Thursday, September 6, 2007

the sewing machine

Ok...I have a list, kinda.

I am, after all, a great believer in the power of lists. Everything seems a bit easier when you have a list to work from. Lists, or rather the "checking off" of each bullet, can also instill a great sense of accomplishment.

It's a shame that, often, the very task of committing a list to paper is so daunting.

At the moment I have a pretty decent list (in my head anyway) of the various pieces of clutter around here that MUST go with me when I head north...

My sewing machine and sewing basket is on the top of that list. Funny thing is, as much as I've always wanted to make quilts, Christmas stockings, curtains and such, I've never really done a lot of sewing even though I've owned a sewing machine for almost five years.

I used to watch my granny sew on a machine, but I never really learned how to operate one. I also have very fond memories of cold winter mornings spent in front of a woodstove with an elderly neighbor as she quilted, sharing her stories with me as I waited for the school bus.

But it was the ratty old blanket of an ex-boyfriend that really taught me the basics. His great grandmother had made it for him when he was just a child, but after years of wear and wash, her hand-stitching had become badly deteriorated. A heavy panel, backed in soft brown cotton and topped with a patchwork hodgepodge of cotton fabric, it was the most comfortable blanket I've ever slept under. No matter what the season, that blanket was always enough to keep you warm and never too much to make you hot. It could cure insomnia, ease a broken heart and sometimes I even thought it did amazing battle against cold and the flu.

But that damn blanket was falling apart! I would wake in the night, startled by my foot becoming trapped, having become hopelessly entangled in the torn and ripped fabric of the quilted top (which was actually the side you wanted touching you as it always seemed cooling, soothing against your skin). Sometimes, as you struggled to make the blanket envelope two people, you heard the sickening rip as more stitches gave way, or the fibers of the fabric holding them begrudgingly let them go, too weakened with age to put up much of a fight. We pulled scraps of fabric from the washing machine the one time I insisted on washing it.

Someone had to save the blanket. So I dug around in the closet and found the small plastic box filled with the needle and thread of my junior high cross-stitch days. (See, being a pack rat DOES come in handy!) My fingers soon remembered the soothing, repetitive poke, slide, poke, pull motion and I began flying through small, evenly spaced stitches. They were even almost, kind of, in a straight line.

The more I stitched the more the old stitches ripped in the night. I couldn't keep up with the unraveling.

So I went to Sears and bought myself a cheap Singer sewing machine, referring to it as a Mother's Day gift to myself. I brought it home, pretty proud of the fact that I actually owned a sewing machine...I just needed to figure out how to use the damn thing! After referring to the diagram in the manual countless times, quite a bit of cussing and trying to hold my mouth just right, and two phone calls to my grandmother, I finally rejoiced in a properly threaded needle and my first successful practice run using two pieces of scrap material!

I can do this, bring me that blanket!

I thought he was going to cry when he saw me take the scissors to a small section of the brightly colored patchwork.

I spent hours on end at the kitchen table using that sewing machine to piece that jigsaw puzzle back together, adding new scraps of soft cotton fabric when necessary. I took that patchwork top apart section by section, salvaging as much of the original material as I could. (Incidentally, since she too was a pack rat, my ex's mom was able to provide the "new" material from her basement.)

Within a month, the old blanket was in one piece and even survived the washing machine. I felt such pride in my handiwork, but bemoaned the tiny spot where I misjudged a measurement, resulting in a little "knot" of fabric at one seam.

I haven't used the sewing machine since then. We broke up a few months later, having waited three years longer than we should have to do it, but the next time I got sick, he brought the blanket for me to use.

Damn I miss that blanket!

(Ok, I admit it, I did squirrel away a few small scraps of the material not strong enough to handle another twenty years of regular use, but hey, I figured somebody might need it one day!)


  1. Do it. Make a quilt. I think it sounds as if you just need a nudge.And this time, it will be YOURS. All yours.

    I am impressed. I can hem and sew buttons on and that is it.

  2. don't get rid of your sewing machine!! letting her (utterly unused) sewing go is one of my mother's biggest regrets. now that she doesn't have it, of course, she thinks of all the things she COULD be doing with it (not that she touched it for the 20 years she had it).

  3. I have even seen quilt patterns that can be done quickly and easily. I have a pattern for an Irish Chain with an elaborate border. I sewed the whole queen-sized quilt, and I finished the borders, too. I was just about to put the borders on the quilt when I had Sara. Oof. Haven't sewn a stitch of it in 8 years. A big problem is that I don't have a sewing machine, so I sewed the sucker by hand. I should go get a sewing machine, and then I would be able to finish the damn project.