Friday, November 12, 2010

Sew What?

Over the summer I met a woman who raved with shining eyes about how sewing had changed her life. She said it was therapeutic, satisfying, creative. Sounded good to me. Plus, I’ve always nurtured a hope that I had a dormant seamstress gene, given the talented seamstresses in my ancestry. I filed it as something to think about. A few weeks later, out of nowhere, my sister-in-law asked me if I’d like to take a sewing class with her. Destiny, right?

I signed up for the class, and finally claimed the sewing machine I’d inherited from my great-aunt fifteen years ago. Though I loved picking out the fabrics, the more money I spent on equipment, the more I remembered other hobbies I had begun with great excitement, only to quit shortly thereafter. I’ll try just about anything, but not much sticks. Still, I’d signed up for the class, so I got what I needed to complete the two projects—one tote bag, one purse.

In the first class we learned exotic things like filling a bobbin, threading the needle, and basting. After only twenty minutes, we were actually sewing. After one and a half classes, I finished the tote bag! I couldn’t believe it. No, it wasn’t perfect, but I love it. Like that woman I’d met this summer, I had something tangible to show for my efforts. Maybe I was a seamstress waiting to be born. I began imagining the fabulous, unique clothes I’d make for myself, all for a pittance.

Unfortunately, it’s been downhill from there. The second project, a purse, involves a pretty complicated pattern. This means lots of cutting, pinning, and sewing. Those things I can handle. More difficult is summoning the effort and concentration to follow the meticulous directions and pay close attention to detail. I am capable of these things, but they are not my natural gifts, and from 7-9 pm, when the class takes place, it feels nigh impossible.

I called my mom to complain this week and she couldn’t stop herself from laughing. “So, your inner engineer didn’t come out?”

“You knew I’d need an inner engineer?” We both know very well this is something I don’t have. Why do moms have to always be right? And why don’t I run more by her?

“You know, honey, there are very simple, three step patterns,” she said. “That might be something to try.”

Maybe it’s the case of too much, too soon. Maybe I would have been better off completing a few more simple projects before diving into something so ambitious. I guess we’ll never know. I haven’t given up on sewing. I still like the idea of taking a piece of fabric and making something simple. Like a tablecloth perhaps. How hard could that be? And I think I can at least hem my pants now. That’s something.

The experience also reminded me of something Julia Cameron writes about—the grace to be a beginner. It’s good to try something totally new, not just because it’s humbling, but because when you’re a total beginner, anything is progress. And if you don’t try new things, who knows what you could be missing? What if I had never tried surfing? I shudder at the thought. Sewing may not be my next great passion, but at least I tried.

For my next new thing I'm considering snowboarding. Somebody told me it's therapeutic, satisfying, and creative.

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