|Ginger stepped down off the school bus to
enter into her drab grey world where
her family had taken refuge from the drought which had shut them out of
their country home.
During the second world war German
prisoners were held in the very middle of the United States. These
barrack looking buildings to house them were standing still in 1953 and
were actually in very good shape as far as this sort of building could
be, hastily erected with no intention for them to last forever. An
actual community was created and it was set here in the vast acres of
beautiful rolling green wheat fields.
She slowly walked past the small building
which had once been the guard house where soldiers admitted only those
who either worked in the camp or had some official business there.
Ginger was joined by one of the girls who lived a short distance from
her family. The girl neighbor was of a quiet nature, serious and not to
waste words with girlish chatter. This was all right since by this time
in the evening the school work of the day left them with very little
interested in small talk.
She waved good-bye as she was closer to
her apartment now.
Ginger looked up toward the very large
silo looking building which had a wide circular walk way built all
around at the top. The walk way was enclosed with glass and this was a
silent reminder of what purpose these buildings served. In her mind she
could see the uniformed guards standing there, silent and alert with
their guns resting easily on their arms. At the base of the tower was a
covered walk way where the prisoners no doubt were led from one building
When Ginger pushed the door open she was
greeted by the very fine oak hard wood floors. She was just a girl but
this always struck her as being odd. Here were these temporary
buildings, stark, undecorated structures with not one effort to soften
them with any sort of style. Nevertheless, the floors were of these very
fine hard wood. Right in the middle of one of these floors in the
kitchen her little six month old baby brother was screaming. His face
was flushed and the tears had left his cheeks soft and pliable to her
kiss as she rushed to pick him up.
"How long has he been crying?"
she glared at Mrs. Steven who had been hired by her mother to care for
"All day," the woman was
unafraid of the girl as to her question and she continued with her
preparation of the evening meal. This was an error on her part, this
underestimating the young girl's interest of the matters of home.
During the evening meal the family was
quietly enjoying the food Mrs. Stevens had cooked when Ginger's mother
commented, "Mrs. Stevens is a wonderful cook, isn't she?" No
one really had a reason to answer. They, of course, would have much
rather had their mother's cooking.
"She isn't as good a cook as you are
Mama," Ginger volunteered.
"Well, she is good with the baby,
and this is the most important thing?" the mother was working with
her family as was her custom.
"She isn't good with the baby,"
Ginger found the opportune time to vent her anger as far as to Mrs.
Stevens was concerned as to her letting their dearly loved little
brother cry sobbing heart breaking tears, and for the whole day, the
woman had bragged.
"Why?" came the quick
uncomplicated question their mother was known to use.
When Ginger told her mother about the
scene into which she had walked, that very afternoon, her mother as
usual said nothing. However, the next day instead of rushing around to
get ready for work she was spending her time at home. Later on in the
afternoon when Ginger opened the front door she was greeted by a smiling
baby sitting on his mother's lap.
"Mother, you didn't go to
work?" Ginger was surprised."
"No dear, no work. We will find a
way to live without it. I'm not leaving this baby to some one who will
let him sit and cry all day. I wonder how many times she did this to our
baby. There would have been no knowledge of it if you had not told me. I
wanted to work to buy clothes for you. But you can have pretty clothes.
We will just find another way."
From that day forward a new effort was
made to teach Ginger how to use the old machine her grandmother had
left. It was a very old treadle machine, but it worked just fine for the
girl as she learned to sew up a gathered skirt, blouses, even belts.
Because her mother had such a taste for nice material there was no end
to the new clothes the girl had and here is how she learned to make a
around the person's waist. Cut a long strip, four inches wide and the
length of the waist's measurement, plus two inches. Fold this strip in
the middle, length wise and press. This is the belt to be sewn on the
If your waist is 24 inches, to double
this would give you 48 inches or 1 1/3 yard for the skirt which would be
sufficient. However, if you want a fuller skirt then, more material. You
can measure and cut the material to the length you wish the skirt to be.
It is good to have someone help you with this measurement, measuring
from the waist to the place on your leg YOU wish the length to be.
You need two rectangles 24" x, by
how ever long you wish it to be, for the skirt. Sew the two pieces
together making a seam down each side. On one side leave the seam open
at the top for up to six inches. At this opening of six inches you can
sew velcro to each seam edge as a quick easy placket. Do not bring the
velcro all the way up to the top of the fabric since you will need to
leave room for gathering the skirt, and sewing on the belt.
To gather this at the waist, begin at the
opening you have created on the side. Let the stitch out on your machine
until it is at the longest stitch.
One half inch from the edge sew all
around the top part of the fabric, when you finish leave the thread
extra long, maybe twelve inches. Do the same thing again only drop this
seam down one quarter of an inch. Then again until you have three seams
in all. Take the extra long threads and pull them until they begin to
gather the fabric. Gather this until it is the right size to fit around
After you have gathered the skirt, take the
length of the belt and pin to the top of the skirt. With a long loose
stitch, baste by hand the belt to the skirt. Finally, sew the belt to
the top of the skirt making sure there is about a two inch longest part
to the front of the skirt where you will sew a button hole. Sew the
right side of the belt fabric to the right side of the skirt fabric.
Fold a very small handkerchief hem on the
top part of the belt fabric, and sew it down or press it. Turn this over
onto the skirt. Pin this down. If there are uneven places so as not to
lay flat now is the time to work these into place ideally giving a
smooth belt to the outside of it. Baste this down, press and sew this on
with a hand whip stitch.
Sew a button to the back section of the
belt and make a button hole on the front part of the belt.
Hem the skirt by using a smaller shirt
tail type hem which is maybe less elegant but certainly much easier as
to getting the skirt to hang more evenly. After you have become a better
able seamstress you can then work at making a deeper hem.
The beauty of a garment is only left to
the ingenuity of the person putting it together. When a girl first
begins this part of sewing a world starts to open up as to the changing
of a garment according to color, pattern, frills or subtle style, or the
adding of accessories for variety. Here deeply held cultural differences
can begin to be practiced through the use of her beginning to learn to
design and style her own personal creations. The choice she makes as to
light against dark, over all light, heavy contrasts or delicate romantic
creations all lend themselves to her personality and is fulfilling and
satisfying as she begins to be able to control her world.
These were all the things Ginger was
fortunate enough to learn from her mother who was herself well educated
in the skills of a dress maker. What could have been a world of poverty
and despair became a shining sprinkling of color to a decaying old
prisoner of war camp.