December 18th, 2006



Gah. I hate sewing.

It goes all the way back to when I was 13 or 14, taking home ec in junior high. Even though all my girlfriends were in the class with me, and it was only for a term (we alternated to woodshop, which was okay...I made the cutest mouse-shaped cheeseboard for my mom which she still has, and then cooking class, which I also hated, but mostly because the teacher was so awful. She stood over your freshly baked and just-removed-from-the-oven brownies and scratched her dandruffy head RIGHT OVER THEM. *shudder*)

My sewing skills are only what you'd call serviceable. They certainly aren't PRETTY and I wouldn't offer them to anyone who didn't need just a button sewn back on or a seam whipped shut again. In 7th grade sewing class we had to make an apron if I remember correctly, and I probably don't since I've blocked out most of the trauma. Mine was offwhite, with a brown and orange (hurray for the 70s!) trim. I don't think I even finished it, although it might still be stuffed in the bottom of a bag somewhere in the back of one of my mom's closets.

In 9th grade, I was invited to homecoming by a very skinny curly-haired boy named Larry. I have only known 3 men named Larry in my life. None of them have made a very good impression. I said yes partly because I didn't know what else to say and partly because my girlfriends were all going and what if this was my only chance? And I made my dress. With a LOT of help from my mom. In fact, if memory serves, she pretty much finished the thing because god knows if I had been the one really responsible for it, I'd probably still be sewing now. I had only myself to blame for the pattern and the fabric, however. And the hair. OMG the hair! Pre-Barky horror! I remember the dress, but I have zero memories of that homecoming dance. And it was the only one I ever went to, so it seems a waste.

But my mom did manage to teach me the fastest, easiest way to thread a needle (I can thread a needle faster than just about anyone I know), and how to put quick knots into the end of the thread and how to sew through the ending loops to keep the end tight to the cloth instead of unraveling. I know the right way to put the needle in and under and through so that it comes sliding out right over the top (instead of under...ow!) of my thumbnail, but my stitches are messy and uneven since 1) I'm left-handed and it appears I'm actually sewing backwards somehow, and 2) I never practice because well, I HATE sewing. Even though I did crewel embroidery for years as a teenager, I outgrew the patience it requires and gave it up long ago.

People who sew, who quilt, who can run a sewing machine without ending up wrapped in a massive snarl of thread, are nothing short of amazing to me. I know it's an acquired skill like any other, but to actually do it because you like it? and do it well? Wow.

My mother-in-law sewed the curtains for all our bedrooms, the computer room, our kitchen and the playroom. She regularly sews little loops on jackets and hand towels for us, and has hemmed pants for me on request. As I stated above, the most I manage is returning buttons to their proper homes and occasionally fixing a seam. So I was a little daunted to be handed a treasure by my tearful daughter this evening. The penguin which she had SEWN HERSELF during daycare when she was 5 years old was coming apart at the seams...ALL OF THEM, and was in danger of losing both of his corduroy wings. "Hrm," I said, thinking uh oh, this one calls for farmor...when I looked up again and saw her sad face. "Okay honey," I soothed, "I'll fix it. Go back to bed."

Karin made the entire penguin herself, from scratch. She cut him out, stuffed him, sewed him up, added his blue cap and wings, sewed on a pocket and button eyes and button buttons. She cut out and sewed on a closeable orange beak. He has red stitching all the way around his body, big loopy stitches that are nonetheless sewn with obvious care and love.

So I sewed him up, using a thread that matched his body so you can't see MY stitches, only hers. I had to thread 3 needles to finish him up, all the way around, re-attaching his wings and tightening up all the seams. And then I knotted the last knot and cut the end off and went and tucked him into bed with her and smiled as her hand tightened around his cloth torso and her whole body relaxed. It was totally worth the three times I accidentally stabbed myself with the needle.

Cracking Me Up: Christmas with Clint