On sewing failures

29 Oct

WOW. So the post about racist costumes has been the most popular post by far on this blog. Part of me wants to try and repeat that success by posting more about the interplay of racism and costumes, but…I don’t have anything more to say about it at the moment. Curses! Once again I am foiled in my quest for page views. Instead, I’m going to talk about my sewing machine.

My sewing machine is a Singer CG-550. It’s two different shades of grey; I like to call the lighter one “gunmetal” and the darker “the dreaded ennui.” It’s supposed to have 10 different stitches, but I tend to only use the straight and zig-zag ones, because I’m not entirely sure what the others are for. Not to say I know what zig-zag stitches are for. I like them because they make me feel strong, like I’m sewing a really sturdy seam! Plus, they’re pretty.

My sewing machine was a gift from my grandmother. She had heard, possibly from my mom, that I had got into renaissance festivals and was having some trouble paying for costuming, so she bought me a machine of my own. She even paid for a short Introduction to Your Machine class, but unfortunately, I am a terrible student and promptly forgot everything they taught me.

To be honest, I don’t know that much about my machine. I still have the manual somewhere in one of my drawers of sewing stuff, but I only look at it when Things have gone Really Wrong. We had a very long, tumultuous courtship, during which I cried every time I had to re-raise the bobbin thread. Every single time. I literally could not do it! I don’t know why. It was very bad for a very long time. Years, people. Finally one day I went “oh. That’s it?” and my friend J., who was showing me yet again how to raise the bobbin thread, said “YES, biscuit, that’s it, my God.” All of a sudden it made sense! Lightbulbs, choirs of angels, etc. Since then we’ve had a good time, my sewing machine and I. We’ve made some terrible costumes and some surprisingly not terrible costumes, for faires, Halloween, and Dragon*Con. We’ve learned about stitch in the ditch and finishing seams, cried over curved seams, and backstitched approximately seventy five miles of fabric.

My sewing machine is sturdy. It’s big and heavy and can handle several layers of thick fabrics all at once, though it will complain about it. Sometimes the timing gets thrown off when I get frustrated and yank on said layers of fabric, but considering the amount of shit I put it through, it’s trucking along just fine.

My grandma is super proud of me. She tells all her friends about my costuming, and offers me good advice when I’m freaking out about projects that are not going well.  She’s an amazing lady.

During the first Desert Storm, she and her second husband worked for the US government in Saudi Arabia. I remember she sent me a t-shirt with a map of the war zone showing the location of various bombings. I was very young, and became convinced that she had bombed those sites personally (she hadn’t), perhaps in a hot air balloon (I was big into balloon then, I don’t know).

One time she spotted me 30 cents to cover my overdue book fees at the library so I could check something else out (which I would doubtless return late as well). She was super unimpressed with me for it, and gave me a Look and a stern “You owe me 30 cents.”

She has two awful cats that she adores. One of them is deaf and blind and so mean when he’s afraid the vet won’t examine him unless he’s sedated. The other one is a prissy little shit who hates everyone in the world except my grandma. She dotes on those cats.

When I graduated high school, she took me and a friend to New York City for a week. A bunch of her girlfriends came with us. They used to travel all over together, and they were a wild bunch of little old ladies. Couldn’t catch a taxi to save their collective life, though.

My grandma is a terrible flirt. When she first went to the ER three weeks ago, she invited a young male tech to come lay in bed with her, because she was cold and he looked tired. When I told her she was a shameless hussy, her reply was basically “Yes, I am.”

Her sewing machine is smaller and lighter than mine, and more delicate. If they got in a fight, for some reason involving breeches in the complex etiquette of Craft Implements, my sewing machine could take hers. It could carry hers on its back and not break a sweat. It could push her sewing machine around in a wheelchair and lift them both over a doorway, up some stairs, and around a sharp corner, and still have energy to help her sewing machine get into bed. For a grand finale, it could sew a thick warm blanket out of many layers of wool and fleece. Ta-da!

Her sewing machine is smarter than mine. It has more stitches, a lot of them very pretty decorative stitches (my favorite is the flowery one), and the automatic buttonhole business actually makes sense. It has all sorts of automatic features: besides the buttonhole maker, there’s a bobbin raiser and a needle threader. If I ever find the Automatic Sew Entire Garment function, I’ll be set for life. Hell, my grandma’s sewing machine is smarter than me.

My grandma can’t use her sewing machine anymore. Even when she regains movement in the right side of her body, she won’t have the strength. I assume she won’t, anyway; she didn’t before. She let me use it to finish my last project (a vaguely Elizabethan version of Jayna from the Wonder Twins, which, just no), when she was doing much better than she is now, and couldn’t lift it then.

Today I showed her my new patterns. She was so excited to see them, and so impressed that I would tackle a project like this. It was late and she was tired, but she listened while I showed her the options I was thinking about making, and how they would all fit together. She exclaimed over how extensive it was, and how she could never do something like that. I told her she was wrong, of course.

In the back of my mind has been the urge to make her something. Perhaps it’s a product of so much time imagining myself the hero of various works of fantasy literature, but I feel it is My Destiny to fix things. I’ve got to find the magic flower, dump the Ring of Power, and escort the Princess to the correct castle, because otherwise these things will not get done, the Big Bad will triumph, and all this suffering, all this pain and irritation and stress, will be for nothing. If my life were written by a Tolkein clone, I would speak to my Wise Mentor for Cryptic Advice which I would puzzle out with my Five-Person Band, and eventually everything would be fine. I’m pretty genre savvy, so I think I could get it done in a week. Maybe two, depending on the location of the materials needed for the McGuffin. I would pull out the sewing machine my grandma gave me, and, in a montage set to either Hans Zimmer or that song from The Last of the Mohicans, I would sew up The One Dress and all would be well, roll credits.

I seem to have stumbled into a George RR Martin book, though, or something by Cormac McCarthy, God help me, and the only thing my mentor is saying is that those who mourn shall be comforted. I always wanted to be Batman, and now I guess I am; I have nothing to do with all my awesome strength. My sewing machine is gathering dust in the corner. There is nothing for either of us to carry or stitch or mend or make.

I’m always saying I’m a terrible seamstress, so it will come as no surprise that I’ve concocted some pretty spectacular sewing failures in my life. Once I went an entire eight week ren faire season wearing a skirt held together by safety pins, because I did not know how to make a waistband. Another time I spent three weeks and countless dollars of velvet making what amounted to a pair of Ye Olde Assless Chaps. On several occasions, costumes I made have fallen apart before I even put them on. I’ve failed classes, too, and failed to do my taxes on time, failed to treat friends or boyfriends well, failed to eat healthful things, failed to get up on time, failed to clean the litterbox. My whole world right now is defined by my failure to fix this. Unlike all those other times, I would if I could, in a heartbeat, in the flashiest of flashes, but there is no magic fabric I can sew into the +5 Robe of Health.

I don’t even think I’m qualified to sew Epic Level garments.

I don’t know where this post is going anymore. It’s become a foggy sort of metaphor soup, and I never intended it to be so personal, so I think I ought to stop. Please insert an appropriate conclusion here, because I am physically and emotionally exhausted and have run out of words.

6 Responses to “On sewing failures”

  1. Ann Coston Neff October 30, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    I nearly cried reading this. So full of everything.

    Oh yes, a +5 Robe of Health.

    • stonebiscuit October 30, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

      If you know where I can get one, let me know. :}

  2. Heather November 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm #



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  2. On sewing successes « What Is This I Can't Even - January 29, 2013

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