Sunday, June 23, 2013

Still sew much to learn

            I spent the afternoon reminding myself that I'm a knitter, not a sewer.  I admire those who can make intricate and incredible items to wear as I'm still in the kindergarten of garment making.  You'd think I would have learned my limits by now, even though it's supposedly in my genes.  There's a beautiful quilt on my bed that was hand-stitched by my paternal great-grandmother.  My maternal grandmother made my sisters and me little jackets when we were young and I still have mine in a keepsake box.  My mother is a master at creating clothes that fit not only American Girl dolls, but any American girl in the country.  So why didn't I catch the sewing bug when it was going around?
            To be fair, I can stitch a straight line and make curtains for any room in the house.  Come this Christmas, I'll once again make stockings for some friends of mine.  It's not that I don't like sewing per's that I don't like making clothes.  The last dress I stitched was in the early nineties and I vividly remember sitting at my mother's machine, fiddling with the seam ripper while I tore out the sleeves for the umpteenth time.  Mom ended up doing most of the finishing work, but she insisted I do the top stitching and I swore I'd never make another article of clothing ever again.  So why was I tempted to venture down that road once more? 
            Darn that JoAnne Fabrics and their gorgeous display of batik material! 
            I found a splashy blue design and a pattern that promised the simple dress could be made in an hour.  Still, the shopping bag full of materials sat in my craft closet until this afternoon when I had no motivation to do much of anything.  I'd already gone for a hike, ran errands, and did a bit of writing.  My hands needed a break from all the animals I've been making this year, so I didn't want to knit.  It's been too hot to garden, so what's a girl to do?
            I know...let's try my hand at sewing again!
            I popped "Ghandi" into the DVD player (perhaps as a subconscious reminder to peacefully make my way through the process) and set to work.  Just figuring out which pieces of the pattern I'd need took twenty minutes.  Pinning the pattern to the cloth properly, then cutting out the various parts took another half hour....not to mention how long it took to figure out which way to cut the fusible interfacing! 
            Once I sat down at the sewing machine, over an hour had passed.  Still, it was simple to stitch the shoulder and side seams.  Then came the battle of the interfacing and my first huge mistake.  I'd sewed the pieces together incorrectly, but only discovered this after I'd trimmed the seam and cut in the easement.  With that completed (albeit with a few choice words), I set to work on the underarm reinforcements.  I wrestled with them for about forty-five minutes, but in the end, they looked better than the neckline!  As the final credits of "Ghandi" rolled on the screen, I was pinning the hem, silently bribing myself with a chocolate banana smoothie if I finished the project.
            Unfortunately as I was sewing the hem, I realized I was using a zigzag stitch, not a straight one.  Oh well, I thought.  I'll just leave one will know but me.  Alas, instant karma arrived as the bobbin ran out of thread shortly thereafter.  Frustrated, I turned off the sewing machine, made myself a smoothie and went outside for a break. 
            Sitting in the sun, soaking my feet in a wading pool, I contemplated that while there's great satisfaction in sewing an entire piece of clothing in one day, my reasons for being drawn to knitting are vast.  If I mess up (and make no mistake, I make lots of those), it's simple to rip back a few rows and use the same yarn to fix the error.   I can make countless easements in shape and size for whomever I'm knitting.  The work is portable and I can take it to the park, the coffee shop, or sit on my front porch without the need for electricity.  I don't need an iron to steam open seams or straight pins that inevitably poke through my fingertips while I'm working.  And there's a rhythm to knitting, even when working a complicated pattern, that no amount of sewing can ever create.
           One of my friends and yoga students told me years ago that I'm a "relaxed Type A" personality.  She said I'm a "doer" and like to get things done, but at a more relaxed pace and rhythm.  I'll take that.  As I get older, I'm learning to let go of needing to master everything that looks appealing and relax into that which creates harmony and a fulfilling sense of accomplishment.  With so much in our lives that we have to do, shouldn't we fill our bonus time with that which makes our souls sing?
            As for the rest of my day?  I'll be reworking the hem of my dress and then bid my sewing machine a fond farewell until the snow flies.  There's still a lot to learn as life goes on and what I'm discovering today is that the next time I see a beautiful piece of fabric, I'll call my friend, Colleen, and ask if she'll make me something in trade for a nice warm pair of hand-knit mittens or socks.