Just after Christmas I was in Target looking for a new phone. We’re experiencing something of a total electronics breakdown at LivingSmall — the TV (a future blog topic), the phone, the move to the new blog — it’s been a month of wrestling with technology. Anyhow, as I was wandering through Target I came around an end cap and found this, the perfect sewing machine.
This is the sewing machine of my childhood — the basic Singer we all learned to sew on. It goes forward, backward, zigzags and makes buttonholes (which actually, I don’t think my Mom’s sewing machine did). What it doesn‘t have is just as important: it doesn’t have 200 stitches, it doesn’t have a computer chip, it doesn’t have a gazillion features I don’t need. And it was only $69.00! LivingSmall is back on track. I can make stuff now — curtains and tablecloths and the Mighty Hunter’s son needs a new duvet cover, which should be a cinch (and will give me a chance to try that buttonhole feature). I also have a really simple pair of pants I bought from a catalog that I love, but they’ve worn out in the seat — plus, I always thought they were too expensive for what they are — simple pants with an elastic waist. I’m planning to tear them apart and use the old pair for a pattern. I also bought Sew What! Skirts: 16 Simple Styles You Can Make with Fabulous Fabrics so I can learn how to copy a couple of skirts I already have.
This piece in this morning’s New York Times got me thinking about sewing, and how no one learns to sew anymore. Do they even still teach Home EC? Home EC was useful even if we did sneer at the time — but we were middle-schoolers, we sneered at everything. Although my mom sewed fairly often, especially if I needed an outfit for a fancy party when we were broke, I really learned to sew from Susie Kennedy, whose dad was my dad’s fishing guide, and who used to babysit us sometimes. I remember one hot Labor Day weekend when we were staying with Susie, and I was making a little jumper to wear to school. Susie learned to sew from her mother Apryl, and that hot weekend she made me rip out seam after seam until I got it right. I can still see that dark blue and red plaid wool, and the way the fabric got a little more frayed every time. But eventually I got a seam straight enough to satisfy her. Anyone I know who sews has that memory, being made to rip out seams until they were right. It’s one of those elemental lessons of childhood, that you have to keep at it until it’s right. And that even though you’re a kid, you can get it right. You can make something. You can make something all by yourself.
I think it’s why I’ve so come to love cooking and gardening and knitting (even though I’m still working on the same sweater I’ve been working on for 3 years) and sewing. I like making things. I like that if you grow it or make it yourself it’s not the same as everyone elses. It’s yours.