Perhaps it was a Christmas gift or a thank you present, I’ll never know, but someone enjoyed those caramels and the empty tin became my mother’s button “box”.
From the age of four, my mother developed a passion for needlework that would largely shape her life. Unable to lay her hands on a needle, she began to sew with cotton tied around the head of a pin, and within a few years was creating fashion statements for her dolls on a small, hand-operated sewing machine her parents had given her. As childhood gave way to teenage years, so doll’s clothes gave way to skirts and blouses, dresses and nightgowns for herself and her mother.
At fifteen years of age she was apprenticed to one of Sydney’s leading fashion couturier, Miss Lillian Dowe, where she learnt, not just the fundamentals, but the details and the intricacies of fashion design of the era. It was the extravagant era of the 20s and what more exciting time to work in fashion. Her extraordinary talent was quickly recognised and in time she became chief cutter and eventually head of the workroom, being left in charge on a number of occasions when her boss travelled overseas.
Her fine needlework skills assured that she was in high demand for the favoured clientele, those who wanted that “something special”. Her hands were those of a master craftsman. With lightening speed her deft fingers darted back and forth across the cloth and in their wake evolved beaded designs, the finest piping and tucking.
She painted with thread.
She married and became a mother. Her skills turned to baby clothes and children’s wear. She went on to specialise in wedding clothes and evening wear and eventually had the joy of sewing for her grandchildren.
For years she taught dressmaking at evening college and many women became passionate and competent sewers under her tutelage.
It’s all there in the button box. Buttons of every colour size and shape … fragments of decades of fashion … reminders of the seasons of her life … memories for me of a loving mother who used her extraordinary skills to bring joy to so many people, but especially to me.
As I delve into that timeworn tin I can’t help but wonder what remnants of my life will remain as a testimony to the life I’ve lived? What legacy will live on for the people in my life?
Do you have a treasure that reminds you of someone special? Leave a comment and share.