Appalachia Overheard



“Momma made me a dress that had a long waist. I wore a belt with it and wore it for ages. Most people today wouldn’t like it cause it was homemade. But my I thought I had hit the big time when I wore that dress.”


p.s. PAP IS HOME! Yesterday Kenneth commented “Pap is still in my prayers and with all the Blind Pig readers, it’s a Powerful Thing.” Ken is right-all your good wishes helped Pap feel better and hopefully he’ll just keep on improving!

Overheard: snippets of conversation I overhear in Southern Appalachia


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  • Reply
    November 19, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    We were raised on hand-me-downs and homemade dresses. We were darned happy to have them, especially if the hand-me-downs were for the right gender, cause with older boy cousins, we often we had to wear boy’s clothes. But boy, if a box of girl’s hand-me-downs hit the house, it was like we’d hit a jackpot. LOL
    And if anyone at school sneered at them, I don’t remember being wise to it.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    November 19, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    I’m glad Pap is home. He’ll be as spry as a spring chicken before you know it!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    November 19, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    My Mom could make almost anything on her sewing machine (and could knit anything as well). Unfortunately, she was not a great teacher of sewing skills, so I had to learn to sew on my own. Most complicated thing I ever made was a full length coat when I could not afford to buy one. Most cherished was my wedding dress that I made with a length of unbleached muslin and a couple of lace tablecloths that I bought for around $20 on 14th street in NYC.
    Glad to hear that your Pap is out of the hospital and on the mend.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    November 19, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Glad Pap’s on the mend tell him to hang tough. My Mom made many of my and my three sister’s clothes, she also “Played” a Singer treadle machine like Ed’s Mom. Of course they were cousins so it may have been a Genetic Thing. What was really amazing about her was her ability to look at a garment then sit down with her scissors and old newspapers and cut out an exact or improved pattern then duplicate or improve on the original garment. This brings back great memories of some great ladies.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    My wife is into fabric,, sewing, design, Folks at spoonflower, which is in North Carolina knows her by her first name,,,,our house looks like a sew/fabric shop does not throw anything away if it’s wool or fabric.. I guess I’ll open a fabric shop when I retire, because we got plenty of it… Good to hear about Pap.. will take a few days to get his strength back,, yall are still in our prayers…

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 19, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    and all….I have a plastic bin full of feed sack cloth! For some reason I can’t cut it up or use it for anything other than hanging a piece for a curtain, etc.
    I still find it today at estate sales…Oh no you don’t, you say! I do…here is my secret! Always go thru the material stash, especially if the previous owner was a seamstress and or elderly!
    Pick up that nice piece, check the edges for a slight fray..(usually from washing) check the sides for the “tale, tale punch marks” of a commercial sewing machine that sewed the bags together! As you run your fingers down the side edge of both sides of the cloth you can pull just slightly and see the even holes the needle made. That is a sure sign of a flour or feed sack, plus the size! A flour sack is usually softer cotton fabric. A feed sack a bit stronger, and you might see faded print on the bottom if you fold over the material in a sack shape and look! You would be lucky to find a string attached to the top edge or side edge, but I have done that too. A lot of folks will look over old style prints or smaller pieces of floweredy, checkeredy, and stripedy fabric! I especially love the tiny all over flowerdy prints…
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…I am thinking we need to keep our Yankee friends and Northern Appalachian folks in our prayers…They are suffering with all this snow and it looks as though they are going to get more late today and tonight! I hear some have died trapped in their cars, cold, etc. and they have no place to move most of the snow. Just imagine! Mercy!
    I like snow but I don’t believe that I could stand that much.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    November 19, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    I never realized what a expert seamstress my mom was when I was growing up- all I knew was that all my clothes were homemade and the other kids were store bought. Of course, I wanted store bought!! Looking back at group photos, I’m amazed at how well dressed I was compared to the other kids- a prime example of the grass not always being greener…
    PS- YAY PAP!!!!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    November 19, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    I’m glad Pap’s home and I know he
    is too.
    And it makes me feel good to know
    how proud you were of those homeade
    clothes made by your mama.
    I guess lots of us have wonderful
    memories of childhood…Ken

