I was four years old when I held my first threaded needle. I felt so grown up to be trusted with a needle and a swatch of fabric to transform into my very own handmade Barbie dress. While Mrs. Kidd, my babysitter, zoomed away at her machine, I carefully pulled the needle in and out of the fabric binding it together with my long uneven stitches. I transformed the square piece of fabric into an ill fitting tunic. Still Mrs. Kidd praised my efforts. I continued making Barbie clothes and furniture from the scraps Mrs. Kidd handed to me while she scrutinized over her projects which often included skirts and dresses for me.
I was hooked. I sewed everything in sight! I sewed together pieces of thin cardboard that came in my mother’s panty hose. I sewed those tiny fabric swatches that used to come in mail samples. I collected them to make a quilt. They were about one inch squares. I don’t think my quilt ever even made it to the size of a wash cloth. When I had no fabric or anything I could adhere with needle and thread, I still practiced my stitches by pulling a thread-less needle through the top layer of skin on my left pointer finger. I was spellbound to watch the puckers of skin lift up, no blood, no pain. I even created a small pucker flower on the inside of my palm. I lived and breathed the mere act of creating something, anything from mere scraps.
When my sister took home economics in school, I copied her machine efforts by hand. She made a halter top. I made one from her scraps. She made a granny patchwork skirt. I made one as well. I even hemmed mine and wore it to school. The girls at school were amazed and showed my efforts off to my teacher who was puzzled to think I put in a waistband by myself. Scarlet faced, I admitted there was no waistband. I had simply tucked the cylinder of patches I’d sewn together into my under panties. All was well until we played kick ball…I had to hold my skirt to me while I ran so that I didn’t end up with my skirt around my ankles. In retrospect, I am fortunate no one called social services due to the attire I was sporting. I can only imagine how ragged it probably appeared to adult eyes!
My mother was not a seamstress. She vowed, “All four of my daughters will learn to sew.” We all did learn. I don’t know if any of the other three enjoyed it. I complained about zippers and buttonholes like everyone else, but secretly I loved the challenge. Those are still not my favorite sewing options, but I also don’t refuse to attempt them. I think I am the only one who continued it after graduating high school. Thank you, Mama for making sure I had a machine to sew all the while I was growing up.
I have been in love with sewing and fabric well over forty years. We won’t talk about my fabric stash(es). Every quilter has fabrics tucked away for those just-in-case projects that creep up. I have never become an expert, but I manage to eek by. I took the basic home economic classes and learned how to master darts and zippers. I even watched my best friend sew her finger the first day we operated the machines…this time there was blood and pain! While my boys used to brag to their friends that their mom could make anything, my skills were actually much less. I could attempt anything just not necessarily master the skills. My sewing is not perfect, but is presentable.
My love of sewing settled with quilting. Sometimes, I follow patterns and other times I free form art quilts. The process is one that I become absorbed in. It is the machine, thread, fabric, and me. I have a computerized machine so I don’t use a foot pedal. I feel totally free speeding along watching my projects take shape. I love the sense of control it gives me. The best thing is that unlike life, if I make a mistake I can simply rip it out with a seam ripper, redo it, and no one is ever the wiser. There have been times I have irreparably torn my fabric with the ripper…mistakes sometimes create new opportunities or fabulous pieces of art.
I consider myself a creative person. I fiddle with all sorts of needle work and crafts. I experiment with many types of writing. It seems that what I am most comfortable with always comes back to the things I was familiar with as a child. With needlework and writing, I always return to sewing and poetry. I wonder if it provides a level of comfort deep within or if it’s more of a hereditary thing.
I love the creating process. I love the planning, the selection of materials, and the assembly of the projects. I especially love the power I feel while operating my machine.
Even when my machine acts up (it is generally the inaptitude of the operator not the machine!), I revel in it’s awesomeness. It’s one of my main tools of expression. Nothing comes between me and my sewing machine…except maybe my laptop.
This weekend I was at a loss for what to do. It was nasty, weather wise, so I opted to stay indoors. I didn’t want to clean house. I wasn’t in the mood to write. I even got tired of reading. I didn’t want to work on the art quilt I had started nor did I want to begin a new project. Then I decided to attempt a fairly easy quilt pattern. After a quick trip to the fabric store, I went at it. It took a total of eight hours from start to finish. It was just the rejuvenation I needed.