Learning to sew… again

For Christmas, Justin likes to think he got me a sewing machine. I like to think he got *us* a sewing machine. He has a lot of ideas for things he wants made. I have a lot of ideas for things I want to do other than sew. 😉

The Lorne Michaels of our new design empire? Not if I can help it.

I took 4-H projects to the fair each year, from third through 12th grade. Among my greatest hits: A red daisy pique print dress for Joyful Jumper (my favorite), a boxy coat with faux fur trim for Outerwear that I was super proud of until a classmate asked me if it was chinchilla (probably not as a compliment), to a green book bag for Learning to Sew (it was fly as fuck and totally unusable).

My great aunt Alice taught me how to sew, and spending time with her was always my favorite part of the whole “sewing” experience. She was so kind to me and my siblings and she always had butter pecan ice cream and, because she worked as an elementary school secretary, greasy school sheet pizza on tap.

Mostly though, I found sewing to be completely tedious, unnecessary and stressful. I know that the purpose of these projects is to teach children skill sets we can use in case we don’t survive the Rapture, but also so we learn the value of hard work, commitment, patience, etc etc. Knowing you can make something you need for survival is, indeed, confidence-building.

There’s no doubt it taught me all the intended intangible lessons, for which I am eternally grateful. I’ve donated scholarship $ to my former 4-H program so kids can go to camp. The memories my brain’s retained of 4-H are absolutely glowing.

NEVERTHELESS, I practically had a panic attack when Justin happily pulled out a seam ripper while showing me his “supplies.” Sewing takes So. Much. Time. And then when you fuck up and have to take something out? Nope.

Its tedium, I imagine, is only enhanced by the post-Dial Up speed of life that’s now firmly rooted in my expectations of how activities work.

I’m certainly overconfident in my abilities to still sew or generally be crafty, though. This has led to problems before: I think I can do more than I can and always overestimate my diligence for seeing a craft project to completion. For example, I “designed” my homecoming dress in ninth grade, which means I bought a $10 dress from who knows where and began hand sewing on little rosebuds I got at Jo-Ann Fabrics. Eventually I got tired of sewing these on, likely after one, and began hot glue-gunning them all over the dress.

The dress ended up looking like a Pepto Bismol bottle with puss-leaking pimples.

And that, my friends, is but one painful anecdote of how I learned that clothes do not a person make… and also how to be fly as fuck even as everyone else is giving you the “wtf are you wearing” side eye. YOU GOTTA BELIEVE IN YOURSELF BEFORE ANYONE ELSE DOES, BECKY.

In the lonely months between college graduation and making friends in my new city, I tried my hand again at crafting. I didn’t sew this time, but instead, taught myself how to crochet.

Oh yes. I learned how to crochet. I can certainly “crochet.” What I did not learn is how to count stitches, follow a pattern or make something that looks remotely like a something.

The uneven, jagged, janky crocheted scarf I made? I rocked it like a rockstar straight out of a Seussian metropoli.

So when Justin gifted me a new sewing machine, I approached it with my traditional crafting prowess: A unique blend of shutting-down-now, avoidant trepidation and Trumpian overconfidence. “Pffft I could make you a fully lined fur coat in, like, a day. As soon as I count how many sands of spices we have in each spice bottle of our soon-to-be-alphabetized spice rack.”

By Jan. 1 we were “sewing.” Justin had deconstructed a few button-down shirts he found at a thrift store, custom-ordered zippers and cut collars and pockets from some old Izods, to be added to the deconstructed button-down for some pattern contrast.

He handed it all off to me.

<here is where I roll my eyes>

To his credit, his designs are really cool. And he did *try* pinning on the new zipper, pockets and collar. In the meantime, I checked the freezer: No butter pecan ice cream or greasy sheet pizza; coping mechanisms unavailable, left eye beginning to twitch.

First, we had to set up the machine.

“All the reviews online said this is the easiest machine to set up. Some people who had never sewn before said they were making pillows the same day they got the machine.” – Justin

“Dude, I know, but like… It’s not that easy. There are bobbins we have to thread and you want a zipper added and usually you need a zipper foot for that and I don’t even know what these buttons mean and what are these numbers on the screen and DEAR GOD THERE IS NO REVERSE LEVEL HOW ARE WE GOING TO REVERSE STITCH THIS IS JUNKALAL;KSDFJL;SDJFL;AKSDFJ” – Me

Five minutes later, with a brown paper bag for breathing hand-stitched to either side of my mouth, I sat back down at the machine.

Here’s what they don’t tell you in the reviews:

Hey, kids who learned how to sew on machines of the 1990s! It’s all computerized now! Sewing machine technology has not been living under a rock as you may have assumed, safe in your shoddily built Forever 21 glass house!

The bobbin drops right into place and you don’t have to worry about threading up through the plate. The needle–GET FUCKING THIS–threads itself. The reverse lever is now a button. There’s also a button to put the needle down so you don’t have to turn the little wheel thingy on the side of the thingy to make sure you don’t lose your place and have to redo the entire thing and delay going outside to play softball like all the other “normal” kids on summer break.


Following these revelations (as well as the revelation that I didn’t need to figure out how to swap in a zipper foot because of his shirt design) I actually *enjoyed* sewing the shirts.

“Look at this! Try this on!” – Me, blood in my teeth, crazy in my eyes, new fashion design career on my mind

The exaltations were short lived, though. By the end of sewing his second shirt I was over it, thus proving my ability to breath deep and zen out has improved, but sewing still ain’t my style.

That is, unless it’s something for myself and/or loved ones’ survival in the nuclear apocalypse. Some things never change, like my inherent selfishness.

The next day we went to Jo-Ann Fabrics. I got some new thread of my embroidery artwork (one crafty thing I seem to do competently and excitedly, probably because rules are their ain’t no rules). Justin got some new thread.

Dog PJs. Hell no.

I got some Easy-Sew patterns for skirts. Justin oogled some needle-breakinginly-thick burgundy faux fur material.

Upon witnessing that last sight/ my fate, we sat right back down at the pattern table.

I showed Justin how to look through the pattern books, how to find his size, where to locate the patterns and how to see if he needs zippers, buttons or other notions. I explained how he’d have to get outer shell material as well as material for the lining and that coat patterns typically call for thread made with the golden tears of virgin fairies, which you have to also make yourself.

I think he’s still excited about it? I am. Teach a man to fish, sure. Next we can teach a man to make his own crazy style dreams come true.

Best. Gift. Ever.

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