January 27, 2020

The Day Mom Taught Me How to Use a Seam Ripper

Yesterday, while I was ripping out a couple of seams in a quilt block, I thought of all the seam ripping I have done over the years. But none sticks out in my memory like the first time.

When I was a little girl, mom made most of my clothes. It wasn't a big deal when I was preschool or early in elementary grades because a lot of my friends' mothers made their clothes too. And I wasn't very particular when I was younger either. Somewhere around fourth grade, I started to notice that other girls' clothes were nicer than mine, even the girls whose mothers sewed for them, and it finally dawned on me that mom didn't sew well. There is a picture of me in fourth grade wearing my Easter finery, with the Peter Pan collar just off center. When I mentioned it to mom, she said no one would notice, but they did. For the most part, mom made all my dresses from one pattern that wasn't very complicated. Just monotonous.  It was when she tried other patterns things went awry.

In our elementary school, there was a fall open house on the last Friday before Halloween. There was some kind of performance given by the arts department with fifth and sixth grades, a spaghetti supper, a pie raffle, and a smoking cauldron of punch (courtesy of dry ice) dipped out by a teacher wearing a witch costume.  Back then, kids didn't wear there weren't a lot of school parties, and kids didn't wear their Halloween costume to school.  Ever.  The only costumes worn were for a school performance.

In fifth grade, the program had a Mexican theme and my costume was a colorful dress with a very full gathered skirt. It actually turned out well, except for the zipper which didn't match up quite right. When zipped, there was about a fourth inch of zipper teeth sticking out on the top of one side and the zipper pull wouldn't stay up. So after zipping up my dress (the zipper was in the back), mom had to secure the zipper with a safety pin and cover it with my hair which was constantly getting caught in those extra zipper teeth. After the open house, the dress became one of my school dresses until I finally outgrew it.

In sixth grade, the theme was Pilgrims and Indians, and my costume was an Indian girl. Mom made it out of unbleached muslin, using the same pattern she used to make my slips, just a straight, sleeveless shift with a tank top style bodice. She did raise the neckline to hide the slip underneath, and she embellished the neckline with colorful little beads, with a big teardrop shaped bead in the center. After we got home from the open house, she told me she would take the beads off and then it would be my new school dress. Back then, sixth grade was that awkward pubescent time of girls beginning to be being interested in boys: changing bodies and training bras, gossip girls and curious boys.  I was horrified that I would have to wear this, this underwear in front of the boys, much less in front of the other girls in their cute, store bought clothes.  I told her it wouldn't look good, but she insisted it would be fine once the beads were off.  I knew it would look like I had forgotten to wear a dress over my slip.

I don't know if other children back then argued with their parents, but we certainly didn't. So I quickly volunteered to remove the beads and made a beeline for her sewing scissors. In the privacy of my bedroom, I cut away the teardrop bead and the fabric under it, leaving a big hole just under the neckline of the offending garment. When I showed it to mom, she was fit to be tied, thinking I didn't know how to snip the threads holding the beads in place. I didn't care what kind of punishment I would get, it was better than wearing underwear to school for all to see.  Kids today want other kids to see their underwear but we tried to keep it covered.

My punishment was handed out the next day when mom sat me down next to her and showed me how to slide the pointed end of the seam ripper under each stitch to remove it. She made me rip out every stitch on the bodice so she could re-cut it and make it into a normal slip. Nowadays, I only rip every fourth or fifth stitch and pull the thread from the opposite side, and mom may have done that then too, but she made me rip every stitch. I think both of us learned a lesson that day, or maybe it was just coincidence that soon after that, mom went back to work and I had fewer homemade clothes. There was an orange skirt she made when I was in eighth grade that she made me wear with a black sweater, and not on Halloween. But that's another story.


  1. What a fond memory. Not so much at the time, but now it's wonderful.

    Have a fabulous day and week, Marti. Big hug. ♥

  2. Marti: My mother made my clothing also.
    I hated it she did a fabulous job but I had other ideas, I had received a brown skirt with rhinestones on it from a cousin, I hid it after wearing it once, then changed into it at school, the teacher finally called my mother to ask if I had anything else to wear, she was so mad, went to Sears bought me a small, wardrobe and stopped making clothing for me, however she continued to make dress's for herself, no slacks were worn hardly ever by women.
    I totally love your story, I do hate using a seam ripper.


  3. My mom was a wonderful seamstress but money must have been right one of my birthdays & she made me yellow striped knickers.

    1. Knickers as in underwear? I remember in 2nd or 3rd grade, a passing fad (very passing) was ruffled pantaloons - something like knee length shorts made of nylon with rows of ruffles all the way to the knee. I was thrilled when I got them for my birthday even if that trend only lasted that schoolyear.

  4. Thank you for joining the Happy Tuesday Blog Hop.

    Have a fabulous Happy Tuesday. ♥

  5. Marti - as the youngest of four girls in my family, I don't remember having a piece of clothing that was truly mine until I was in junior high. Many items of clothing were re-worked numerous times! Thanks for that walk down memory lane!

  6. I grew up with hand made dresses and tops, but my mother was an excellent seamstress (her mother was a professional seamstress). So until jeans became the uniform in high school, I wore homemade gladly.

  7. The seam ripper is the greatest invention ever made! ha ha! I use mine a lot!


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