster.

This was in the late polyester was the fabric of choice. A flash of my mother bemoaning the invention of polyester and never going to sew with it again crossed my mind but I dismissed it. I had a job to do and I had no clue where to begin.

I finally had Rae try on the suit so I could measure how much altering needed to be done...three inches on the pants and two on the sleeves...the rest looked 'okay'. Progress was slow...too slow...and what would have taken Mother an hour to do was taking me all afternoon...and it looked horrible. I called my mother and she said in a time crunch I could use some sort of sewing tape. I only heard the word 'tape' and had the solution. I ripped out the crooked seams and began again,

No time to go out to buy fabric tape...but tape is tape and I had a whole roll of carpet tape. If it can hold down a carpet, it should be able to hold a least for an evening. Within an hour I was finished, Rae donned my new creation and left for the banquet hall.

Later that evening, Rae appeared at the door. I did not have to ask how the banquet went...her face expressed what I feared to hear. Stepping through the door I noticed a piece of carpet tape trailing from her pant leg. She reminded me of Red Skelton's Clem Kadiddlehopper character...or was it Freddie the Freeloader Hobo...whatever...I had to stifle a laugh because of the distress on her face.

"Oh, Jackie, it was terrible," she said. "Things were okay until one of the city councilmen asked me to pass the butter...and my sleeve popped out with the tape landing in the butter dish." I was swallowing hard...this was not the time to laugh...which I tend to do at what some may think inappropriate times. She just looked so bedraggled.

"The worst part was walking with Kevin to receive his award and the tape broke free from the pants. I tripped over the hem and heard a rip. A man stepped on the tape and got it stuck on his shoe and the tape kept pulling out of my pants leg. Kevin caught me before I fell, but got tape from the sleeve stuck on his hands. It was all I could do to find a graceful way to leave the party early!"

Fortunately, Rae finds humor in this now...and that is one banquet she will never forget. But I wonder....what would have happened if I had used duct tape?

Rae dressed a bit spiffier at her grandson's graduation.


  1. Too funny! Duct tape works for ANYTHING! It's my go to solution!

  2. This was so funny! I knew you were in trouble when you said you heard the words I guess I can try. Oh my! That sewing gene skipped me too. My mom was the seamstress and I hated sewing. I guess carpet tape is not so sticky for fabric. (still laughing)

  3. Oh, that made me laugh! I could just picture it. It reminded me of the time my husband stapled his pants before we went on a date. It was his rendition of hemming. :)

  4. I started laughing just before you wrote about having to stifle a giggle yourself, each time! What does that say about me? I am sure I laugh inappropriately at times, too. Life is just too short. This is a GREAT story! And you told it very well!

  5. I am glad your friend laughs about it now. I'm sure if you weren't the one involved it would have been hard not to laugh out loud. I know I laughed at reading your story. You built the tension and I knew disaster was only a few paragraphs away.

  6. This is a wonderful story! I love the idea behind this blog, how you are capturing and sharing family stories so they aren't lost to time. I laughed along with you as you told this one. We own a sewing machine at my house, but my husband is the only one who has used it.

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  8. So funny! Although at the time, I agree it was a disastrous happening. How embarrassing!!

  9. Very funny! The sewing gene skipped me, too! I do own three sewing machines, though, if you ever want to borrow one! BaHaHa! Nevermind, use duct tape! =)