I know I bitch about sewing a lot, but I really feel I have good reason to. I don’t know about the rest of you, Gentle Readers, but sewing is one of the hardest things I do.
The things I do come easy to me. No, wait, stop; “easy ” is in fact the wrong word. I don’t mean to say that they aren’t hard as shit (they are) or don’t take a shit lot of work (they do), or that I haven’t put in years of study and practice to be as good as I am (I have), but I don’t know a better word. When I first started street performing, for instance, I got it. Because it used my talents. It made sense to me on a fundamental level, and many of the concepts I was learning were putting words to an instinct I already had. Those concepts that were new to me came more or less naturally*. Same with singing, writing, comedy, even reading, once upon a time when I was a wee lass learning to read. Now, the honing, perfecting, and execution of these talents are exhausting and frustrating and sometimes all-consuming, and I sometimes feel like I’m walking uphill, but I’ve got the Walking Stick of Talent to aid in my efforts. Sewing** makes me feel like I’m walking uphill through a foot of snow with a litter of Boston Terrier puppies stowed away in each of my socks. Sewing is my only hobby/pastime/occupation that I didn’t come to with some measure of inborn talent, or at least natural inclination to do some fundamental part of it, and that is fucking weird and scary, because as a general rule, I don’t spend my leisure time doing shit I’m bad at at.
I know people for whom piecing together a garment is instinctive. Even those of them who don’t know all the techniques of professional seamstressing can figure out how to cut, shape, and alter garments just by puzzling it out and maybe sketching a few things. I am not one of those people. Every single thing I sew is an epic struggle with things, concepts, objects I simply dinnae ken. I can’t look at pattern pieces and understand how they’re going to go together; not for the simplest skirt can I do this. No matter how often I do something, how many times I’ve made a shirt with this pattern, I have to rely on instructions, manuals, and tutorials not so much like a crutch as a motorized wheelchair that also feeds me and scratches my itches. And again, I know people who can look at pattern pieces and just know. And it drives me insane that I can’t.
I don’t know why I keep doing this. Sewing, I mean. It is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done regularly that I wasn’t being graded on–which, again, is not to say that the other things I do regularly aren’t exhausting and demanding and basically hard as shit, but they are so deep in my areas of strength, the things I was born to do, that they are an enormous source of joy even as I’m wearing myself out. People say that comedy, or performing for children, is hard, and I just have to do a double take, because really?But then, there are people who say the same when I bitch about sewing. Sewing is, to me, like trying to learn a foreign language, but not Spanish, because Spanish, once it’s presented to my brain, makes sense. Sewing:me::Navajo:a Japanese code-breaker circa WWII.
I have definitely improved with practice, but even with obvious improvement to look back on, even with extensive notes to help me, even making the same motherfucking garment I made last year, each and every piece, no matter how simple, is a huge fucking challenge. A crying, sweating, swearing, wrenching, uphill battle full of blood*** and back pain and stress dreams and wasted time and ruined fabric and false starts and do-overs and probably someday an ulcer…
..and yet here I am, just after finishing one major project, planning three more major projects due by Labor Day weekend and also I’m rehearsing a show that is a four hour roundtrip from my house and also we’re moving in July but why not?
Sewing is hard. Sewing is hard and boring and expensive and time-consuming and I find absolutely no joy in it and I hate it. But let me tell you, internets, nothing on this island Earth is as satisfying as “thank you, I made it.”
*that being said, if anyone tells you acting is not work, punch them in the face
**also, quasirelated, keeping my living space from not looking like a pig sty
***not hyperbole, I constantly injure myself while sewing