Friday, October 8, 2010

My sewing evolution – Book review with some navel gazing

The past week or so have seen me in Melbourne with not as much to do as I thought I would have on my plate. Don’t get me wrong, I have been busy and there is still a lot to do but we are sort of a bit stuck until it can be arranged to get all our furniture and boxes out of storage and the unpacking and homemaking can begin in earnest. This is the time I thought I would frantically be looking for a place to live and then arranging leases and unpacking but the house and lease part happened almost as soon as I got here and now we are just waiting (somewhat impatiently on my part) for the unpacking.

I’ve kept myself busy though, visiting IKEA looking for storage and furniture ideas for the new sewing room (if anyone knows a good furniture op shop in the St Kilda to Chadstone area please let me know. I need a new sewing table and the kitchen table I used before was great but is still needed in the dining room to eat dinner off…) and finding my new locals, quilt shops, bookshops, Spotlight and shopping centres. That sort of thing.

I picked up a new book for a quilt shop, Amitie in Bentleigh, dangerously close to where we live for my bank balance. Weekend Sewing: More than 40 projects and ideas for inspired stitching by Heather Ross wasn’t an impulse purchase. I saw it one afternoon when I quickly ducked into the store as I had been driving past. Not as strange as it seems, the store was recommended to me and I had a spare few minutes. I didn’t get it then, rather I went back again the next morning, bought some fabric and left without it after some consideration, only to go back again that afternoon to claim it for myself.

I’m not really sure what drew me to it; I think it may have been the large number of projects and the glimpses through the book of many of Heather’s very early fabric designs. It could have been that many of the projects were clothing, I’ve been on a bit of a clothing kick lately but none of those are the reasons I love it so much now.

It really comes down to the two page introduction, which I, somewhat shamefully, admit to reading stopped at successive sets of traffic lights on the way back to the hotel after buying it.

Heather talks about learning to sew knit and craft as a child and how, as she grew to adulthood the time for getting lost in sewing was overtaken by life deadlines and responsibilities. I’m paraphrasing and I hope she doesn’t mind, but this is the message that stuck in my mind. She goes on to explain that the book’s name ‘Weekend Sewing’ is in reference to her idea that some of her sewing time is just for her, for fun and not for commercial interests and in her mind this is called weekend sewing.

And now for the navel gazing. This struck a huge chord for me. I don’t remember learning to sew, or knit though I can do both, knitting less well than sewing. Since I have started to sew a lot more in the last year or so, and since I have started reading blogs and especially since I started writing this one, I have tried to remember when I acquired these skills.

I do remember getting by first pair of knitting needles (they are a fat purple pair, about 15cm long and came in a pack with an equally fat crochet needle); I just don’t remember how old I was. Certainly less than eight. I also remember helping to sew my school uniforms (by actually sewing seams), one in particular I wore in year one, which I started when I was five. I remember tracing out multi size patterns for Mum and cutting fabric for clothes for me, my younger brother and sister for her to sew later. I know I made dolls clothes, first for my dolls and later for an antique doll that was my great aunts, then my mum’s and now mine. I distinctly remember this one because I did it, taking over from Mum when I got frustrated she was taking so long. This is the first quilt I made, sometime when I was at uni, for my dog when she was still a puppy, I didn’t realise then that it was a quilt though.

I took sewing at high school but I stopped after the second year, everyone else was still learning to thread the machine and finish a seam when I had finished the whole garment. I didn’t feel challenged.

But as I went to uni, and then when I started working I stopped sewing. There was the odd project, some curtains for a friend, a costume for my parents wedding anniversary party but for the most part the machine was packed away in it’s own case and stored away in the spare room.

Then last year my friend announced she was pregnant and I sewed up a storm. It happened to coincide with a purchase of a new machine. This might seem a strange purchase given what I have just said but my mum bought herself a new machine, gave her used, but not old one, to my sister who live a short drive away and gave me some money specifically to buy a new machine. And so, with a purpose for sewing and a new machine that was not so loud you wondered if there was a whole room of machines sewing at once I had means and a motive. It could have stopped there but then my partner told me about Etsy and then I found blogs and flickr. The motive stayed and I discovered a community spirit, but most of all I had rediscovered the enjoyment that creating something gives me, and the sense of calm and wellbeing I get while sewing and on finishing a project.

I don’t think it is a feeling I could describe well to others, especially others that don’t sew or craft. In fact I’m sure it isn’t, because I’ve tried. I work long hours, often 10 full on hours a day but a few seams, a finished quilt block, a look or email of gratitude, refreshes me in a way that sleep, watching TV or doing some other stationary traditionally considered ‘rest’ activity can’t.

But that is my weekend sewing moments, after work, on the weekend, in the evening and even once or twice very early in the morning. It’s obviously not all, or even the only thing, I find re-energizing and invigorating. I is, however, one of them, an important one, and I hope I can continue to find the time to ‘weekend sew’ and not forget the enjoyment it gives me again.

So I thank Heather, and her book for echoing my thoughts so well in her introduction, for 40 projects and much inspiration. I’m planning a shirt for some lucky little boy

Pair of slippers for each of our Christmas time guests

A zippered bag, just cause you can never have too many of them

And a pair of garden gloves, just because they are cool, and because I have a great new garden.
Do you think if a made a pair for my partner as well he would garden for the second time in 10 years and help me out?

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