I had another sewing lesson last weekend, and this time, under the eagle eye of my tutor, I made a skirt! I was too intimidated by the machine after the first lesson to actually practice properly (read: at all), so a big part of this lesson involved re-learning some of the basics and getting used to the machine again. However, this time around I shan’t be deterred! I am going to practice, practice, practice, because I have discovered a perfect, low-stakes project I can work on: Port pillows! These are small pillows that are designed for chemo patients who have had ports inserted into their chest for receiving chemo drugs. The pillows help protect the often tender area around the port when the patient is, for example, using a seatbelt or carrying a bag with a strap. They’re simple, they inexpensive to make so it doesn’t matter if I screw a bunch of them up at first, and I can donate them to the cancer treatment center at the hospital I work at. A win-win all around! Now I just have to face going to my local Joanne’s for fabric and batting. The last time I was in there, I waited in line for twenty-five minutes.
I was thinking deep thoughts the other day about the parallels between writing and sewing. Sewing puts me into a flow state. I’m concentrating, but it’s a kind of effortless and calming concentration that makes me feel refreshed and energized afterwards. Ideally, when I write, I’ll get into that same state, although far more often than not than not, writing is more akin to dragging a boulder uphill mentally. At any rate, both activities seem stimulate a part of my brain that enjoys precision and meticulousness. Then I started thinking about why I was so averse to sewing to begin with, and I realized that it’s because it was never presented to me as a joyous, creative activity. My memories of sewing in school was that it was a big, scary “gotcha”; yet another thing that I was inevitably going to do wrong and screw up. There was no sense of play or fun about it; it was just another dreary chore that I was going be chastised for not doing right. Every time I had to go near a machine, I got very anxious and stressed.
I was surprised at how excited and proud I was when I sewed that tote bag last month. And I had similar feelings of euphoria last week upon finishing the skirt. There is some deep, core emotional stuff being stirred up in me by this sewing journey. I think it’s healing a wound that has been with me for a long time, and I suspect that wound is about a lot more than a few crabby Home Ec teachers. I’m not sure what caused the wound or even what its exact nature is; I just know that something in me I didn’t even know was there is yearning to be healed, and the sewing seems to be the catalyst for it. I think that all artists are wounded early and often in childhood around their artistic gifts, and maybe that’s a part of this for me, a deep need to feel empowered creatively, to feel competent and confident. Or maybe it’s something more simple and primal: A yearning for the pleasures of traditional feminine domesticity, which I have always been very disconnected from. Whatever its nature, it’s formidable.
To end things on a cheerier note, since it’s Halloween, here’s a video I always get a chuckle out of: