Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Slowly Sewing Insane

Growing up as an only child out in the country, I spent countless hours in the back bedroom of my paternal grandmother’s house (she was my closest neighbor) watching her pump away on her vintage Singer sewing machine. Unlike gardening, canning, barn painting, and tending to the chickens, sewing was a wintertime activity. The back bedroom closet was full of quilting squares, patterns, material, buttons, and batting.

Throughout her marriage, she sewed most of the family’s clothing. In addition to outfits for her three sons, she made house dresses and summer bonnets, dabbled in embroidery, repaired the floppy necks of teddy bears, mended and altered dresses, and once – her own skin after she cut her hand.

At least once a year, when her project outgrew the back bedroom, a wooden quilting frame was stretched across the living room where, during her free time between house chores, she’d meticulously mark and stitch her masterpiece. My younger cousin and I found this to be the most glorious fort and hiding place. Granny found it to be one of the most nerve-wracking times of the year. Between my grandfather’s nightly news and Wheel of Fortune TV time and our careless, grimy fingertips, the newborn pristine quilt was in a constant state of peril, and Granny didn’t forget it for a second. Yet, she was patient.

She was fastidious, certifiably tidy, and more than a little obsessive, but she was patient. And while I inherited her deep sense of satisfaction from a freshly scrubbed counter, a carefully organized cabinet, or a perfectly stacked pile of magazines, patience during sewing projects is one that passed me by. While I was busy sneaking her disappearing ink fabric pen and cutting my My Little Pony’s hair with her pinking shears, I should have been paying attention to exactly how she pulled all of this off. But alas, my sewing endeavors involve a great amount of cursing, the occasional throwing of objects, and a few secretive-as-I-can-manage temper tantrums. This is the world of The Angry Seamstress, where I learn to take deep breaths and manage my frustration along with how to do smocking and thread the machine without assistance.

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