by Mitch Lee
I’m not sure when my passion for sewing started. As a boy I remember my mother working on bit of knitting or cross stitch, and her quilting rack was set up in our living room.
Many long cold December Saturday afternoons I watched as she methodically put needle and thread to her quilt.
I periodically checked on her progress during the commercial breaks of the college basketball and football games I was watching.
She seemed somewhat soothed by the hand-quilting process.
My father also engaged in small sewing projects on his mittens and socks, closing well-worn holes from hours outside on his trap line, or miles of woods covered to take in a patrol of his woods as a Forest Ranger.
He sewed up his leather snowshoes and their broken leather bindings.
Once in a while he would sew a patch on his uniform or a jacket with careful whip stitches.
I observed closely and made my own mental notes on his sewing skills.
While in Home Economics class with Mrs. Brussel I learned to sew with a machine and fine-tuned my hand-stitching skills.
I found it satisfying to use a power tool to make something from pieces I had carefully cut.
The patterns were like a jigsaw puzzle; when all the parts came together it was gratifying to see the finished product.
Except for some minor mending projects, I rarely needed to utilize my sewing skills.
But they certainly came in handy when I became interested in the military clothing culture of the American Revolution.
As a boy my mother kept me well stocked with stacks of history books when she came home from the library.
And when we traveled as a family we always made forays to historic forts and battlefields.
These visits, which included live historians, made me intrigued by the fact that their clothing was all handmade.
I wanted my own 18th century uniform and I possessed some basic skills to make it happen.
Over the years I have acquired patterns through my handling of historic garments and working with conservators at museums.
I picked up cloth at various woolen mills and high-end fabric retailers from around the world.
I spent hours with needle and thread recreating trousers, knee breaches, shirts, waistcoats, and coats for myself and my friends.
Most winter evenings I still find myself listening to a football or basketball game with a large heap of warm rich fabric on my lap, carefully stitching clothing while the winter storms brew outside the window.
It is still soothingto watch the puzzle pieces come together to make a finished garment to be worn.
Sewing is one of the odd skills learned as a boy growing up Adirondack that some forty years later still gives me great joy.
Mitch Lee, Adirondack native & storyteller,
lives at Inlet. email@example.com