My Adventure into the Great Unsewn

Becoming the consummate housewife was never a priority. Never in my life have I felt the urge to channel June Cleaver or buy a subscription to Good Housekeeping or Better Homes and Gardens. I’m not negating the significance of the domesticated Goddess,  as mother and/or female head of household, I’m just stating a true fact about myself. I am not a picture of domestication.

I didn’t learn to cook anything beyond scrambled eggs or microwavable chicken patties until I was 30. Hey, as long as I had a working coffee pot, toaster, and microwave, I could survive. And, I was in my mid-30s before I was asked to bring more than just the beer and ice to holiday gatherings. My flames of desire to cook were not stoked until I married my husband (at the age of 33) and soon after came to the realization that my sister need not carry the torch of my mother’s recipes all alone. But, while I’ve learned and now love to cook, as it allows me to create, rekindle childhood memories, plus it can be inexpensive type of therapy, I’ve yet to yearn to sew.

My sister is the mad seamstress of the family, creating wool capes and flimsy halter tops back in her 20s, even the white dress she wore as a candidate for Tournament Queen, to decades of Halloween costumes for her family.

I can’t even sew on a button properly. My attempts at mending a pair of pants or coat by replacing one button have resulted in crooked, gaping closures, where the button is sewn too far to the left or right of the buttonhole, or the article of clothing jettisons the button just moments later. And, don’t ask me to hem pants. Once, I took three pairs of pants to a neighbor lady to have them hemmed and she charged me a pittance, I’m sure out of pity. What grown woman cannot hem a pair of pants? That would be me.

I recognized the sewing gig was not for me during Home Economics class while I was in middle school. The only two things I vividly remember from that class are scrambled eggs and an ugly, brown tote bag. Each of us needed to cook a meal as an assignment, so breakfast seemed easy enough. My partner and I followed the directions for “Perfect Scramble Eggs” and melted a few slices of cheese over the finished product, completing the presentation with two slices of toast. A+. Those scrambled eggs with cheese became a staple of my twenties, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The creating of the tote bag, however, did not supply me with any domestic survival skills. It was the exact opposite, as I swore to never thread a needle or sew again after failing to keep the fabric taut, quickly learning fast acceleration is not the same with a sewing machine, and having to use the seam ripper after every attempt. The seams were crooked, the two handles of slightly different lengths, and the red and white mushroom transfer (hey, it was the seventies) was slightly crinkled. I received my first “C” on the finished product, although it functioned well enough for me to cram notebooks and various single sheets of notebook paper into it on the last day of school and lug it all home. After its one and only job, I’m not sure what happened to the bag, possibly it is still hidden away in my parent’s basement amidst other firsts, like my kindergarten watercolor painting and the wooden race car I painstakingly smoothed to a fine finish during Shop class.

So, why in the world at 49 years of age would I think I could take on the task of sewing curtains and cushions for our 1968 Shasta camper? Where did this moment of weakness come from? I’m willing to pay people to sew on buttons and other minimal alterations, even willing to buy a new coat rather than replace buttons, so when I stated I was going to create the cool curtains and equally cool cushions for our camper, no one was more surprised than me. It might have been the fact I “made the call” on Facebook, you know, the status where you inquire who has the best deals on vintage camper accessories, where to go for the best sushi, who is the best seamstress in town. Comments were made by friends and family sharing of their own experiences creating curtains for children’s bedrooms, campers, etc. So, when the comments turned to suggestions that I could easily make the curtains and cushions for our camper, I found myself inspired by the notion of venturing into the unknown and tackling that old nemesis, sewing.

I borrowed a Dressmaker sewing machine from friends who are camping enthusiasts and whom bought said machine specifically for their own camper creations. I downloaded Sewing for Dummies, made a list of the recommended sewing tools and waded through torrential rain to fill my blue basket at Hobby Lobby. And have spent this rainy Memorial Day weekend watching Sewing for Beginners, How to Thread a Sewing Machine, and How to Load a Bobbin, videos on YouTube. This morning, I spent an hour reviewing the funny, pink toy-like machine, figuring out how to set the tension, where to replace the needle, and how to load a front load bobbin.

Am I ready? Well, I’m not sure. I know what lies ahead are a few hours of practice on scrap fabric, some nervous tension as I begin the actual project, and a whole lot of cursing followed by a beer break, or two. I thought it might help if I blogged about the task, since writing helps me analyze situations and serves as creative arts therapy during difficult times. This is definitely going to be one of those difficult times, but I’m hopeful I will conquer my sewing fears and find some enjoyment in learning a new avenue of creativity. Plus, I’ve got my eye on a pattern for a really cool wool cape when autumn approaches. Forever the optimist.

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