Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In Stitches

Remember how I mentioned that I made pillows? Remember how I was all "Hey, I can sew! Sort of! Yippee for me, I can thread fabric through a machine in a semi-straight line! Look at my cute pillows?" Well guess what! My sewing machine heard me. Ah, hubris! I thought I could do anything. I was wrong. And the reason I was wrong is because my sewing machine hates me and will do anything to thwart my plans and make me look like a fool.

Back in junior high, lo, those many, many years ago, I was required to take home ec. And, as you may well know, one of the things that they taught in home ec was sewing. When I entered that classroom, I was quaking in my junior high sized clogs. You see, I did not grew up with a mother who sewed. I had no background. No experience.

Once upon a time, my mother made things with a sewing machine. Or so she tells me. I don't remember this. Perhaps I have buried it deep in my subconscious. She tells me that she never really enjoyed sewing, but that she could do it. My only memories of her with a needle and thread were of her quickly sewing on a button. And I think she sort of shuddered in revulsion while she did it. I don't know. Maybe my brain just added that part. Anyway! It didn't really matter, because our next door neighbor was a seamstress extraordinaire. My parents, before they moved last fall, lived in the same house for forty years. And Annie was there the whole time. Any time my mom needed some sewing done, she asked Annie. And Annie, good neighbor that she was, always stepped up to the plate.

So when I went into that home ec classroom, I was a complete newbie at any type of sewing. I had no clue about the jargon. The idea that there was measuring and math involved made my intestines squinch up into a ball. I was prepared to fail.

But then a minor miracle happened. The teacher gave us the choice of making clothing or a gym bag. As a class, we decided that a gym bag would be fun and more practical because you know, we were in junior high and lived for sleepovers. And for sleepovers you needed a gym bag to cart around curling irons and Tiger Beat magazines. (Disclaimer: I never, ever bought a Tiger Beat magazine. But I was always sort of mesmerized by the girls who did.) Then, another minor miracle occurred. Somehow, the teacher was unaware that there was really no measuring or tracing of patterns for the gym bags. The pattern came printed directly onto the nylon, so all we had to do was cut out what was already there and sew it, per the included directions. So I dodged that bullet. After a few classes, several of my friends and I figured out that we could get our work done faster if we did it assembly line-style, thus leaving more time to pass notes and doodle names of cute boys on our notebooks. So we each took what we were good at and did it on each other's bags. One of us did the straps, one did the ends, one did the pockets, I did the zippers. Go figure. I've heard that zippers can be tricky, but I was a Zipper Wizard, y'all. We continued this way for a few days until the teacher discovered our work. Instead of praising us for our imagination and initiative, we were told that we were missing the point of the project and that we would all have to do our own sewing from that point on. (Inside, my junior high self is still rolling her eyes, crossing her arms, and thrusting out her hip while muttering about how teachers are SO STUPID. GAWD!)

What I came away with from sewing lessons in home ec could be best summed up like this: 1. Sewing is easy if your pattern is pre-printed, you have no measuring to do, and you can form an assembly line with like-minded friends. 2. Always cut your bobbin thread before you go to iron your piece. (I was notorious for forgetting this and would walk through the class room, weaving a web of bobbin thread as I went.) 3. If the home ec teacher likes you and goes to your church, you can get away with not learning how to sew. 4. Passing notes is easier when the hum of the sewing machine drowns out the rustle of the paper.

What I didn't come away with from home ec was knowing how to sew. So you know, that was tax-payer money well spent.

Years later, I would marry a man whose mother was (is) a wonderful seamstress so if I wanted or needed anything sewn, not only would she do a great job, she actually enjoyed doing it. It wasn't until just recently that I even thought that being able to sew--even just a little, might be kinda cool. I kept seeing little projects around that required just a bit of simple stitching and thought that maybe I could get over my sewphobia and attempt some stuff. So I went out and bought a little starter machine. Nothing fancy, after all, I wasn't going to be making gym bags. Ahem.

And then, the circus began. I had to thread the machine. Yowza. I think somebody needs bifocals. So that took, um, awhile. Next, I had to get the bobbin wound. Simple right?


I have to be the only person on the planet that can make a 2" diameter knot on a bobbin. You think I am kidding. Oh no, my friends. I am as serious as a heart attack. After another, um, while, I got things untangled and the bobbin properly wound. And then I made my pillows. Except I didn't really do much to make them. I bought a couple of double-sided placemats, ripped a little opening in the seam, stuffed it with fiberfill and sewed it back up. But whatever. I was proud of myself. "I CAN TOTALLY SEW!" I thought to myself. "I am awesome for overcoming my fear!"

And then my sewing machine heard me. Now it thinks I am cocky and it hates me. Every time I try to sew something, the bobbin thread gets all knotted up. I have no idea what I am doing wrong. I have read the manual. I have gone step-by-step through the troubleshooting guide. I have scratched my head and tried to "retrace my steps" on my successful pillow project. I have cursed at the machine. I have yelled at my husband when he suggested lessons.



"MORONS CAN DO THIS!" I bellowed.

And he had the good grace not to say, "Apparently not."

Now, my stupid machine is sitting in my closet. I don't want to look at it. I don't want to take a chance that it might accidentally slip out a second story window. But it's nice to fantasize about it.

If you sew, perhaps you could fill me in on what I'm doing wrong. If you don't, pull up a chair. We'll have a glass of wine and talk smack about my machine.

blog comments powered by Disqus