Today we’re pleased to have Masha back with us. She’s visited several times in the past, and she’s here today with a very special installment of Sewn Stories.
I met Jamie in August of 2015, two months after my husband suffered a debilitating stroke. Rain pounded the windshield in heavy sheets as we pulled onto the shoulder of the busy interstate, where she was waiting in her car. She ran over to the passenger’s side where my husband, no longer able to drive, was sitting. We shouted hellos, nice-to-meet-yous, and thank-you-so-muches over the storm as she passed two plastic-wrapped Puppet Show sets on hangers through the rolled-down window.
This was our first time meeting–the stranger who wanted to help, and the mother of four who had awkwardly posted on her blog three days after her husband woke up in the middle of the night with no feeling in his arm. After much consideration (Would I think she was an Internet nut? Was her sewing good enough to send to a stranger?), Jamie had finally sent me an e-mail. She wrote, “I would like to offer to keep your children–yes, all four of them–in Oliver + S clothing while your husband recuperates from the stroke and your sewing time is so limited.”
When, later, she told about the fears that had delayed her email to me for two weeks, I was incredulous. Particularly, that she didn’t know if her sewing was good enough to send to a stranger. It was ludicrous to me. Every piece was impeccably sewn. I couldn’t have found a skipped stitch or even a loose thread if I had gone over every garment with a magnifying glass.
Jamie found me through the Flickr group which was very active at the time. She was a fan of the patterns, already owned quite a few, and followed the Oliver + S sewing community online. This had led her to my blog, and started a friendship that has lasted more than four years.
In that time, she has made more than 100 separate items for my children. Almost all of them were made from Oliver+S patterns. From Reversible Bucket Hats to School Days Coats and many items in between, she kept my children in beautiful clothing when I wasn’t able to.
Sometimes as a parent, especially when you have a lot of children, it’s difficult to keep on top of what everyone needs. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found myself scrambling before a special occasion because one boy has put holes in all his good pants, or a girl’s best dress is suddenly too short. This might seem like it’s not such a big deal–especially when we had so much else to worry about in our lives. But I think that I focused on it more during this time as a distraction from the big, scary things that were looming.
My husband didn’t work for eight months, and during that time, we did not know if he ever would again. We were adjusting to life with a fourth child who was born just two weeks before the stroke–oh, and did I mention that we homeschool? The chaos was unrelenting. Never have I been more aware of how little in life I can actually control.
But while Jamie was sewing for us, there was one thing I could count on: my children had beautiful, well-fitting clothes to wear. And even if I couldn’t keep up with laundry, and even if they wore the same stained mismatched things over and over during the week, I could control Sundays. On Sundays, I pulled their best clothes, all made by Jamie, out of the closet. I would fasten the hand-sewn buttons and smooth down the perfectly-gathered skirts. Then I would wipe a couple of last-minute noses and pull fingers out of mouths, and we would walk into church looking put-together. At that time in my life, this was Important with a capital “I.” And it was with the most heartfelt gratitude that I wrote this to Jamie in 2016:
“I did not manage to get a photo of G this morning,” I wrote, “but he wore his striped Sketchbook Shirt with the navy Art Museum pants to church and looked very sharp. I am so thankful for all the beautiful things you have sewn my kids; they look respectable and that is important.”
Over the years Jamie has sent us more than a dozen beautifully wrapped packages. We would correspond in between the packages, she would suggest pattern/fabric pairings, and I would send her updated measurements. She had a special knack for knowing exactly what we needed. Each time I opened a box, I would breathe a sigh of relief. There’s a new pair of Art Museum pants to replace the pair that my son just outgrew. And last week the temperature rose. Here’s a pair of shorts with that ruffle modification that I loved so much. The School Days Coats Jamie made for my sons took my breath away. They both needed coats, and these were just so beautiful. I still pause to admire the toggles and perfect bias-bound removable lining when I bundle my youngest up in the coat she originally made for his older brother.
Jamie also sewed exquisite silk dupioni Fairytale Dresses for my daughters. She sewed both dress views, and made coordinating silk velvet bolero jackets (from a different pattern and not pictured here). My girls wore the dresses for holidays until we couldn’t zip them up anymore.
Since that stormy morning on the highway, my husband has regained a lot of mobility. He can drive a car, and he is back at work full time. We were very, very lucky.
Now that the season of crisis is over, we’ve made a tradition of meeting up with Jamie when we pass through her town once a year on our way to the beach. We have breakfast or lunch and catch up on the year’s happenings. Jamie and I talk about everything we’ve sewed and everything we want to sew. A friendship forged over generosity and kindness (and a love of fabric) isn’t soon forgotten. I will forever be grateful to the lady who sewed for my kids when my life felt like it was falling apart–and to Oliver+S, who brought us together.
Masha is back to sewing Oliver + S for her kids, whom she still homeschools. She blogs about her makes at The Itinerant Seamstress.