Friday, June 11, 2010

Two syllables

I’ve had an opportunity to get back into sewing this week, and it gave me time to reminisce about my sewing experiences. I’ve come to the conclusion that in sewing, there are two 2-syllable phrases that have popped up intermittently on every project I have sewn.

The first is “OH NO!” Oh, yeah - fellow seamstresses, quilters, woodworkers, and various other crafters can attest to this. It’s the dreaded phrase, the one that sometimes is an unspoken, panicky thought, at other times a verbalized wailing expression of despair, and at other times a long, drawn-out sigh as a knot forms in the pit of the stomach. You know when it happens. It happens when you are clipping a seam and you clip just a little too far and your whole blouse is ruined. It happens when you are cutting out a pattern and you make a mistake and then you realize you have no extra fabric to redo it. It’s when you realize a second too late that the needle in the sewing machine is in such a position that it will ram the metal presser foot, break, and explode its dangerous pieces like shrapnel. It happens when you realize you bought the wrong zipper length or button width. It happens when you are in the middle of a project (usually with a looming deadline) and then discover you are out of interfacing, or a certain color thread, or some other absolutely necessary tool.

All these things have happened to me, of course, at one time or another. But times of frustration are not the only times the “OH NO!” is exclaimed in sewing. You have to remember a seamstress is working with dangerous tools - sharp things like needles and scissors and seam rippers (does the word “ripper” give you a clue?). For accident-prone folks like me, this can present a problem. It can even be bad enough that the poor unfortunate seamstress goes beyond a 2-syllable phrase and into a 4-letter word. I remember when I was sewing right along and got my finger caught under the sewing machine needle. The needle went halfway through my finger, bent, then came out at another part of the finger. Ouch! Then there was the time (the aforementioned needle hitting the presser foot at 90 miles an hour) that the needle tip broke off, flew up, hit me in the eyeball, then bounced back out. I had to go to the optometrist for that one. Of course, I’ve had the usual pin and needle pricks that drew blood, the razor-sharp scissors that clipped my skin, and the rotary cutter mishaps. (A rotary cutter is a pizza cutter for cloth. Don’t ask.)

In spite of the countless numbers of “OH NO!” experiences I have had in my sewing career, I must say they are balanced out by the other 2-syllable phrase - “AH HA!” (Yes, sewing is not all torment and frustration. You may have to rip out your stitches, but should never have to rip out your hair.) I adore the “AH HA!” experiences. An “AH HA!” always comes with a smile, maybe with a little slap on the forehead for being so dense. An “AH HA!” comes when you have been working for hours on an intricate item and something is awry. You can’t understand what. You followed the directions, you measured correctly, you did everything in the proper order, but for some reason, something is not right. If you are lucky, you are about to feel the “AH HA!” elation when the solution strikes like lightning. “Oh, now I get it!” And suddenly the air is sweeter, the sounds lovelier, the fatigue not so prominent, for you have figured something out. You became aware of what was causing a problem. You have unraveled the puzzling predicament to reveal the answer! It may be that, as luck would have it, your revelation comes in a minute or two. Or it may be that you go to bed confused and wake up with understanding. However long it takes, those “AH HA!” moments are exhilarating. (For MTs, this happens when you suddenly understand what a mumbling dictator is trying to say. It's a light bulb moment.)

Of course, you don’t have to sew to have the 2-syllable experiences. Life throws things at us all the time just to see how we deal with them. We have the “OH NO!” moments when we see a check on the bank statement that we forgot to write down, when our new haircut is too short, when we realize we forgot to pay a bill, when our car needs $1300 worth of work, when the toilet is leaking, when the electricity goes out, when the computer crashes, or when someone we just can’t stand wins an election. These probably happen to all of us.

The irony and pure joy of the thing is that sometimes you’ll have the dreaded “OH NO!” reaction and then you dive headfirst into your situation and after research or others’ help and advice or even prayer, you see the proper response, the answer, the best way to handle it, and it will be at this point that you are blessed with the “AH HA!” experience. And hopefully you have learned a way (in situations where you have some control), to avoid that problem in the future. Lesson learned, point taken. (Hmmm...I don’t much like that word, point.)

Now, that’s all for today. I’m headed back over to the sewing machine. I never learned the lesson of double-checking the needle position, but I did buy some safety glasses to wear just in case. Well, at least I learned something.


Cuidado said...

What are you sewing?

Carol Tiffin James said...

Just clothes - I've lost 20 pounds and nothing fits. I'm having to brush up on pattern alteration techniques, though!