Dressmakers

by Jennie Carr

I think of her dresses: cream sateen with beige flower print,
wide-collared, three-quarter cuffed sleeves, full skirt –
rainbow-striped silk, straight and sleeveless, thin belted.
As a girl, she told me, she stood still while her grandmother
wielded the scissors to cut neckline and armholes freely.
Her mother, more the designer, added hand-crocheted
trimmings, buttons or a tassel, so when it came to the thrifty
years on the farm, just the three of them and the evacuees,

they were adept at a tuck and a turn, adapting the pattern
to make do and mend – something that never really left her.
It’s been some time since I’ve eased a sleeve into the shape
of a shoulder but I do still stitch a hem. Her sewing box lives
under my stairs: when I lift the lid looking for thread, I find
her mother’s delicate collars and cuffs waiting for a garment.