Remodeling a Skirt

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, June 3, 1912: I am trying to remodel a skirt which was once the property of the benevolent Ruthie. I’ll know whether I’ll wear it or not after it’s finished.

treadle sewing machine

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Sounds like a bit of sarcasm. Grandma seems uncertain whether she appreciates her sister Ruth handing a skirt down to her.

I wonder why the skirt needed to be remodeled. Had styles changed? Was Grandma a different size than her sister?

It’s interesting that Grandma persevered, yet felt uncertain about whether she’d be happy with the remodeled skirt . Was she a pessimist? . . . pragmatic?  . . .

When I was young I often made outfits that I didn’t like after I’d completed them. But every time I started a new outfit I thought that it would turn out better than my previous efforts. If I hadn’t been an optimist, I don’t think that I could have worked on the sewing project.

23 Responses

  1. Your insightful ponderings are as interesting to read as your grandmother’s short daily thoughts. I too appreciate her dry wit, and your follow-up is just what I would have wondered.

  2. I learned to sew on that machine, and I made quite a few outfits that I liked!

    • It’s cool that you learned to sew on a treadle machine. Grandma had a treadle machine that she still used when I was a child–but I never had the chance to try it.

  3. Grandma may be feeling resentment about receiving her sister’s hand me downs.

  4. My brothers and I learnt to sew on a treadle machine very similar to this. :-)

    • I learned on an early 1950s Singer electric machine. In fact, I still use that machine. I had a repairman out a few years ago to make some minor repairs; and he said that the old Singers are still really popular and last almost forever.

      • My girl friend is a seamstress and she has a lot of fancy machines with all kinds of computers … I think the simple designs had less to go wrong with them… today it seems you can’t do anything without a computer.

        • If I sewed more, I’d probably buy a more modern sewing machine–but the old Singer is tried and true and works just fine for the basic sewing that I do.

  5. Fabric was so precious at that time, I have to appreciate her effort. She does say “trying” to remodel a skirt. Being a new reader of your blog, I don’t know anything about the “benevolent Ruthie,” Perhaps she wasn’t fond of the pattern, there wasn’t much to work with…

    • Welcome! You’re so right–fabric was expensive back then and people re-purposed clothes so they wouldn’t need to buy new fabric.

      As you read more posts, you’ll discover that there is the usual sibling rivalry between Grandma and her older sister. From the distance of a hundred years, it’s kind of fun to see how Grandma refers to her sister.

  6. I love her authenticity…

  7. Ahhh, sister, you gotta love them — Ruthie and Helena.

  8. My Mother was often trying to remake clothes for me from other people. I always felt that she was dressing me too old for my age. I got used to wearing them though, except for one chartreuse dress I just would not wear. That she had made from scratch because she loved the color but I always felt it reflected a yellow/green cast to my skin… So making clothes and alterations were always an iffy deal.

    • I also always found it an iffy deal.I had some clothes made with fabric I didn’t like. I think that there’s a knack to selecting fabrics for sewing projects–and I wasn’t very good at it.

  9. Sounds like Ruth was definitely persona non grata with Helena recently. i personally never liked remaking things and maybe Helena felt the same. I have my Grandma’s machine very like that one.

    • Wow, it’s awesome that you still have a treadle sewing machine. I never did much remaking of clothes, but it doesn’t sound like fun.

  10. [...] June 3 Grandma mentioned that she was trying to remodel skirt that had been her sister’s. I assume that [...]

  11. Perhaps Helena just had her own style, and didn’t want to seem as if she was trying to be like Ruthie! :)

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