  • Reply
    November 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    I’m glad to hear about Pap, and pray he continues to do well.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 19, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    I didn’t mention in my previous comment that my mother had a treadle Singer sewing machine she used sometimes. I see it now. That needle flying up and down and her hands so close I am sure she is going to sew right through her fingers. Her left is reaching around behind to the lever that picks up the foot. Her right hand is stopping the wheel at the other end. She grabbing the scissors and snipping the thread. Now she is turning the cloth to start a new seam. She is reaching around with her left hand to lower the foot and her right hand goes back the the wheel to start it again. Meantime her foot is rocking back and forth, starting and stopping, providing power for it all. Before you know it that pile of cloth she has in front of her has become Sister’s dress.
    It seemed to be choreographed. It is a more a dance than a chore. She didn’t just use that machine, she played it.
    When I was in the house and heard that old Singer start to whir, I stopped whatever I was doing and went to watch. I was fascinated by the machine itself but much more by what mother was able to do with it.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    I remember back in the 40s, when Mom made shirts for me; there was no annual trip to the store for ‘School clothes’ in ’45-46 because the soldiers had come home from the war and one of them reclaimed his job, which Dad was doing while he was gone. The shirts were Western style, with a yoke across the shoulders and at least one pocket. None of the kids at school jeered me about home-made shirts, possibly because Mom bought the material at Sears instead of using feed sacks because we did not have any animals to feed.
    Please give my regards and encouragement to Pap and tell him to stay away from them hospitals; they’re full of sick people and there’s no tellin’ what a body might catch there!

  • Reply
    November 19, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    So very glad Pap is home, and is so good for everybody when you can get back to your wonderful home.
    I still cannot understand how my grandmother kept her large family so well dressed. They would have been classified as “dirt poor” by today’s standards. They worked hard on a farm and always had plenty of vegetables and chicken. My Mother often speaks of when her mom would get the Sears catalog and have them to pick out something. She would make her own pattern and sew the garment to look just like the one in the catalog. Numerous old pictures show her handiwork on her children with some even wearing suits. My early memories of her was of her sitting at that pedal singer. I always see so much more in those old photos than just the person.
    Tipper, you have such wonderful parents, and they have taught you well how to be a dedicated parent. It is touching when you recall all the memorable things your parents did.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    More than fifty years ago my wife made a dress for one of her bridesmaids. She occasionally made a few things over the years for herself and our daughter. The last one I remember was a wedding dress for our daughter. She spent a couple of hours one evening sewing pearls on with ‘invisible’ thread. When she stood up to admire it most of the pearls fell to the floor. There was no thread in the needle.
    Glad to hear your dad is better and back home. The hospital is not a place to get any rest. I pray he will continue to improve and enjoy many more years of life.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 19, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    My Mother made nearly all my clothes until I took a home-economics class, which was required back in the forties, in 7th grade. I started making my own clothes, with help from my Mother when it came to figuring out cuffs, some style collars and working in the sleeves! She still made me a few wool skirts for those popular cardigan sweaters that you would buy to match the skirt.
    I like to sew and still do…gave up clothes for crafty things like curtains, pillows and cases, etc.
    I did make some money when I first married making some dresses for neighbors. I made my boys shirts until knits got so popular that collared cotton shirts began to look out of style for them.
    My Mother told me her mother made her “step-ins” out of feed sacks. She hated them, as she used the courser sacks and she said they itched like crazy. Also, could have been the borax or lye soap! LOL
    I never wore “hand-me-downs” since I didn’t have a sister. My friends and myself would swap clothes! Is that called “hand-me-overs”? I think teenage girls or younger still do that today!
    Thanks for the post…
    PS…All I have to do to remember a homemade dress, skirt or blouse is to look at one of Moms quilts, where the scraps went, if not the best part of a worn garment!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 19, 2014 at 11:38 am

    I was glad to read that Pap is home and continues to improve. It feels so good to be home to familiar sounds.
    Hospital monitor beeps, the door openings and nighttime vital checks, interrupt a resting body! Only to drift off and have the nurse come right back in, switch on the light, while holding the “med-in-a-cup” for you, that she could have brought with her when she checked your temperature five minutes ago! “Whoops, I forgot!” she says sweetly! Then you finally shut your eyes again and in the distance you hear a neighbor patients “IV drug pump beeper” go off!?! Your eyes pop wide open again but because you are beginning to get better your concern now is the patient in the next room. You listen and wonder and worry if that guy is/was trying to sleep too, and wonder if his pump is out of meds or malfunctioning and when or if ever the nurse is going in to stop the “confounded beeper noise”, check the patient and fix the problem? So after a time you finally can both rest!
    Yes, it is very hard to rest when you begin to feel better while in the hospital!
    So here’s wishing Pap stays well and warm, gets all the “victuals” he needs and wants and stays “snug as a bug in a rug” under Grannies care and warm crocheted afghan! There is no place like home!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…continuous prayer heals much!

