December 22, 2010

Fabric, Tissue, Dresses by Brenda Leyland

Me and Little Sis,1963

The whir of a sewing machine was a familiar sound when I was child growing up in our little farmhouse in rural Alberta.

Mom seemed to always have some sewing project under construction. But of all the garments she made, it was the pretty Christmas dresses I remember the most.

With the arrival of each December the anticipation would begin to swell. Mom would study the Eaton's catalog and bolts of fabric. It was time to make Christmas dresses for her three little girls. Amidst scissors, tape measure, and stick pins, sheets of ecru tissue rustled with anticipation as each pattern piece was carefully laid out on the fabric. It was always an exciting moment when we’d hear the first snip of scissors crunching their way through tissue and fabric. Soon threads littered the floor and we’d hear a whoosh as the hot iron pressed the wet cloth on a newly sewn seam.

Many dresses passed under the pressure foot of that old sewing machine. I remember the holly red velvet dresses and the one with the peacock blue velvet bodice and skirts of whispering chiffon (my all time favourite). As well, there was the jumper outfit made from bright red velvet and paired with a crisp white blouse. My fifth grade dress was a royal blue shift with three-quarter sleeves, offset by a white pleated organdy collar.

My little sisters and I would sigh, while Mom pinned and twirled us around on the chair, checking hems and seams. The final overview had to be made. It sure was a proud moment to stand in our newest finery on Christmas Eve with the rest of our Sunday school class to recite mostly memorized recitations and warble through partly familiar carols.

It doesn’t matter how many Christmases come and go, recollections of pretty handmade dresses and annual concerts in the old country church are as carefully wrapped in filmy memories as any treasured holiday ornament. The wonder of it is that these gifts of love were wrapped up in the celebration of the One who came to express the love of a generous Parent to our world. Who would have thought that the whisper of tissue paper on velvet would echo that great love to three little girls?

Wishing you a Happy Christmas... God bless us everyone!

This essay was written for my mom, Christmas 2006


  1. How well I remember that red velvet dress and that wonderful Christmas program season. My brother was asking me the other day if they still gave the kids a bag of candy with an orange in it. Alas and alack, they don't, but the memory is still sweet. Thanks for this, Brenda.

  2. Don't hear the whirring of sewing machines much any more, nor the click of knitting needles--or what about hand whipped cream and butter?

    Someone said that gifts are a poor substitute for a gift of yourself, that is, time from our precious limited supply given to another.

    Thanks Brenda, for a reminder of a slower time when our parents gave of themselves in this way willingly to show us their love; reminding us of the greatest love given by Christ in the sacrifice of Himself.

  3. Lynda... Oh yes, the candy bag at the end of the program was the ultimate... with that sweet orange and chocolates and lots of peanuts. In fact, Mom and I were shelling a few this evening and guess what memory popped up just as scent of peanut was released? Those candy bags!!

    Bryan, Mmmm.... hand whipped butter... and...what about homemade fudge?? Or popcorn actually popping in a pot someone is shaking over the heat?


Thank you for taking the time to join in the conversation. Our writers appreciate receiving your feedback on posts you have found helpful or meaningful in some way.