>Welcome to my long over-due blogging debut. I agonized for days about what I should say in my first post. As usual I find myself blathering. See? I’m blathering right now.
The following is an essay, an introduction to me, that got kicked from my first book. WOWSERS, my editors were so strict.
My search for ways to avoid sewing is a recent development. Sewing was always a part of life. My parents kept a big old Singer treadle machine in the back of the laundry for replacing customers’ buttons that got mangled by the shirt presses and for making alterations. And while I observed my mother sewing for us at home, I didn’t pick up a needle and thread myself until 7th grade Home Ec. My teacher, Mrs. Johnson, made us sew a sampler as part of the course. I sewed a brilliant red blanket stitch edge around my square of school-bus yellow fabric (my favorite colors in 7th grade). Mrs. Johnson was kind, diplomatic and unstinting in her praise of my hand stitching, but I only got a B in her class due to an incident with scrambled eggs totally not my fault.
The next class project in sewing was making a simple garment with a set-in zipper. I made the first of many little skirts. I disliked wearing skirts and dresses and wouldn’t have but for the school dress code, which prohibited the wearing of pants by girls. Miraculously, one morning during homeroom it was announced over the PA system that the school board had lifted the ban. If you weren’t there you cannot imagine the din of a thousand girls raising up their voices to cheer as one. But that wouldn’t happen for another two years. Meanwhile, I was dutifully wearing skirts that my mother sewed.
My hope is that I was diplomatic in telling my mother that I no longer wanted to wear the knee-length, gathered, bouffant skirts she made for me. Pop-culture insisted that fashionable skirts be tight and scandalously short. I’d like to say that I convinced her how much more economical short skirts would be. A mini-skirt needed yards less fabric. But what probably happened was she got sick of hearing me complain and just gave up.
My favorite of all the skirts I made during that two-year period was cotton, navy with white pinstripes, the closest I could get to denim. It was majorly flawed, since I didn’t have enough fabric to properly match the stripes. In future I was to become an obsessive pattern matcher, but then, hey, it was close enough. That skirt was worn until it was rags, worn until the fateful PA announcement that obviated the wearing of it at all.
Sewing for me was never about the process. I did it at first in order to have clothes that fit. Then I sewed for my sons lots of adorable little overalls. I made matching Hawaiian print shirts. My dad wore his grudgingly; my sons had no choice. Hey, Magnum P.I. had nothing on MY guys!
My greatest accomplishment in those years was getting the flowers on the breast pocket of each shirt to align perfectly with ones on the shirt front. I was well on my way to pattern obsession by then. And I was the only one who thought matching shirts were cute. The guys merely put up with them as another eccentricity of mine. How twisted was that? My sons equated Hawaiian shirts with motherly love.
Sewing was never fun. Sewing became for me endless rounds of fussing. You press the tissue paper pattern, press the fabric, pin the pattern matching grain lines, cut the fabric leaving seam allowances, pin the seams, sew the seams, *rip the seams, re-sew the seams*, rep from * to * until your fingers bleed and the crooked seam starts to look not that crooked, clip the seams, press open the seams. If there has to be interfacing, lining, zipper or button holes, make that double and triple the fuss. And to top it all off there’s the finishing, hand sewing buttons, tacking down facings, hemming hems.
It’s no surprise that I abandoned sewing once I re-discovered first knitting and then crochet. Gone were the hours of fooling with pre-made cloth and precise, rigid seaming. Crocheted fabric is personal and organic. It can be grown any-which-way through the skill of your hands from balls of yarn, it’s alive. It molds, stretches, breathes and drapes. Eventually I stumbled upon the secrets of out how to coax the fabric to grow, seamlessly, into beautiful garments, the joy of which I share with you in my books and designs.