Caitlyn and the Purple Jumper

Grandmother’s sewing room was dim and dusty. Most of the time it was Grandfather’s office, but when Grandmother wanted to sew she would push Grandfather’s old typewriter to the edge of the long table and put her sewing machine in its place. Caitlyn used to sit at the old typewriter while Grandmother sewed. She would press the keys so the little arms jumped up to mark letters on the paper. She would practice typing letters to her aunt who lived far away. Tick tick tick, said the keys.

Today Caitlyn was going to use Grandmother’s sewing machine to make her own dress. Grandmother had some purple corduroy fabric and blue buttons. She had a pattern for a jumper with a pocket on the front. Caitlyn was going to put her stuffed dog Sherman in the pocket.

Caitlyn unfolded the fuzzy purple corduroy out on the table. Grandmother smoothed out the wrinkles with her soft hands. The fabric was nice and flat on the table.

Grandmother carefully unfolded the wrinkly brown paper sewing pattern. It made a crinkly noise. It looked like it could tear easily so Caitlyn didn’t touch it as Grandmother placed it on top of the purple corduroy just so.

Grandmother had a special plastic dish with a magnet inside. All of the tiny poking pins stick off of the dish like the spikes on a hedgehog. Caitlyn and Grandmother took pins one by one and stuck them into the paper pattern to hold it to the purple corduroy. The plastic balls at the end of the pins stuck out of the pattern like a connect the dots picture.

Grandmother handed her heavy silver scissors to Caitlyn. Her small fingers fit easily inside the large handle. With Grandmother’s soft hand over her small hand, Grandmother and Caitlyn carefully cut along the lines of the pattern. The scissors made a cold metallic sound. The purple fabric began to take the shape of a dress. Front. Back. Pocket. They laid each piece in a stack on the table while they cut out more pieces. Some of the pieces of fabric looks strange, and Caitlyn didn’t know what they were for. But Grandmother stacked these pieces on the pile as well saying, “These will fit together like a puzzle. You will see.”

Little pieces of purple fabric fell on the floor like ribbons. Caitlyn put a strip on the corner of the table so she could make a scarf for Sherman later. He would look so nice all dressed up matching when she put him into the front pocket on the new jumper she sewed herself.

Caitlyn tried to fit each piece together like a puzzle. Sometimes she got them right and Grandmother would hand her a pin to hold them together. If she couldn’t fit a puzzle piece together, Grandmother would fix it for her.

When two pieces were pinned together Grandmother sat down at the sewing machine and patted her lap. Caitlyn hopped up onto Grandmother’s knee and together they slid the corduroy under the machine needle.

Caitlyn was nervous but she pulled down the little lever at the back of the machine. A metal foot around the machine needle popped down with a sudden snap. Grandmother’s soft hands covered Caitlyn’s. “I’m going to make the machine sew now, Caitlyn. Try to keep the fabric moving in a straight line, OK?” The machine made a humming noise, and the needle slowly moved up and down into the corduroy. A tiny purple thread began to leave a trail, stitch by stitch in the corduroy, tying the pieces together.

Pinning and stitching, the dress took shape. Caitlyn found the piece which would be the pocket. Grandmother placed it nice and straight onto the front of the jumper. Caitlyn pinned it down. Hum, hum, hum. The purple thread stitched it down.

With a hand needle and more purple thread, Grandmother showed Caitlyn how to sew on one blue button. Caitlyn took the needle and slowly sewed on the second blue button. Now her jumper could button closed at the shoulders.

Grandmother took the jumper to the ironing board. The hot steamy iron had a dusty, wet smell. Grandmother rubbed the iron back and forth slowly across Caitlyn’s purple jumper. It looked flat and even, just like a brand new dress should look.

Sherman“Are you ready to try it on?” Grandmother asked.

Caitlyn jumped up, “Oh, yes!”

She stepped one foot after the other into the jumper. Grandmother buttoned one shoulder, then the next. “You did such a wonderful job, Caitlyn. Come see how nice this looks.” Grandmother invited her to walk over to the bathroom mirror.

Caitlyn began to follow, but then she remembered something. She took the scrap of purple corduroy from her pile and her little stuffed dog Sherman and ran after Grandmother. Standing in front of the mirror, Caitlyn looked at herself from head to toe. Grandmother’s face smiled back at her in the reflection. Caitlyn’s new jumper was almost finished. She tied the purple scrap around her stuffed dog. She situated his scarf just so. Caitlyn took her little dog and placed him in the pocket of her jumper. His head and two front paws poked out of the pocket. Now her jumper was perfect.

She reached up her hand to Grandmother’s and said, “Thank you for helping me.”

“You did a fantastic job, sweetie.” Grandmother said as she picked Caitlyn up. “You should be very proud.” Caitlyn was very proud. Grandmother, Sherman, and Caitlyn walked back to the sewing room to clean up.

3 Responses

  1. Sheri 30 December, 2014 / 2:41 am

    Beautiful! You have such a great way of bringing your story to life with all your imagery, particularly all the sensory descriptions. So nice!

  2. Theresa 30 December, 2014 / 7:36 am


    This is very good! The sewing room formed in my head immediately and I could see the story unfolding. Keep writing!

  3. Devona 30 December, 2014 / 4:56 pm

    Thanks ladies. I’ve been doing a lot of “setting as character” exercises. This was one of them. I have been inspired for a while about Wendell Berry and his respect for place, so I put a lot of effort into giving my stories a sense of place.

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