  • Reply
    Kerry in GA
    November 19, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Momma made some of my clothes when I was little. Several things stand out in my mind and I wished she had saved them. I have Momma’s 1st and only Barbie doll with the case. She has a few clothes in the case with her and other than the ones she came with on, Granny made the rest. One little shirt leaves me in awe every time I look in the case. It’s a little button up shirt with a collar and pockets. Granny’s needle work and detail on it is just unreal. The funny thing about it is Granny always has claimed she wasn’t a good seamstress. She just could sew enough to get by. LOL. 🙂
    Praying that Pap continues to improve.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 19, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Tipper, I learned to sew at an early age and made a lot of my own clothes as well as clothes for my mother. It sure saved a lot of money as well as allowing me to wear unique clothing.
    My grandmother made clothes, aprons, and bonnets from feed sacks. The feed sacks were made from substantial fabric!
    I’m glad Pap is home and your mom is feeling better also. It’s almost Thanksgiving. They have to get better for the big feast!

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    November 19, 2014 at 10:40 am

    My grandmother made all my Easter dresses when I was a little girl. She would go shopping with my mother in Atlanta, see a pretty dress and come home and make her own pattern. I would have a copy of a beautiful dress to wear for Easter. She also would make me cute dresses to wear to high school in the sixties.

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    November 19, 2014 at 10:28 am

    I’m so glad Pap is back home and feeling better. I can remember as kids, cow feed came in cloth sacks with colorful patterns. When daddy went to the feed store to buy feed, mom would always go with him to pick out the sacks. She made most of our clothes from them. It was always a special trip, too, because daddy would buy each of us a Fudgesicle. Great memories.

  • Reply
    Alyce Faye Bragg
    November 19, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Oh, how I remember the feedsack dresses Mom made on her old pedal Singer! Not to mention the gowns, bloomers and petticoats made from the white ones. We were rich in love!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 19, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Almond Grammar School had a Clothing Room back when I went there in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The Clothing Room had used clothes and shoes for the children whose parents couldn’t afford them. Parents whose children had outgrown their cloths donated them to the Clothing Room. I don’t remember wearing used clothes from there because I had an older brother who kept me in hand-me-downs.
    At one end of the Clothing Room was a long table with stacks of already cut fabric that just needed to be sewed into shirts for the boys and dresses for the girls. If your mother had a sewing machine, you would tell the attendant your size and she would bag you up enough material to make two garments. Your mother would sew them both together. One you got to keep and the other you took back to the Clothing Room. Then you could get another set if your mother had time to sew them up.
    Not a bad plan, huh? Well it has its drawbacks. First they had only one pattern (in S-M & L) and one color (if memory serves) a light green. They were nice shirts but were easily identified as “Clothing Room” clothes. The children whose parents were better off wore an assortment of nice clothes. The rest of us had to worry that someone would say “that used to be my shoes before I outgrew them” or “nice shirt, did you get it out of the CLOTHING ROOM?”
    The teachers and mothers who helped there are to be commended for what they tried to do for the poorer children there. Things could have been better there though, if all the children were required to wear a uniform at school. The Clothing Room could have supplied clothes, free to the most needy, and sew-two-keep-one to those whose mothers could sew. Outgrown clothes could be exchanged for better fits or new uniforms purchased.
    Seems like a plan that could have worked half a century ago and would still today. It would be good for the egos of all of the children and maybe even some of the parents.
    I wrote this some time ago to use in a blog of my own but that don’t seem to be working out. Seems appropriate here today!

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    November 19, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Tipper: All these posts about feed sacks and ‘new’ dresses makes me envious. That is until I recall that my older sister, who always got to wear the dresses first, NOW SUPPLIES ME WITH NEW SWIM SUITS! No harm done by wearing hand-me-downs!
    THANKS for all the meaningful posts.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Bob Dalsemer
    November 19, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Well deserved praise for your seminar! I wish I could have been a fly on the wall! I’m glad Pap is back home. I know how good it feels from recent personal experience. Give him my best wishes!

