"Make It Yourself"

by Sarah A. Gordon

Home Sewing, Gender, and Culture, 1890–1930

Interview with Winifred Byrd

Sarah Gordon: Anyway, so you were saying that your mom sewed because she had to.

Winifred Byrd: Yeah. And my fourth grade teacher she, she liked my mother evidently, because she would give her yard goods.

Sarah Gordon: Oh, OK.

Winifred Byrd: And my mother would make my sister and I dresses alike. We were, although we were two years difference, twenty three months difference in age, we were about the same size. And she was only a grade ahead of me, because her birthday came in January. So she was behind, well, yeah, she didn’t go to first grade until she was seven…. And so this teacher, she, my mother would make these little dresses just alike, for us. And she did that, I can remember, she did that until I was like in maybe fifth or sixth grade, so… And then I started sewing. She showed me how. But the type of machine we had was that old pedal type. I remember running the needle through my finger once. You don’t forget that. And then, I didn’t, yeah, when I got ready, I made skirts and stuff for my sister and I when we were in high school. And then, and in college too.

Sarah Gordon: So your mom taught you when you were maybe…

Winifred Byrd: Eight or nine, that I can remember, yeah. And then when I got ready to graduate from ninth grade, well, she couldn’t afford to get me a dress, but she had some, some material. And so I made a two piece dress out of that, to graduate in. And it looked nice. It looked as nice as anybody else.

Sarah Gordon: Was that part of a, did you have to make it for school?

Winifred Byrd: No, no, no. I made it so I’d look dressed up for graduation. Yeah. And then, when I got in high school, I took up pre-college, you know, so I didn’t have time to take any of those classes, sewing or nothing. I didn’t take them in high school.

Sarah Gordon: Interesting. So you had a more academic, college track

Winifred Byrd: More academic. And that’s probably one reason I got that scholarship.