Last year I wound up hours of feeding my sewing machine cuts of fabric, pieced together to make something born out of my heart. I wrapped them in gift bags and added tissue. I wanted meaning in the gifts I gave.
I didn’t want to stand in long lines and drift down aisles shopping for things. I wanted to create something with my hours and labor and love poured into the dresses that would twirl in the summer sun, or the hats and costumes for fanciful play and tea parties and gatherings of dolls and daydreams.
I wanted to make beautiful the jagged edges of cloth, cut boldly with razor-sharp scissors slicing through, fluid lines hemmed and forming something whole.
I am not an experienced seamstress. One class in the evenings where women gathered with patterns and machines and boxes of scissors and tape and pins and more questions than we had answers to was all I had ever done.
We filed into the empty art room at the high school as the temperature dropped low outside and the dark outside gulped up the sky. We were warm, cloistered with dreams of homemade Christmas presents and the ability to make something with our hands. Where the instructors examples of things we’d be able to sew seemed impossible and confusing.
I had to ask which way the machine was supposed to face, with the buttons facing me or away from me? So yeah, you can imagine.
But first we cut and pinned and measured out dreams.
And the first cut is the hardest. Because what you have is a bolt of unspoiled fabric. Once cut it can’t be uncut. So you make sure you have measured right. You make sure your finger traces the line of size to the yardage. You make sure your scissors cut sharp and even.
But until you cut, you’re just dreaming of the possibilities.
I have yards of fabric, some have a life ahead as curtains, or pillows, or dresses if and when I get around to it. But for now they have potential. They line up obediently waiting for their chance to be. They sit on my shelf useless, formless.
Just like dreams, the investment comes once you’ve cut, once you’ve committed and plunged in with shears, you will learn the way the pieces fit and the shape it will take as you slice.
When you’re learning, your seam ripper is your best friend. The sharp tool can sink into the seams and pull apart thread and weave. It can undo wayward lines, rip through cloth joined that should be split. It gives you a do-over. And I needed a lot of do overs.
I sewed the bottom of my daughters skirt together not once, but three times. Yes, folks, three times I sewed the bottom together completely so there was only a pouch and no possibility for legs to go through, and then I’d ripped it out and started over. And over. And over.
And it always feels like a step back. Like the work going in is just being ripped apart and that seam sewed straight and strong turns out to be all wrong. It must come out. And that feels like loss.
But I didn’t give up. And eventually, she was able to wear it, legs and all.
I am teaching my daughter to sew. After her attempts at outfits made from cut cloth scraps and old wash cloths held together precariously with knots, safety pins, and glue I realized she was made to create.
She has a small starter machine. She knits her brows together and squints her eyes as she threads the needle. She feeds the cloth through being careful not to chew up her fingers. She has made a pillow and a skirt and is working on an apron for her doll. She is dreaming up gifts for her new baby cousin due in September. She would like to create a love gift. Something beautiful.
And we all want to, don’t we?
We all have the need to create.
Some do it through words, others through cloth, some through paints, or spreadsheets, or neatly organized labels. Some do it through their hands, thick with flour and kneading dough, the hum of the oven an offering.
But we all partake in creation. We all approach craft with a seam ripper. The first dough doesn’t rise or burns. The words are all wrong and jumbled. The typos flow across the page and the backspace eats them up. The paint gobs on thick and the canvas wilts.
We all need to rip at seams and keep at it. And so I tell her, when she’s sewed the ruffled edge on the wrong side, and the seam wobbles and turns and frays at the corner, that she gets a do-over.
I introduce her to failure and perseverance, the teacher of souls. <—Click to tweet this.
I pull out my seam ripper and teach her to tear away the mistakes to make the beautiful things.