In the first weeks of the spring lockdown I tasked myself with making masks. I hunted around under my desk and heaved out a dusty plastic case covered in a bundle of forgotten clothes, waiting repair. When we had settled down in my house there were two appliances that I thought were essential in any house: a sewing machine and a Kenwood mixer. Since I still use it most days – as my mother did before me – I’ve resisted the temptation to replace the mixer with a modern food processor. The sewing machine and I have less frequent and more fraught encounters.
As I blew away the dust from inside the bobbin driver and oiled under the tread, I wondered how I was going to teach my daughter to sew. I unpicked the stitches of a pair ripped linen trousers, torn Israeli harem pants and a new white cotton pillowcase. Like Rosa, who re-worked second-hand Balenciaga dresses found in the flea market, I was going to repurpose old clothes. Through trial and error, I made ties, worked out how to sew in some rubber covered garden wire for the nose bridge and produced at a snail pace triple-layered masks. Here is my confession: The Dressmaker of Paris is not in any shape or form autobiographical. I am no seamstress.