Cher Primeau’s mother taught her to sew ten years ago, when Cher was pregnant with her oldest daughter, Meghan.
“Mom’s an amazing sewer,” Cher says. “I’d have these visions in my head like, I need this special baby bib, and I’d explain it to Mom and she’d make it. Or she’d touch up clothes. Meghan has these tiny shoulders and Mom would make everything fit perfectly.”
Cher never got quite as good at sewing as her mother, but she got good. She sewed the girls dolls and little outfits.
Then not long ago she realized she hadn’t sewed in a really long time. “I was kind of feeling sad that that part of their childhood was over.” Cher wanted that feeling back. It dawned on her that while she and her mom had worked on sewing projects together, they had never worked on a sewing project together.
She called her mom up and floated the idea: One day, two women, two machines, two dresses at the end of it. Her mom said, ‘We totally need to do that.’”
Cher’s husband David, a busy manager at a software firm, offered to take the kids for the day.
“I felt a little guilty,” Cher says, “and I offered a reciprocal deal where he takes a Big Day and I take the kids. But it’s different for David. He’s not sure what he would do for a full day. His interests aren’t project-based. Whereas I have a million ideas so this sort of thing is totally up my alley.”
They marked Big Sew Day on the calendar.
Cher and the girls looked at designs on Pinterest. They consulted a book called The Building Block Dress, which offers a huge number of templates for really cute dresses and shows you how to customize them. Meghan and Hannah each designed their own dress. Cher and the girls made a trip downtown to pick out fabric. Back home, Cher roughed up a couple of templates out of muslin. “With both girls the basic dress didn’t fit them quite right,” she says. “We pinned them up, but I didn’t know how to get from this to the custom version. So my mom was going to be my guide.”
David dropped Cher off at her mom’s at 8:30 am. Cher hauled her machine upstairs to the sewing room. They set up their rigs side by side, near the serger.
Cher has always been of the opinion that, in an age where we farm out everything to experts, it’s nice to have some solid skills in the bank. “It means you’re not under the control of some conglomerate. You can make your own clothes. It’s so basic. I feel like, if the whole world fell apart I’d still be okay in this small way.
“And it’s good for your kids to see that too, right? To think, I could do that. That’s powerful.”
The sewing machines hummed. There was some mother/daughter chitchat, but not so much. Both women were pretty focused.
For the first few hours, time seemed to slow down. They were making fantastic progress. Then around noon a switch seemed to flip, and time sped up. Maybe because of the … interruption.
“I swear we hadn’t been gone for more than two minutes,” Cher says. They returned to the sewing room with some food to find that the cat had peed on Meghan’s dress. A lot. “I guess she was mad at my mom for giving attention to someone else.”
They got things cleaned up, but hadn’t budgeted for that time, and now they were behind.
Cher and her Mom had changed their strategy. Where they had started out shoulder to shoulder, each with a dress, going through the steps together, “it turned into an assembly-line thing, where I’d prep and she’d sew.”
Next thing they knew it was nearing suppertime. They called out for Chinese and just kept sewing.
The last hour was a blur.
“We barely finished,” Cher says. “Just as the doorbell rang I was madly trying to finish the last hem.”
But they had done it. Cher came home with a dress for each girl that they could put on — tomorrow.
“In retrospect, it was almost too much to do in one day,” she says. “But that’s what made it so fun. Apparently they have this sewing show on British TV. Right near the end when we were feeling the time crunch my mom said, ‘It feels like we’re on The Sewing Bee’!
At the end of the day both Cher and her mom were exhausted.
Then Cher’s mom said: “When are we going to do that again?”