Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Gratitude 1: Sewing

When I was young, my mom had a sewing room.  I think it must have given her a singular thrill every time she got to enter this room.  After having 4 children and nary a place to sew, she finally had her own space.  A space that also doubled as storage for canned foods, but a sewing room all the same.  It was lovely in 70's orange and brown, with floor to ceiling cabinets running all along one wall, and the centerpiece her sewing machine and table.  Ah the luxury of such a room.

I spent a lot of time pretending to sew in this room when I was young. I can remember my mom trying to teach me how to sew, but I was impatient.  I didn't want to follow crinkly, easily-torn patterns showing me how to make a doll dress. I didn't want to make casings and worry about facings and those little dark triangles that sometimes mattered and sometimes didn't.

No, my favorite way to sew was random piecing together of fabrics.  I can remember making some little purses out of red sweat-shirt material.  I embellished the front piece with stitching going this way and that, trying out the different stitches on my mom's machine.  I would cut out random squares of fabric from one of the closets to piece together my masterpieces.  (Sidenote: we had A LOT of fabric. So much that when we would hear conference talks about food storage, my mom would claim she would just barter all her fabric for food.  Kind of makes sense, to a certain extent.)

I also really liked to do handwork.  Cross-stitch appealed to me, but I again hated the pattern and how long it took to make those tiny squares into something that was identifiable.  And then what to do with a cross-stitch once it's done?  My uncle dated a lady who made all sorts of counted-stitches and framed them all. I found them more than a little creepy.  I mean, if you want a tiger/elephant/waterfall hanging on your wall, why not just buy a painting?  Have you ever really looked at a counted cross-stitch hanging on the wall and not been a tiny bit repulsed? 

What I'm really trying to say is that I really love the process of sewing and doing handwork, but that most of the ways I experienced these hobbies were unsatisfactory.  I wanted to sew, but not make clothes.  I wanted to do handwork, but not spend hours making tiny x's that would never see the light of day.  Or a frame.

Enter one of my mother-in-laws, a used sewing machine, and a $5 block of the month class at a quilt store.  That class, which resulted in some extremely ugly and useless quilt blocks on one hand and some great experience with triangles, squares, piecing, cutting fabric, and using a sewing ruler on the other, brought back some of that joy I experienced as a child. I got better at sewing.  My friend and I found patterns that mixed the joy of hand stitching with piecing.  No longer would my handwork be confined to rows of creepy x's showing dragons and unicorns frolicking in the mist.

Instead I found delectable muslin and linen.  I learned how to coffee-die fabric to make it look old.  I bought my own sewing machine and made my kids quilts. I've made blankets of varying levels of skill for the babies of friends, neighbors, and nieces.  I made an advent calendar that I love, even if it's slightly crooked.  I found fabric stores that sell fabric that I wish I could eat or inhabit because they are so beautiful. Recently, I am making a set of seasonal mini-quilts.  They are as fun to cut out as they are to sew.  When I'm done, I'll have one for spring, summer, autumn, winter and Halloween.  Just buying and deciding on fabric made me giddy.

So, if it isn't obvious: today I am grateful for sewing.  I am grateful for the patience my mom showed in teaching me the little I would allow her about sewing.  I am grateful for my old/new sewing table that Shane helped me fix up this summer so that I don't have to sew over the hump anymore.  I am grateful for all those nights when he went up to bed, leaving me to sew and listen to sports center (rude.  He did it on purpose, hoping it would make me come up to bed sooner. It didn't. But I always wondered why when I sewed late at night the TV was always on ESPN....)  I am grateful to my mom and my friends Shelly and Melanie and my sister Amy and my nieces Kayci and Lyndsay who talk to me about fleece and minkie and flannel and bindings and the merits of triangles versus squares.  I love seeing how we all sew but have found our own niche, our own way of making this hobby personal.

So, do you love to sew?  Do you cry like my sister (who, btw, is displaying a gorgeous quilt over on her blog today...go check it out!) did when she received her sewing machine because of the joy she felt at the future possibilities in that one machine?  Or do you want to cry from the tedium of quarter-inch seams and seam rippers and button holes? 

(And sorry to anyone who might love counted cross-stitch that I've offended - to each his own...I still love you, and I won't say anything rude about the unicorn hanging in your livingroom.)


Amy Sorensen said...

I quilted all day today. Will probably quilt all day tomorrow. I'm grateful for sewing,too!!!

I had forgotten Mom saying she'd swap fabric for food.

And hello: sometimes my machine makes me weep again. Only not the good tears! I love having a machine, and have all sorts of lovely memories with mine, but someday I want to upgrade to a big girl's sewing machine...

I'm quilting Nathan's quilt tomorrow and I am anxious. I really, really don't want to mess it up!

Apryl said...

I love sewing, but in a theoretical way (our childhood sewing lessons sound IDENTICAL. I remember starting an awesome hot-pink jumper for 4H that my mom ended up finishing in a fit of frustration. And I still didn't get a ribbon!) I love pretending I know what I'm doing when I sew. I have a "Balls To The Wall" crafting philosophy. It works out for me about 80% of the time...