  • Reply
    steve in Tn
    November 19, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Wanted a store bought shirt until I was old enough to buy one…now I wish I had one of the homemade shirts my mother made for me for school. “Full Circle” as Marty Rabon says.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Ah, yes! I remember that style dress. I wore them when I was in elementary school. I especially loved the one I had that was white withdeep printed pink flowers. It was my confirmation dress.
    So glad that Pap is home – prayers do work, but I’m not finished keeping in my prayers.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 19, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Tipper–I’ll offer three points coming out of today’s version of good cheer from the Blind Pig.
    1. First and foremost, it’s great to hear that Jerry is back home and on the mend. While medical facilities can and do work wonders, there’s no arguing that for peace of mind and body nothing beats being at home.
    2. I think it was commonplace, maybe more the rule than the exception, for mountain women two or three generations removed to be first-rate seamstresses. I know that Momma, and later my sister, could work wonders with needle, pinking scissors, thread, sewing machine, and the like. I do’t think Mom ever made any clothes for Don or me, but she did for Annette and later for my daughter. What she did do for Don and me, time and again, was breathe second or even third life into frayed and worn Duxbak hunting britches. She would patch, taken pieces out of old pairs that were completely worn out or outgrown, and “graft” them to briar-riddled leg bottoms in marvelous fashion. Incidentally, for those of you unfamiliar with the now long gone Duxbak brand of clothing, it was like Carhartt on steroids. That is to say, not exactly silken when it came to sewing and stitching.
    3. Tipper is far too modest to toot her horn to the extend it richly deserves, but I wish all of you could read the write-up of her “Blogging from the Heart” seminar in the current issue of the “SEOPA Newsletter.” It is a “members only” publication, but I think I’m permitted to quote a bit from the report of the individual who covered her seminar. I might add that this person, Jeff Samsel, has a blog of his own that is as long lived as Tipper’s. One of his statements was that he learned a lot from her and has already implemented some of the tips she provided.
    Here’s a quote from his coverage: “Blending practical information with a personal journey, Tipper Pressley presented her well-attended blogging seminar in much the same way she delivers her blog. . . . You could say it was a “Seminar from the Heart” because Pressley shared why she began blogging, provided glimpses from behind various posts and of her family and friends who are regularly featured, and shared reader responses that showed benefits of blogging that extend far beyond monetary rewards.”
    Hopefully I will also be permitted to indulge in a moment of family pride to note that brother Don was another seminar speaker. He talked on “Bushwhacking Through the Backside of Heaven,” sharing scores of photographs and all sorts of information connected with his efforts to locate and document every old home place in Swain County now lying forlorn and forgotten within the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    November 19, 2014 at 8:41 am

    So happy to hear Pap is home!
    Homemade clothes were often looked down on when I was a teenager, but like someone said, I appreciate the love and craftsmanship that were included.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    November 19, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Tipper, I was so glad to hear your father is home! I so enjoy his singing. My mother grew up in a family of 10 siblings, seven girls, and my grandmother made all their clothes. My aunt could cut out a dress and make it the same day and I would get a lot of my cousins’ hand-me-downs. Beautiful dresses and coats. In fact, I’m 72 and I still have two silky blouses my aunt made for me when I was in my 30’s, and I still wear them.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Mom made some of our clothes, all sewn by hand. I remember her visiting a relative in the hospital and the conversation among the women was about sewing. Mom talked about how mad she got when one of the women scolded her for making our undies out of feedsacks. The woman said her girls would only wear store bought silk ones. I don’t know if Mom ever forgave the woman, but she never did forget.

  • Reply
    Annette Casada Hensley
    November 19, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Between my mother and I, virtually all of my clothes were homemade as I grew up. After working at a 4-H camp the summer of my 16th year, I had enough money to buy a store bought wool skirt and sweater that matched in color. I’m sure that other readers can remember when those were in style back in the 50s and 60s. I was so excited since this was something we couldn’t make at home. However, I’m sure that the store clerk had a fun tale to share after waiting on me. Not only did I not know what size I wore, I didn’t even know what sizes were available! However, I wore my homemade clothes with pride as I found them beautiful. I also earned spending money in high school making clothes for some of my teachers and others. I kinda miss those days!
    Glad to hear Pap is home and pray for his continuing improvement.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    November 19, 2014 at 7:30 am

    How I remember those homemade dresses, and how proud I was to wear them, even if they were often made from “feed sack” fabric. Daddy would let me go as he bought feed for the chickens we grew commercially and “pick out” feed in three-bag quantities of a pattern I liked, envisioning that those feed sacks would become my next pretty dress made by my mother! She would look in the Sears Roebuck catalog and somehow knew how to style my own dress after one I picked out there–even without having a pattern to cut it out by. She was amazing with sewing and stitchery! When I went to school or church, I was one well-dressed gal! I learned to sew, too, but I had to have a pattern to go by!
    We’re so thankful that Pap is home and feeling better! May he continue to improve.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2014 at 7:18 am

    Janice-thank you for the great comment! When I was little Granny made a lot of my clothes too. I’m not sure I really appreciated them then-but when I look back through old photos I’m always impressed with her handy-work : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Janice Stout
    November 19, 2014 at 7:10 am

    My mother made most of my clothes. She even made all of my bridesmaids’ dresses for my wedding. I thought it was great. I could pick out the fabric and style I wanted. She could even take parts of multiple patterns to give just the look I wanted. No one had clothes like mine.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2014 at 4:25 am

    Hurray! That is excellent news 🙂

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