Usually she’d eye my sister,
turning her slowly,
to create a pattern in her mind.
Ordinarily mom cut fabric freehanded
sometimes from a pattern of newspaper.
I’d laugh at seeing one of my sisters
pinned with the Sunday funnies.
If needed, mom examined an old dress
following the cut, contemplating the facing.
But when faced with unseemly seams,
she’d load us into the car and head to TG&Y.
In the stale, air-conditioned sewing department
she’d sit under humming florescent lights
on one of the metal stools with cushions
crafted by the store’s sewing class.
Rows of wooden tables displayed
Butterick, Simplicity, and McCall’s catalogues.
There in that retail library, she’d study
new techniques and memorize patterns.
With new buttons and zippers and threads,
she’d attentively work into the evening
feeding the sewing machine fabric
guiding and twisting with a steady hand.
In addition to constructing
shorts and pants,
fashioning shirts and skirts,
designing tops and blouses,
(I remember a little red leisure suit – it was the 70s),
there were the gowns: