February 28, 2010

My Mount Everest (well, one of 'em)

Like many of you, I grew up as the daughter of a very talented mother. She could sing, dance, cook, bake, play multiple instruments, sew clothes for her family, earn money from home, chauffeur, direct a choir, teach little kids, and my siblings and I were particularly proud that she could eat breakfast AND nurse a baby while driving the kids to early morning seminary... in a stickshift.

As the 6th of 10 kids, I didn't get to benefit from any of my mom's signature hand-made clothing (showers and laundry were more of a priority), so I really didn't have any idea about how good she is with a sewing machine. I spent many a Saturday over at my friend Shannon's house, whose mother is an interior designer and decorator and therefore had a workroom with a half dozen different sewing machines that rivaled the local downtown LA sweatshop. Shannon, being the fearless talent that she is, learned to sew on them from a young age and intimidated me with her mad scrunchy-making skillz. I remember being crazy jealous at the time, but didn't act positively to my jealousy until I was about 14. I told my mom I wanted to make a pair of pajama pants - a project I decided on because I figured if they didn't turn out well, I was only wearing them to bed anyway. So we bought a pattern and thread and she helped me begin. In my naivete, however, I didn't realize how difficult it would be to begin sewing on a knit, and to begin with a pair of pants, even if they did have an elastic waist. The result before I even got to the waistband was a pair of "pants" that MAYBE a human-sized penguin could wear, but would probably be very embarrassed. I didn't know what happened! But in my frustration and embarrassment, I threw the whole thing away and didn't look at another sewing machine until I was much older.

Fast forward to a post-mission love affair and suddenly I wanted to make a sassy patchwork quilt for a boy. Love makes you do crazy things. Like revisit a black spot from your past. Well, by golly, the quilt turned out just like I wanted it, so I started to teach myself how to make pillows to match it - with my own piping! I had no idea at the time that I was making progress because I sure did break a lot of needles.

Rather than jumping off from that point, the boy and I broke up before I had a chance to give him the goods, so I kept them for myself and to this day, they adorn our guest bed in what Ted likes to call my "boudoir". With the boy gone, and me back at college and without access to Mom's machine (and never thinking to ever ask or save for one), sewing went by the wayside, and after several years, I began to be in awe of others' talents and claim I didn't have any sewing know-how to speak of. Yes, I am the epitome of burying one's talents.

Then our move to NC with a 6 month-old meant I became a stay-at-home mom, and I spent her naptimes (and much of what should have been my own sleep time) FINALLY reading one of the several thousand crafty blogs out in cyberworld. This particular one belonged to a girl I knew in my old ward but was afraid to get to know better because I was so intimidated by her many talents and personality traits. At the time, I remember wanting to be just like her (a common feeling for me regarding many people who excel in areas I don't...yet) but didn't know where to start. It took me a few weeks, but I read that blog from beginning to end, and with such a concentration of creativity and goodness, I was inspired to get over my sewing fears, stop telling myself I didn't know how, and deal with any discouragement or disappointment along the way.

It all began when we were having a meeting with all the leaders of our church's girls' group. We were planning a Halloween activity that required some "gunny sacks" to be sewn out of thick fabric, and none of the four leaders piped up. I sheepishly volunteered, but said I didn't have a machine (thinking that would get me off the hook). No dice. Another leader had a machine, but didn't know how to use it. Turns out the other three had less experience with a sewing machine than I did, and that ain't sayin' much.

I made six gunny sacks, showed up with them all cute and what-not to the activity, then during the first race, two of them popped open at the bottom, allowing huge feet to sprout forth. I was SO disappointed. I wouldn't allow them to go into storage at the end of the activity until I fixed them, so I took them home and reinforced the bottoms of ALL the sacks. We'll see if they work next year.

After that debacle and the fixing of it (I hope), I decided to revisit this sewing business for good. Basically, I told myself "there's absolutely NO reason why I can't do this. It's a learnable skill, I am a learned person, and I even taught others how to learn, so I can teach myself this." I borrowed books from the library on the subject, visited a fabric store or two, found a pattern I loved for Tessa and made sure it had the word "Easy!" plastered somewhere on it, and proceeded. I laugh at myself when I think I brought the pattern and pieces of the dress to various church activities over the next few weeks to try and corner anyone I knew who could interpret the hieroglyphics that is a sewing pattern. Pockets, bias tape, zippers - what the F? But I did it. I didn't give up - I conquered my mountain. And here is the fruit of my labors.

Tessa opened it up on Christmas morning in front of my family, and the people who were most proud were my mom and my used-to-make-a-living-as-a-seamstress sister-in-law. I'm going to pretend it's Tessa's favorite thing to wear.


The Hyer Family said...

Jealous? Of my sewing skills? You're kidding right? The things we find out later in life--the truth of the matter is I can hardly thread the machine...it's on my list of things to learn to do--you kicked some major backside with that dress...and she's as cute as ever. Good job girl.

Jean said...

Oh. My. Gosh. GREAT JOB!!!!! You totally did it!!! Sewing scares me. I used to love it in my middle school home economics class, but that was when I had a skilled instructor hovering over me the entire time and answering every single question I had. :-)

This is Carrie said...

You are so sweet! I would happily trade some of my sewing talent for some of your singing talent. In my dreams I have a voice like yours that people actually love to listen to.

As for your sewing accomplishment--I am so proud. What a cute dress for an even cuter little girl. Keep on sewing you'll definitely have more frustrations and mistakes, but that's how you learn.

I tell people all the time-- the reason I know how to sew things right is because i've already sewed it wrong three other times.

La La Land said...

I love this post for so many reasons.
1. Well done! The dress is perfect for such a little cutie.
2. I love that Shannon sewed her own scrunchies. I did as well, and am sorry to report that that is as far as my sewing skills advanced for a long time.
3. There is something about having a girl that just makes you want to create cuteness for them.
4. I love that Carrie graced you with her presence, left a comment, and even gave you (and all of us amateur sewers) such great advice. Love her. And love you.

peter5 said...

I have a similar sewing past. Imagine your brothers friend asking you to sew her bridesmaid dress, and then actually agreeing to it. Good thing she was laid back, I think the hem was taped with masking tape or staples. YIKES. I am in awe of your mom's talents too. I add to what you said the ability to drive a 15 passenger van in and out of spaces a vw beetle would think twice about. Had me some life flashes then. love ya! good job

dana said...

turned out fab! Great job lady!

Emily S said...

No need to pretend. She told me on Sunday she wished she was wearing it. And now I know the story behind that gloriously pillowed bed - you sewing talent, you!

sachia said...

Oh honey, you are simply fabulous I love the dress, keep sewing please. If you keep it up maybe I will get slightly jealous and try to sew myself into a sleeping bag that will not open....ever.

Violadiva said...

I know if that dress were mine, I'd never want to take it off either! :)

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