Ruby wanted to learn to sew.
My adventures in sewing are pathetic affairs. I first encountered sewing, if memory serves, while in daycare. Irvington Elementary School had an after school childcare program my brother and I attended for the long hours between school’s end and Mom’s return from work. We learned to make pillows by hand-stitching. Tiny pillows in exotic fabrics. Animal-print velveteen, brightly colored paisleys and the like. I was enchanted by the gorgeous textile scraps. Sometimes we added tassels. To this day, I think it was some sort of psychological attempt to get us to nap.
Fast forward to my teen years, and my stepmom tried to teach me to hem. Yeah. Somehow, I ended up cutting holes in my pants instead of fixing them. She covered my mistakes and hemmed my pants for me after that, a necessity in this world overrun by pants with long inseams. Thank God.
More recently, in the not-t0-distant-past, in a land called Reedsport, I attempted to teach myself to sew. This was my “I finally have time on my hands” phase and I wanted to try my hand at crafts. I figured, How hard can it be? I somehow forgot my former trials with needle and thread. My mother-in-law, an excellent seamstress, gamely attempted to teach me over the phone from her home in Wilmington.
Oh, picking out the fabric and notions was fun. I liked fingering all the dreamy cloth and imagining myself a successful clothing designer. My creations would be featured on the cover of Vogue! But… Three hours to measure and cut out the fabric, three hours to pin and cut the fabric, and three hours to sew it with the machine. I managed to make a “simple skirt” take 9 hours. Well, Susan, how did your skirt turn out? Glad you asked! I managed to make a lovely tropical blue tube. I pulled it up over my legs and there it stayed. It did not fit. And that was my at my skinniest, pre-children. I resigned myself to a world without sewing.
As you can see, I didn’t have good memories. Nor do I have improved sewing ability at this point in time. If I need something hemmed or taken in, I use a tailor here in town. I put the scissors, needle and thread aside for those with superior spatial skills and patience.
Ruby was insistent. Laura Ingalls had a handmade doll and she wanted to make one, too! Curse you, pioneer girl!
I found an old white dress of mine. For clarification purposes, not my wedding dress. I cut out a rectangle and showed Ruby how to stitch a simple pillow, explaining all the while that I am the most BASIC sewer ever. I had no desire to even attempt a doll until she’d mastered the Art of Pillow first.
Being her grandmother’s granddaughter, she took to it like a duck to water. She loved it! We sacrificed an old dollar store pillow for the stuffing. She gleefully whip-stiched the last side and tossed it in the air. Her first pillow! She promptly customized it.
Today, onto the doll. I could dodge it no longer. I took the same dress and cut out a gingerbread-shaped pattern twice, pinning it to the fabric. Hey, I remembered that part! She is working on it now. Her stitches improve a little each time. She is learning patience and persistence. She told me, “I love sewing!’
I have *never* said that. I probably never will.
I have to admit that creating something new with your own two hands gives you a great feeling of accomplishment. I feel that way when I make a great dinner or a fabulous dessert. Even learning to cook, you have to start small, master basic techniques. Really, in everything in life, you start out with bite-sized pieces to learn a new task, then continue to progress as you “get it”.
It makes me happy to think that sewing, an art seemingly lost through time, is making a comeback as another generation discovers it for themselves. Things have come full circle, and I got to help.