Sewing Women

by Elizabeth Trew

In our house we knew how to make do and mend.
We fished old clothes from the mending bag
and sewed little things of our own:
my mother put patches on tops and pants,
my sister made tray-cloths with lady-birds,
the aunts stitched beads to edges of net,
I stitched crosses and herring-bone
while grandmother sewed strips to cover our beds.
Little things of our own,
but Mrs Abrahams came for serious sewing.

Mrs Abrahams came in colourful gusts
working furiously all day.
She ran up seams to the whirr of our sewing machine,
measured us with her tape around busts and hips.
Her warm brown hands rested on me.
She spread out her patterns to cut our cloth,
kept pins in her mouth while hemming skirts,
put in zips, altered flares and shifts,
fixed empire lines, darted and tucked
letting in, letting out.
Before leaving we’d fix her day to come again.
She swept up the litter and made things straight
but left the stray clipping and thread.


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