Saturday, January 13, 2007

I'm trying

I've been following Jennifer's sewing adventures, and I'm feeling envious. And a little inadequate in the mommy department, but that tends to happen with a number of things domestic.

Last week, at a 4-H meeting, I felt truly inadequate. At a previous meeting, our leader (a really lovely woman who would probably know how to design, create and sew a new sofa) said, "Be sure to bring your sewing machines to the next meeting!"

Ummm ... this assumes that I have a sewing machine. Oh, but, wait! I do! My sister recently gave me a small mending machine that she had bought, but never used. All I had to do was get that thing ready to go for our next meeting. (Okay, yes, I must confess that it had been sitting in the box for the two months subsequent to my sister's generous gesture.)

The day before our 4-H meeting (you knew it would happen the day before, didn't you?) I got it out, figured it out, and was inordinately proud of myself. Betsy happily stitched away on scraps of fabric, practicing a new-found skill. I patted myself on the back for having a sewing machine to tote to the meeting.

Once at the meeting, my pats on the back turned to furtive glances at the machines around me. Real machines. Big, intimidating machines. Machines that screamed out, "I know what I'm doing! I sew on a regular basis! I am the best of all possible machines, because I belong to a mother who knows how to sew!"

Not only did I have a pipsqueak of a machine, but I had allowed Betsy and Anne to pick out completely different fabric colors, so I had to change the bobbin and thread several times, which slowed us down and left Anne as the only one who didn't complete her project at the meeting. A real sewing mom would have thought to guide her children toward fabrics in the same color family, and my friend, J., had done exactly that. She knew what she was doing.

I whined to her, "I'm miserable at this stuff! Will we have a 4-H project that involves philosophy? Theology? I'm there. That I can do. This stuff? Not so much."

She laughed and told me I was doing fine, which perhaps I was, but I couldn't stop feeling like the Kindergartener in a college level class.

None of this is meant to deride the wonderful machine my sister so sweetly donated to me (somehow the word "donated" seems so appropriate as it calls to mind charity and the needy.) If it hadn't been for her thoughtfulness, I wouldn't have had a machine at all, and would've appeared truly needy, having to beg others for the privilege of using their machines. Would I then have faced the humiliation of hearing things like, "No! Not like that! You'll break it! Don't you have your own machine somewhere? Are you really a mom?"

So, I am really and truly grateful for the gift of the sewing machine, and it actually did a very nice job on Betsy's pillow. I'll post a picture of them soon (after we finish Anne's ... eventually ....) and maybe you can all assure me that I'm not a complete failure at some of this domestic stuff.

I've been consoling myself lately with teaching myself to knit. I've been inordinately proud of my efforts in this area as well, even though there's no reason to be. The hat I made Ramona was done on a Knifty Knitter, which anyone can do. The doll scarf, which I did with real knitting needles, looks pretty bad in places, and mysteriously widened at the end.

But, I'm proud of it all anyway, because, with a little help from The Mary Frances Knitting and Crocheting Book, I figured out how to cast on stitches and once I did that, the basic knitting that I did as a child came back to me in an instant. It was fun, and I can already see how people become addicted to these kinds of hobbies. There's such satisfaction in the finished product, even a bumpy and crooked one.

I have shown Atticus each little triumph, fishing for compliments. He's quite ready with them, probably as amazed as I am that I'm doing something so delightfully domestic.

Not bad for a woman who would rather snuggle up with a good encyclical.


Patty said...

YOu wrote: Not bad for a woman who would rather snuggle up with a good encyclical.***

Oh my did this make me laugh. We have much in common in this regard.

The Bookworm said...

Don't worry Karen. I do not own a sewing machine (large or small) and never have. They terrify me! In needlework classes at school I was the only pupil who never, ever completed a project, however basic.

On the plus side, I can knit :)

The Bookworm said...

True confession. Faced with a group activity for which the instructions began "bring sewing machine" ... I would not have gone!!! Not even if I could have begged or borrowed a machine. Doesc that make you feel better?

Jennifer said...

I left a comment this morning about how intimidated I am by you, but it isn't showing up. Hmmm, maybe I failed the word verification test. I will say thank you again for your kind words. They mean a lot as I am just beginning and very nervous myself. And I can't wait to see your projects.

J. Mark English said...

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If you want to do this just go to my blog and in one of the comments just write your blog name and the URL and I will add it to my site.


Kristen Laurence said...

I love this post! It is very sweet. I actually prefer a flawed finished product to a perfect one. It shows character and the love of the person who made it.

Liz said...

Ok, I have two sewing machines and rarely use either. I am definitely "sewing challenged." I can do it, sort of, kind of. I've actually made garments that I actually wore. However, my dd went far beyond me in sewing skills. The kid actually made herself a tailored suit! Thank you 4-H friends who really and truly sew, and thanks to my late sister who taught Abby a whole lot.

Now as far as knitting is concerned: I used to be knitting challenged, but I got proficient (well sort of, I still don't really like intarsia, and I've never tried the entrelac that's been popular the last couple of years. However, I can do Aran knits, and seamless sweaters, and socks, hats, and mittens. I've even taught a number of kids to knit.

My advice from a former challenged knitter is: get a couple of books, Sunny's Mittens (published by Downeast Press) which will help you and then your girls produce Swedish Lovikka mittens that are easy, quick, and get felted down to size so uneven knitting is less a factor. Then Jackie Fee's Sweater Workshop, which will have you knitting real sweaters in no time. Then you'll never feel like a challenged knitter again. Oh and if you get a chance read Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Without Tears. There's not only a couple of easy patterns in there (the slippers and the child's sweater), but it will free you from thinking you need to use those patterns from Bernat, Vogue etc. Oh, and if you want some handspun yarn some day, well you know who spins it... Oh, and the other piece of advice: get really comfortable with straight knitting and purling before tackling cables or lace. I would hate to tell you how many times I had to take the lace work panel on my son's baby bunting apart before I got it finished (it was a good thing I was on bedrest). It would be a piece of cake for me now, but I tackled it before I was quite ready for it. Same with my first sweater with cables.

I'd rather read theology than sew any day of the week. However, I have occasionally read while knitting...

Karen E. said...

You are all very kind to me in my self-pity. :-) I was just thinking of your recommendation of Sunny's Mittens the other day, Liz.

Kathryn and Patty -- you need to come over for a cup of coffee and a book discussion.

Kristen, clearly you would LOVE my finished products. :-) And, Jennifer ... intimidated?? Nothing intimidating here, I ASSURE you.

Jane Ramsey said...

Hi Karen,
First time commenting on your blog, though I have enjoyed reading it several times. It sounds as though you are doing very well! Learning to sew is a great challenge, and one which I am trying to tackle now, too. My mom taught me very few "domestic arts," and I am learning from scratch, but it's fun. Every little step is an accomplishment. So be proud of yourself!

KC said...

Karen, you are too funny!! I see where Ramona gets it. Loved this post.

Mary G said...

You mentioned that the scarf "mysteriously widened" -- were you counting your stitches every row? I had my Maggie cast on just 10 so it was easy to count at the end of each row and we could fix mistakes immediately.

Please "e-holler" if you need help....