Tuesday, May 26, 2009

That's one small library tote for Sara, one giant leap for Mamakind

You have to understand where I'm coming from: My mom? Not a domestic diva. She could sew a button on Dad's pants when under extreme duress, but that was about it. Anything "fancy" -- like hemming pants, let's say? -- required a trip to the tailor on Broad Ripple Avenue. (Who, I swear, is the same first-generation American tailor wearing the same sandals with the same white socks today, just like he did when I was a kid. Ah, consistency.)

So it's not like she taught me the ins & outs of sewing. We didn't have a sewing machine to be sure. And my few encounters with the sewing nazis at Joann's didn't exactly give me a warm fuzzy feeling about taking it up as a new hobby. In fact, even friends and family members that I had observed in action seemed to morph into something a little less than "exuberant" when I watched them put their Singers into action.

Still, I am particular enough, and creative enough, and cheap enough that I decided that I needed to learn how to sew. For real. My sister got me a sewing machine two Christmases ago, and I was very excited about. Then I found excuses (some of them actually valid) not to pull it out. The thing seemed ironic in every way: archaic, yet mechanically beyond my mental grasp; freeing, yet paralyzing; full of potential, yet fruitless without me doing... something.

So one day I threw caution to the wind and pulled it out. I spent an hour just working up the courage to turn the blessed thing on. And then?

Then I jammed it.

My first "project" was to make some placemats for Sara - because if there is one thing I feel strongly about, it is providing my child with seasonally-appropriate placemats. So I cobbled together two of them: a red one for Valentine's Day and a green Snoopy one for St. Patrick's Day. I didn't actually measure, or bother to cut straight lines -- and it showed -- but at the end of the evening I had produced two functional, if not fashionable, seasonal placemats for my three-year-old.

And this is the point in the story where you learn about my tendency to exercise poor judgement while basking in the glow of minor victories. Thinking I had made it over the learning-to-sew hump I decided I could make a simple denim jumper for Sara. The pattern said "VERY EASY," after all. How hard could it be?

Turns out, very hard. At least when you don't know what you're doing. I should have put the fabric back when I realized I didn't understand how much I was supposed to buy (ah, the lure of the fabric.... but that's another post). As luck would have it, that day I happened to meet the only pleasant sewing lady on the north side of Indianapolis*. She didn't snarl at me when I asked her if she could cut fabric for me, and despite my absolute certainty that she would sneer, like all the others before her, when I admitted that I was little more than an amateur she was actually helpful. Helpful!

Too bad she wasn't so helpful as to come back to my house and walk me through that blasted jumper because making it was, shall we say, treacherous. Sara wore it once (yes once!), so the week I spent making it wasn't a complete waste. (But mostly.)

This little reality check slowed me down quite a bit. The sewing machine seemed to mock me from the corner, knowing as well as I did that I really wasn't worthy. It sat, unused, for weeks on end. Eventually Rob took it back to our house where it sat perched atop an old loo gathering dust. At least I felt like I was having the last metaphorical laugh.

But eventually the bug bit again. Sara's doll cradle needed a new matress and I decided that if I couldn't sew something acceptable to a three-year-old then I shouldn't sew anything at all. And so I did. And she loved it.

Stoked by this apparent turning of the tide, I dared to imagine other small projects: Blankets for her baby dolls. Maybe a pillow for the cradle. Maybe...

A tote bag.

And then we took this wonderful trip to the library, and I knew it would happen. Because my kid? She had to have a book bag. A cute one, too.

So I scoured the internets for the perfect (read: simple) pattern, something cute and not too boring but one that wouldn't cast me into a pit of despair like the demon jumper before it. Two weeks later, I found it: The Pink October.

God bless Dianne Hadaway and her site for sharing this pattern -- along with simple, illustrated instructions (and a tutorial on boxed corners!) -- with the masses. After I read through the directions three times, stepped away for a couple of days, read them again, slept on it, had a strong cup of coffee, and read them again, I felt ready.**

Eight hours later?

Sara's library tote. With a pocket! And a coordinating fabric to line it! I lined something! And just to prove that it all was, indeed, meant to be, the child loves it. LOVES. IT. And it fits her books perfectly -- just big enough that it holds her Stella and Clifford books while still being manageable when full.

Ah, sewing machine. I am still not your match. You have settings I can only dream of using and your bobbin still vexes me. But I'm not through with you yet.

I'll be back.


Yes, I know the Dora undershirt is ridiculously small. I'll let you take it up with her next time she insists on wearing it.


*OK technically, Carmel. Which is counter-intuitive but a fact nonetheless.

**This should in no way imply that Dianne's instructions were inadequate, incomplete or poorly written; instead this should absolutely imply that the reader of said instructions (me) was incompetent.

1 comment:

Amy H said...

You ROCK! Check out this tote! I love it. I want one too. My knitting would look so cool with something like this :)