Learning Needle and Being Introduced to a Love Seat
by NELCIA MARSHALL ROBINSON AND MARGARET SULLIVAN
AUGUST HOLIDAYS were much looked forward to. They were long, and we children got to do many exciting things. Our parents would send us to ‘spend time’ with one of our school friends or relatives, or they would be coming to spend time with us. There was plenty time to roam the fields and feast on the juicy fruits that were in season. We picked the tamarinds, jar plums, hog plums, damsel, guavas, mammy apples and mangoes in abundance, and watched our mothers convert them into delicious jams and jellies.
August Holidays were long, but not just as a time to play, our Mothers sent us to a village seamstress ‘to learn needle’. Great friend Jennifer Edwards was part of these escapades. We went to an aged seamstress named Miss Rose. I was allotted hemming and making of button holes. Miss Rose showed us how to cut a simple skirt and top, but also how to cut a flair, gore and ‘on the bias’.
Miss Rose had great stories to tell, and I looked forward to those even more than the sewing classes. While there, I had observed what looked like a Baby’s Crib, but it was stuffed full of cloth brought by customers. Miss Rose must have observed me looking at it closely, for one day she said – “Come here Nel, let me show you something”. As I drew near, she removed the cloth and revealed a sofa where the rail stopped half way on each side, but in opposite directions. As I gazed intrigued, she invited me to sit, and she did likewise. To my amazement, we were sitting facing each other.
She laughed delightedly, and said “This is a Love Seat”. In times of courtship when the Lover came courting, he and the girl would sit in such a chair, in full view of parents, yet with a measure of privacy.
They could not embrace without the parents seeing. I promised myself such a chair.
When Miss Rose died, I was abroad. On hearing of her demise, I inquired what had happened to the furniture, since I would like to buy the Love Seat.
To my dismay, relatives, not realizing its design value, had thrown it out. Village Seamstresses are also reduced in numbers as ‘ready- made dresses” flood the market. Their sewing rooms were a place for young women to acquire skills and to learn about life. The accomplished Needlewoman was a very powerful woman in her village, and the diminishing of their role has left a void in the non academic education of young women.