As a child, I regarded my mother as a modern-day incarnation of my most beloved fairy tale character, the nameless but beautiful young maiden who, after a visit from Rumplestiltskin, could spin straw into pure gold. Head down, she would sit at the enormous sewing cabinet transforming scraps of cloth, ribbons, buttons and snaps into dazzling costumes, dresses, and decorations. For hours on end, I would sit, enthralled, watching the needle dart in and out, mending, hemming, and administering to anything that demanded a stitch. I longed to learn that magic, and waited anxiously for the day that my feet would be able to reach the pedal and I, too, could create beautiful things.
Over the years, though, the excitement of sewing wore off, and by the time I entered my teenage years, the very idea of wearing anything homemade was horrifying. All of that changed, however, when I found myself living far from home as a single mom with almost no free time and even less expendable money for fashionable clothes. After lamenting my desperate lack of fun and new attire to my closest friend, she showed up for a weekend visit dragging two overstuffed suitcases filled with her old clothes for me.
As we dug through the contents of her bags, she pointed out the numerous alterations she had made to the garments in order to give them a more customized fit or look. “Just by shifting the button over two inches,” she said as she pulled a jacket out of her suitcase and held it up for me, “You can create an entirely different shape and a much more edgy feel.” She held up a cute party dress and pointed to the hem, “I tucked the skirt underneath and stitched it in a few places, and voila!”
Suddenly, the old dresses hanging in my closet didn’t seem so frumpy and lifeless. As soon as my friend left, I fished my tackle box sewing kit out of the junk closet, and cautiously tried a few hand stitches. After several days, I had one quasi-altered dress, a tee shirt in four pieces on the floor, and more frustration than I knew what to do with.
In the months since my reintroduction to sewing and crafting, I have taken up the hobby with new vigor and energy. With the help of my mother’s sewing machine, a 1975 Singer Touch-Tronic, I have transformed old sweaters into leg warmers suitable for the finest ballerina’s pirouettes and tailored old, awkwardly shaped tee shirts with custom-fit capped sleeves. Drawing inspiration from television, books, and the Internet, I have sewed, reconstructed, and crafted my way back towards my childhood aspirations. I have even found a way to incorporate my love of photography and my knowledge of the Internet into the mix: I recently started a blog called Make It Crafty, where I am able to share my ideas and creations with my friends and the general public.
Although I take great pride in the Hello Kitty pillow that I painstakingly crafted, it’s the life lessons that I’ve learned along the way that have been the most valuable: take your time, be patient, and try to see the potential in things. While I still find myself occasionally frustrated, I understand that allowing screw-ups to be part of the process keeps the pressure off and that, like most things, achieving perfection is nearly impossible.