We’re continuing our series, Sewn Stories, which is all about the garments or textiles that have meant the most in your life, either sewn by you or by someone else. Please join me in welcoming Melisma Cox who has been sewing since she was seven years old. She posts her sewing creations on her blog and on Twitter. She’s with us today to talk about her lifetime of garment sewing. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did! And if you would like to contribute your own Sewn Story, here’s how to do it. We also encourage you to share your stories on Instagram with #sewnstories. Now I’ll hand it over to Melisma.
This is me wearing the first dress I sewed for myself. I was about seven years old. I don’t particularly recall the sewing process being that memorable. What I remember most about this dress was the reaction it got. I wore this dress to my friend Tammy’s birthday party. Her mother was in awe that I made it myself. It is a reaction that would feed me ever since.
“You made that?” people gasp, almost without fail, when I proudly state that I have sewn a garment I am wearing. It wouldn’t even matter how simple the construction really was. The concept of a person sewing their own clothes seems so foreign to most people.
We sewers form a special group. We have a power that the non-sewer does not. Making whatever we want, with any fabric we desire in our perfect size provides a (somewhat instant) gratification. We can see an expensive garment there is no way we can afford and reconstruct it ourselves. I’ve lost count of the number of home-made knock-offs I have made of designer pieces, because I can.
We can also adjust. I almost always have to hem store-bought pants and take in skirts at the waist because my hips are larger than the model size. Second-hand stores can also be of special significance to the home sewer. I go on the lookout for expensive brands. It does not matter if it is not my size, because I can tailor it to fit me. Or I can re-purpose expensive fabrics or delicate buttons on other projects.
Sewing has nourished my soul my entire life. I was fortunate to be born to a mother who was born during the Great Depression. She learned to sew from her mother out of necessity and continued to sew while I was young. That’s how I first got to see the creative expression possible through sewing. I would see my mother combine elements of one pattern and another, pairing it with whatever fabric appealed to her to create one-of-a-kind garments.
When she was nine years old, my sister got her first real sewing machine. Only six at the time, I tried to keep up with my toy machine. But my mother took notice of my precocious interest and skill in sewing and gave me my own machine when I was seven. By the time I was in high school, I mostly sought out the Vogue patterns because they were the most complicated. That’s how I got better. I even made my wedding reception dress. Sewing is a perfect match for my aptitude in math and design.
Many people ask me why I don’t sell clothes I make on Etsy or go on Project Runway. That’s not the point of my sewing. I am not interested in mass producing my garments or making a profit from them. I sew for me. Making things is my therapy.
In my busy life as wife and mother, it can be hard to find time for sewing. But I make it a priority because the process is so gratifying. It’s even come to the point that I will regularly wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning to sew a bit before getting the day started. I find that my entire day goes better after I’ve had that bit of creativity first thing.
The pride I feel when I am complimented on my creations never gets tiring. Little did little seven-year-old me know how much a part of my life sewing would become.
I grew up and learned to sew in The Bahamas. Here I am around age 13 with my parents in our front yard with the Caribbean Sea and a blossoming Poinciana tree behind us. I am wearing another dress I made, from Androsia fabric purchased at Home Fabrics in Palmdale, which is still standing.
We had a boat and often went sailing so I made this swimsuit when I was about 11.
I made this baby outfit for one of my mother’s friends’ new baby when I was about 12.
This is me with my parents in the Miami International Airport. I’m 17 years old and heading to college in an outfit I made myself: corduroy pants and a wrap top.
When I got married, I eloped, but I made my reception dress out of a Thai gold and black silk brocade fabric. Pictured here with my father.