As an only child growing up in the oil fields of Conroe Texas, with a mother who was an avid seamstress, with no project too daunting for her, I quickly began to want “to sew”, because I saw momma making all these things and it looked like lots of fun. Momma, however, was somewhat reticent thinking I would surely sew my fingers and was teaching me to sew by hand, much like paper doll dresses.
But at the tender age of 5, I wanted more. You see, we lived on 35 acres with my dad gone all week working for Brown & Root as a welder. That left momma and I home alone all week.
There were neighbors – Nora & Vernon Meachen, who also had a daughter, Betty, exactly my age. So we would visit each other. This did not mean that momma drove me to her house.
Instead, to get to their house, I’d walk across a huge pasture; climb a fence with barb wire at the top. When I was on the top rail, I’d jump to the ground on the other side, then walk about 1-1/2 miles to their house. I absolutely thought nothing of it, as I was just a care-free young girl, given freedoms to do as I wished.
One day when I arrived at their house, I found that Nora’s mother was visiting. She was a rather sweet older lady, gray hair with it all tied up in a bun, named Mrs. Broderhausen. When I entered Betty’s room, she was sitting at a sewing machine — one of those old treadle types that were controlled with your right knee. I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen and was quite fascinated. I kept getting closer and closer and soon, and in no time, I was in her lap, sewing. Man was that fun.
That day, Grandma Broderhausen send me home with a real doll dress all made with neck and arm facing and the bottom was hemmed. That made me super happy as that beat that hand sewing that Momma had me doing at home.
Obviously my excitement carried with me back home and the cat was out of the bag. I had been sewing at a real sewing machine and I had not sewn my finger.
Momma saw how excited I was and she gave in, teaching me to sew on her Singer. Again, it started as a ‘in her lap’ experience, but soon I was able to maneuver it by myself.
I remember having wonderful doll clothes for Christmas as momma would strut her stuff making all sorts of things for my Terri Lee & Jerry Lee dolls. I had so many doll clothes; you’d think it was a store.
And soon, I was making my own clothes. Mostly shorts and tops, but then in junior high, the 6th grade, I wore a dress to school that I had made myself. And there was no turning back then.
I took all 4 years of Home Economics in high school, sewing far more advanced techniques than the other girls, but challenging for me. My teacher, Hettie Mary Traylor understood that I wanted more challenge and she made that happen for me.
All the while, momma was coaching me and showing me great techniques and the value of pressing every seam. She’d say, “No real seamstress forgets to press every seam before they sew another seam across it.” She instilled in me great quality and she was a fantastic teacher.
She was so gifted, totally able to sew anything. I saw her make elaborate drapes, slip covers, whatever it took to make out humble home look good. We were very poor and she wanted so much for me to ‘have’ what the other girls were wearing. So every time she’d see something she thought was nice in the Houston Chronicle newspaper, she’d ask me if I liked it. If the answer was yes, then in a few days, I’d find it on my closet door, ready for me.
She sewed everything the entire family wore and it was not until my senior year in high school that I had a readymade skirt and blouse. I had exquisite prom dresses, styles she copied from the newspaper from Neiman Marcus ads. She was absolutely an incredibly gifted seamstress.
What a treasure I had there in my mother and what a beautiful example she set for me.
I Do Sewing & Alterations ~ Kay Proctor ~ 258 LCR 750 ~ Thornton TX 766687 ~ 512-658-0094