Sew Sew Sew…Many failures (Part 1)

Inevitably this is how a ‘creative’ day gets started in my house.  After being awoken by outside forces (kids, alarm, husband, birds chirping, sun shining through the window…what have you), followed by tiny encounters that show life (and kids, husband, neighborhood birds…ect) have their own intensions for your time, talents and usefulness; a brilliant idea creeps into the head to make something. Oh yes… I’m gonna make some that I can control. I can create it in my own form, with my own skills, in my own method and I will have this lovely little product when I am done to show for my blood sweat and tears.  Sound familiar?

So I try to satisfy this deep urge for control and creativity by occasionally sewing (duct taping at times) my way through a project. A math & economics girl needs her outlets… But just to be clear, I am not one to post to a pinterest page and have perfect outcomes. My work is messy…It shouldn’t be photoed…It probably should’t be worn in public (but we do…bless our hearts)…It also probably shouldn’t be given as gifts (but I do sometimes…bless their hearts for still being my friends).  But it’s funny, it’s really hard to find a lot of sewing enthusiasts on the internet who admit their struggles on the path to their photo captured perfectionism.  Why don’t we capture the realistic attempts too?

My mom gave me my first sewing machine in college…It had belonged to my great aunt and was an old antique singer sewing machine that was encased in a wooden table with the original wrought iron foot pedal.  I was totally desperate for furniture as I had moved into this massive old, house that held 13 of us girls across rooms and balconies that we loved.  The house was totally falling apart, dark, hot, smelled kinda like moth balls and creaked. We all had fun trying to cram in sofas and tables passed down from our parents where ever could as we felt a ‘fluffing’ duty as women even back then.  Unfortunately, when I graduated, most all of the furniture was in such disrepair (13 girls, 1 house, college, parties…you understand) that it was not worth taking back and it was lovingly ‘donated’ to the house…including the sewing machine.  I see these same sewing machines in antique stores now. For a while they fetched a fair price but now it seems like they are out of favor.  Anyway, that sewing machine was never used other than a table to play beer-pong on.

My mom, still not discouraged to help me pursue my creative passions bought me a new one when my newlywed husband and I bought our first house in 2007 (yeah at the housing peak! and yes I previously worked on Wall Street and at Standard and Poors and was still suckered…but that’s another failure story).  Opening the box, my eye’s twinkled with the thoughts of crafting curtains and pillows to make my house the cutest little thing that I (or anyone else) had ever seen.  I struck out to the local fabric stores and outlets and purchased several hundred dollars worth of fabric, which for me at the time was a lot.  You Tube was not as ‘how to friendly’ back then so I bought books from Barnes and Noble (oh yes, like I walked into the store and bought a physical book that didn’t arrive to me via amazon) and I studied up.

As privacy was our top concern with a first floor bedroom that faced the street curtains were up first.  Have you ever looked at a curtain? Have you ever looked at raw fabric off a spool…I’ll give you a hint, they kinda look the same. A big a** rectangle. So how hard could it be? If there was a way to mess it up, basically I did it.

  • I sewed curtain panels inside out
  • In sewing curtains for a window you have 2 sides, I sewed one curtain side with the print facing up and the other facing down
  • I hemmed them completely differently so that one curtain side was multiple inches (maybe even feet) above the baseboard and the other was a puddle of excess fabric
  • In trying to save and utilize every inch of expensive fabric I adjoined totally different patterns in the hope no one would notice
  • I’ve broke off countless metal needles, twisted up thread, had uneven sew lines, wrinkles, gaps, puffs…ect

My list could continue, but basically I would just miss-measure, miss-cut, miss-sew EVERYTHING.  That seam ripper and I became and still are to this very day, the best of friends.  A seam ripper is a tool that looks like a fishing spear miniaturized and as if it could be used to perform an at-home lobotomy.  It is a pain-staking process to rip out a line of stitches with that thing especially when it’s on an 8 ft curtain panel.  An at home lobotomy could have come in handy many times over years of projects to stop the frustration.  Eventually my mother-in-law (a very good sewer) who lived in our same town came over and pretty much helped me to redo most of them so they could physically be hung and serve their purpose. A little embarrassing, but I was grateful for the help to ‘achieve the look’ (a silly rectangle) that I was going for.

So why do I still sew? I clearly am not very good at it, my outcomes are often pretty shabby (not in a chic way).  I dunno.  I think it’s kinda like golf for some folks. It’s hard, challenging to do well and consistently…you need to practice.   I have gotten better, but am still not yet internet good, and I probably will never be.  But that is ok.  The challenge is what I seem to like.  Doing stuff that is easy is kinda boring.  I guess that is why I have so many failure stories. I really don’t know if it is a good way of thinking about this, but I hope trying new and difficult things will lead to new learning and keep any ‘I nailed it!’ ego thoughts at bay.  I also like that I have a physical product of what my learning was.  I love books, podcasts, EdX & Coursera sites but it mostly just goes into a void in my head (sometimes…a very unreachable void).  I often take notes on books I read and am one of those weird middle age persons who still has college notebooks.  I think it is to have some physical product of what I did so even if I don’t sew straight or remember my differential equations I have a new throw pillow or a notebook that shows I spent time doing it once.

That effort counts for something, even if it is just a lop-sided neckline or badly hemmed jeans.




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