Monday, 5 July 2010

Race for Life

My grandmother – Nana Bessie – died when I was about 14, of ovarian cancer. At the funeral, the vicar, who I don't think had ever met her, concluded the service with the throwaway line, apropos of nothing at all, 'And Bessie enjoyed sewing and knitting.' I think it might have been in his arsenal of things to say at old lady funerals, and he probably rotated it with 'and x enjoyed going to Bingo' and 'and x was very fond of her grandchildren/ dog/ neighbours'. However. Nana Bessie was not just a person who enjoyed sewing and knitting. She was hardcore. She was an upcycler before there was upcycling. She was a person who brought up three children on I suspect not much a week, made all her own bread and meals, and made clothes for her, my grandad (who was very confused when she died to discover that knitting socks was not a common skill and he would have to buy them from shops) and any passing grandchildren. The only ready meal I ever saw her buy was fish and chips when we went on holiday (she famously sulked for the entire evening in a caravan in Skegness when Grandad brought back haddock instead of cod) and a Sally Lunn loaf once a week for Saturday teatime. She also made quilts, which were put into instant use, and used for years. This is one:

It's made from leftovers from all the clothes she made for herself and my aunts. It contains fabric that any quilt book you read tells you shouldn't be mixed with cotton – slippy dress fabrics and lace. She pegged rugs from the leftover loops of sanitary towels which my aunt's friend, who worked in the sanitary towel factory, used to sneak out for her in a carrier bag. Whenever you went to visit she always had something cooking: bread, pie, boiled beetroot, tripe. She worried I was too fat, so she used to tell me I needed to diet and hand me a chocolate bar at the same time. She was quite a woman. Whenever people call things 'not your grandma's craft/ knitting/ sewing whatever' I think, what a load of nonsense. I'd give my eye teeth to be as good at thrift, sewing and recycling as Nana was.

Anyway, yes, ovarian cancer. So, because of this and various brushes our family has had with cancer, this year I am doing Race for Life this Sunday in Chesterfield. If anyone would like to sponsor me I have a button at the top right, there, you can see it (I have set up the page so it doesn't show amounts pledged, so if you only want to sponsor me 2p you can do and I will be excessively grateful!). I am not running. I am walking with my mother and my Aunty Kath, and I don't fancy our joint chances of getting round quickly (indeed I strongly suspect my mother thinks she can pop into Marks and Spencers in the middle). So I thought, given that I am not running, what shall I do that is a bit of an effort and special to give people something to sponsor. I know, I thought, I will make a costume (!). So here we are, I have made a start. This is very much a work in progress, you can see I have not moved it anywhere attractive to take the photo and there are threads dangling everywhere:

It's made from 4 of my mother's old tshirts, and it's been lots of fun to make (and easy – when it's finished I'll tell you how I made it just in case anyone else wants a mad dress.) I couldn't face rethreading my serger (I know, I'm a bad person) so it's mostly zig zag stitched, but look, I'm not going to be wearing it afterwards, it only has to hold together for a day. Tomorrow I'm going out to buy some pink dye and I'm going to dye it, and perhaps embellish it a bit with lace. If I had the first clue about how to make fairy wings I'd be making some too. I'm wondering if I should get some sparkly makeup. I think I've still got some green glitter eyeshadow but the last time I wore it it didn't come off for a week and green glitter eyeshadow is not a good look the morning after.

Anyway, if anyone has any bright ideas for a costume/ embellishing this dress, don't be backward in coming forward - I'd love suggestions! The race is on Sunday, so I've got until then.


Anonymous said...

she sounds quite a character and influence :)

best wishes for your race

resa said...

I've just discovered your blog and think you are fantastic.

My inner five year old says that no fairy costume is complete without ribbons and flowers in your hair, it that's any help. Hope you have fun with the race.

Katrina said...

I won't be wearing anything as colourful or creative when I do the Race for Life in Clumber Park on the 18th. I too will be walking not running and I'm trying to convince my Mum that Minnie Dog should come with us too.
All the best for Sunday.

Susie said...

Thank you Resa, that is very kind.

I'm also trying to convince my mum we should bring a dog (Milo the Very Friendly Husky.) No one so far has expressed any confidence in my ability to handle Milo even though I have watched at least 4 episodes of the Dog Whisperer.