Monday, June 10, 2013

Labor of Love--April 14,2006

Today I finished making an Easter dress for Anna. The pattern envelope said something obnoxious like, “Easy Two Hour Dress!” I dare say it took the majority of my free time this week, totaling approximately 546 hours and 23 seconds. Just kidding. It was more like 28 hours, but who’s counting? During this dress-making journey, I gained an appreciation for my mother and my grandmother (and the many before them) who sewed much and sewed often in their lives. I’m sure if they were to read this, they would expect me to go on about how grateful I am for their efforts and skills, but instead, I feel gratitude for the simple fact that I had a mother who cared enough about me to spend her time making me something with her own hands, something she had created.

I know my circumstances are different today. I do not sew to save money. Quite the contrary. The price on the pattern alone read $10.95--the price I like to pay for any one article of clothing in department stores; nor do I sew because I feel an obligatory sense of feminine duty stemming from my pioneer ancestry. I started sewing because my mom seemed to enjoy it and I wanted to see if I could tackle the challenge the same way she did. Needless to say, I feel I have made a connection with the one person who has sewn many things, in my behalf, my mom.

“It feels good to transform a limp piece of cloth into something attractive and useful,” she used to say. I can appreciate, to a very small degree, the pride my mother must have felt when I donned the most beautiful wedding gown ever made by loving hands. I can also understand the pride she must have felt when she fashioned my Bluebird Girl Scout uniform to look just like the other girls’. Granted, as a ten-year-old, I did not appreciate her efforts because the other girls’ uniforms were made out of cheap, faded cotton and had a cool, casual look to them. Mine, however, was made from bullet-proof polyester that had no chance of fading, no chance of looking casual...or cool. My young eyes could only see the blaring differences, so, at the time I was pretty much horrified by my mom’s “creation,” but now I can see that it was a challenge she took on (mostly to save twenty bucks, but nevertheless) in my behalf.

Now, I am not by any means, claiming to be the seamstress my mother is. During this journey I have learned that we are, indeed, different in our creative efforts. Mom is a perfectionist. Every seam, every neckline, every hem has to be measured and perfectly taken. For the most part, she follows the pattern religiously (except for the layout–she always conserves fabric by doing it her own way). I, however, use only the seam guide on the sewing machine to measure my intakes, and when the pattern instructions don’t make sense to me, I improvise. I find that these two simple things spare me some of the frustrations my mother sometimes encountered. Here is my admittedly messed up sewing philosophy: If things don’t line up, or the zipper won’t zip, it is not the fault of the pattern’s designer--why allow a stranger that much power over me? Instead, any flubs that take place are solely attributed to my careless disregard for pattern instruction. And, if any vulgarities fly out of my mouth, they are directed toward myself--not at some Simplicity worker I don’t even know. Also, cursing oneself is much easier to repent for than cursing a factory worker who may not even still be alive. That said, I would like to note that not one vulgarity was verbalized during this past week’s dress-making ordeal. This alone suggests that my sewing philosophy is adequate. A little crazy, but adequate.

Yes, this past week has helped me appreciate my mom, feel a sense of creativity and accomplishment, recognize the beauty of improvisation, practice patience (I actually pinned and basted a few things), and most of all, it has helped me to feel connected to my ancestors who cut, measured, stitched, and probably swore a few times while creating what can only be considered a labor of love.

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