Friday, January 09, 2009

The Sewing Backstory

Lindsay asked What's Your Sewing Backstory? yesterday, so I thought that was worth a post...'specially since I'm having problems getting to my cutting board this week. ;)

She's got a poll up, too, on which we can indicate who our sewing teachers/influences were. I checked two...'Mother' and 'Self-Taught'. Mom got me started by explaining what I had to do to make an apron, a plaid skirt and a dress, in that order, for my first three years of 4-H. After that, I could read a pattern guide and I was pretty much off on my own. I made the dress for the first day of 8th grade and sewed a good deal for my wardrobe after that. I could buy poly crepe double knit really cheap at the local Ben Franklin (back in that day it was more like a Wal-Mart than a Hobby Lobby) and sew and sew.

When I was in 10th grade I caught the 'wardrobe' notion, and, with a goodly length of blue crepe poly doubleknit and a coordinating blue-and-white poly doubleknit, I made what was very nearly a SWAP wardrobe:

1 Blue crepe jacket (um, with short, puffy sleeves and large rounded *was* 1974) (note to self: look around on the vintage pattern sites and see if you can find this jacket)

1 Blue 4-gore skirt

1 Blue/white houndstooth 4-gore skirt

1 Blue/white back-zip straight leg pants

1 reversible vest: Blue crepe on one side and the blue/white houndstooth on the other.

I added two rib knit turtleneck bodysuits from the JC Penny in white, one in navy...and considered myself pretty snazzy.

It's probably a good thing I lived in rural Indiana, where fashion was something people did Somewhere Else.

I had a bit of a pause the year I went off to college and the first six months or so after I got married, because I didn't have access to a sewing machine. But the first Christmas My Sweet Baboo and I were married, I received a check from my mom and dad and promptly used it to purchase a basic Kenmore sewing machine.

And I've never really stopped sewing; puttering along at the 4-H red-ribbon-level for years and dealing w/fit issues as they arrived (see The Evolution of Fit for that story...). It wasn't until I turned 30 that I really started to consider improving my technique.

I had kind of an identity crisis that year, thinking I needed to be, um, 'grown up' but not feeling like I was (Not sure I am now, for that matter, but that's another topic altogether). In my pursuit of a responsible adult mindset, I read several books, including Anne Ortlund's Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman. I did have some attitude changes as a result of reading that, but one of the things she said is that everyone needs to have some area of expertise...and she challenged her reader to pick one area and pursue it.

The area I picked was sewing and I subscribed to Sew News magazine...which led to a Threads subscription and a Fashion Fabrics Club membership (which was the beginnings of my stash)...which led, when we got online, to discovering independent patterns at now-long-gone, which led to writing reviews for PR has *forced* me to improve my techniques, both in construction and fitting, because, hey, people who sew are looking at those photos!

And, because I had been working on fitting and construction, when a need arose to make costumes for church I volunteered to help out and now I'm the *ahem* 'chief costume curator'.

But there was a couple of times when I almost gave it up. One was due to lack of space to sew; I don't know if I would've quit altogether or just put things away until I had a space, but, well, desperation leads to unique solutions and I moved the sewing to the garage and was glad to have some dedicated space that was out of sight. But the other time was an almost sell it/give it away moment.

I'll try to describe what it was; I don't know if everyone will understand or not.

After The Flute Player was born, I was sewing a lot. The magazine articles were inspiring me to not just sew clothes I needed, but to do some artistic exploration as well, and it was taking up a lot of time. I began to feel guilty about all the time I was spending on sewing, wondering if it could be spent in a way that would be more of a benefit spiritually in my life and in the lives of others. An old religious notion that if you enjoy something, it's selfish to do it much. It took a personal revelation for me to understand that God gives joy, not takes it and I saw that I didn't have to give up my sewing.

Five or six years later, as I was sewing furiously for yet another church drama production, it hit me that if I had given up sewing back when I was having the guilt trip, I would not have been able to serve in that manner. Food for thought... ;)


  1. Very interesting back story - thank you for sharing! It is cool how your joy has also turned into your service. :)

  2. Very interesting. It's amazing to think that you almost missed be such a blessing to others through your ministry of sewing. I've been having some similar thoughts recently, but I've come to the the conclusion that God wouldn't have given me the passion or talent without Him wanting me to use it, if only to be a blessing to my family and probably a warning to others!

  3. I love this whole topic of back story. Your sewing is an inspiration to a lot of us. Glad you posted.

  4. Hey, I enjoyed reading your back story! Glad you took the time to write this post.

  5. I enjoyed reading your backstory a lot. My grandma gave me a sewing machine for a wedding present, and it has always been my favorite power tool! It's funny that, as clothes (not necessarily good clothes), got to be less and less expensive, sewing became a different kind of expression.