Adventures in Swearing Sewing

Well, I’ll be going to confession this weekend.

Yesterday I learned two important things about myself. First, I am not utterly hopeless and bereft when it comes to all household arts aside from cooking. Second, that creative bastion of colorful swear words that I gleefully collected in college was in fact not eradicated from my vocabulary. It was merely being stored away for a time of need, like when I spent half an hour trying to thread a needle, finally got it, and then promptly snagged the thread and pulled it back out.

Our dear neighbors across the street, to whom we’ve become quite attached, are moving back to their northern home next week. I don’t know what we’ll do without them. They’re both retired, and while their son is at school down the street they spend their days hanging out in the garage, playing cards with my kids and keeping an eye on my front door, out of which Liam occasionally likes to escape. His life has been saved several times by Uncle D, a cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking, bicycle-fixing gem of a man who has become my husband’s go-to confidante and a stand-in uncle/grandpa for all three of my children. He has the patience of a saint, and when he doesn’t he just goes inside and closes the garage door. Aunt G taught Sienna to play Uno and Skip-Bo, and she offered to teach me to sew and let me borrow her sewing machine, which she’ll be leaving behind. In typical fashion, though, I waited until the last minute, and yesterday she was kind enough to give me an hour-long lesson even though they left for a wedding at 5 a.m. this morning.

I was really surprised to find that what makes sewing difficult is not the actual sewing. If you have a sewing machine, the actual sewing part is simple. A trained monkey could do it, and could probably stitch straighter lines than I can. What a trained monkey could most emphatically not do, however, is make sense of the heavily encrypted codes they sell at fabric stores under the dubious guise of “patterns”.

The internets and I spent well over two hours yesterday trying to crack the cipher. We watched video after annoyingly cheerful video, all promising to make pattern-reading “simple” and all failing miserably. I learned some valuable lessons, but not one internet video answered the burning question that drove me there in the first place: which way does the fabric go? Wrong side up or right side up? I got so frustrated that when the Ogre called to see how it was going I was basically incoherent. “It’s ridiculous going, that’s what! This stupid thing says the (expletive) thing should be color-coded and it is shaded but they have it all…all….like, folded, sort-of thing, so I can’t even tell which side to (expletive) fold over and cut the (expletive) out!”

Proper English was murdered during the pinning on of this pattern

Worried about my complete inability to form a coherent sentence, the Ogre came home for lunch and figured it out in ten minutes flat. (He claims this is due to his superior intellect, but I have it on good authority that he was forced into taking a home ec class in the sixth grade.) Once the pattern was finally cut out, Aunt G came over and showed me how to use the sewing machine, how to stitch seams, and how long of an edge to leave. I managed to get the basics done last night while the Ogre hovered around me taking pictures (“to document your descent into housewifery”), but unfortunately Aunt G neglected to show me how to finish an edge and do slipstitches and topstitches. I can’t really blame her, since Liam spent almost our entire sewing lesson unplugging the machine, unraveling spools of thread, and trying to eat the pin-covered pincushion. Her attention was necessarily divided.

Here’s a mercifully blurry photo, in case you (and by you I mean everyone who’s ever met me) also need photographic evidence that the apocalypse is nigh and hell has frozen over

So today it looks like I’ll be diving back into the wonderful world wide web to try and figure out how to finish this dress, while repeating mentally, I will not swear. I will not swear. I will not swear.

After that I’ll be dashing off groveling apologies to the neighborhood mothers for when my six-year-old inevitably decides to make my many lapses in linguistic judgment public fodder for the neighborhood children.

Maybe I should bake them cookies, too.

  • Lena

    I hope your neighbors are moving near me because I think I would like them and I could use help sewing. Those patterns ARE confusing, and should be in color. I wish I had taken home ec when I was in school. I hear they call it consumer sciences nowadays. Seems like little kids everywhere are trying to escape from their front doors.

  • Erica

    I detest patterns, but if you're looking to make clothing for your girls, just google "girl's clothing tutorial". Many of them have step by step directions with pictures! Perfect for me,who needs it broken down. Good luck!

  • Rebecca Frech

    I find that banana bread works best for that kind of thing, but if your kid says the f-word it ramps up to lemon blueberry.I have a bit too much experience in this kind of thing

  • lissla lissar

    I have been sewing for about twenty years. I made my own wedding dress and two friends wedding dresses. I have yet to use a commercial pattern because they intimidate me too much. You're brave.

  • Dwija {House Unseen}

    I just wanna know one thing: does this dress require a zipper? ****praying fervently the answer is 'no'****

  • assortedjoys

    I would have to agree that the patterns with the tissue paper and the ridiculous instructions are not a good place to start. They seem cheap when they are on sale at Jo-Anns for $1.99 but boy do you pay for it later. I love Patterns by Figgy's or Oliver + S. I completely justify the cost because I know they are cute enough to make multiple times (I NEVER cut the pattern sheet, but rather trace it and cut out the size I need on tracing paper or my kids art paper) both in multiple sizes for for multiple children. Anyhoo, if that doesn't sound like fun for you then just find Dana's blog (google Dana Made it blog) or Katy's (no big dill) or Rae (Made by Rae) and then check out the ladies on their blogrolls for good measure. Step by step instructions with photos! Adorable outcomes! Usually no patterns! If there are patterns, they are easily printable and you can use them again and again without tracing! Ok, enough of my ramblings. I just want you to know that sewing is totally great and I think you will have a better chance of enjoying yourself if you make the first few step easier rather than taking the most difficult possible road. Have fun!

  • Calah

    Thanks Rebecca. I'm glad I'm not the only mom in the blogosphere who is a potty mouth. I knew we'd get along!

  • Calah

    HOW did you make wedding dresses without a pattern? Did you just…make it up? I could never be that creative. I can't even figure out how this stupid pattern gets put together. Gah.

  • Calah

    No! No zipper. Are zippers hard? I'll put that on my list of "things to avoid" if they are.

  • Calah

    Thanks! I will look at those websites and the nicer patterns. I just thought patterns were patterns before this but…guess not!