Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sewing Saga

My niece is having a baby. Her first. As the modern custom goes, she and her husband are registered on Buy Buy Baby for the stuff they need and/or want. Mostly I plan on buying whatever I like for the baby, otherwise it’s no fun for me. But I did buy a needful gift at this horrifyingly huge box store out near Old Country Road. After all, my niece and her husband aren’t allowed to bring the baby home without an infant car seat. I bought the big box from the box store around Christmas (I guess I wanted dibs on an absolutely necessary item), so its wrapping suffered from yuletide chaos and exhaustion. I brought the bruiser to my brother’s house in its mediocre wrapping just to get it out of my apartment, where the cats were setting up house on it. Months passed and I regretted the poor wrapping job and dreamed up a better one. Not paper. A sack. Like a flour sack but way bigger. I happen to have a flour sack and figured out the basic structure and closure from it. But extrapolating from the measurements of a flour sack to the size needed for a box that was 31 inches high and 17 by 17 square, well, that takes mathematics, maybe even a slide rule. I don’t have a slide rule — nor would I know how to use one if I did.

So I drew it, still in miniature. Couldn’t figure it out. I piled boxes on top of each other to approximate what I’d need in fabric. The cats, of course, assumed the new box configuration was for their pleasure and planted themselves in and on the boxes. I bought a bolt of lavender fabric (my niece’s favorite color) online, and bought a broad velvety violet ribbon at Sam Flax. I also bought a cute little “Stitch Quick” hand-held battery operated stitcher. Ha!

It seemed to me that once I figured out the measurements — which just boggled my mind — it should all go smoothly. I recalled shopping with my mother at Alexander’s department store. We took a skirt we couldn’t afford into the dressing room, where she looked at its panels, and scribbled measurements and quick sketches into her ever-present memo book. Yes, she also carried a measuring tape, always. She subsequently created then cut out the pattern and made that skirt for me. I love that skirt no end and still have it although I’m quite a few pounds too thick to wear it. Presently. Who knows.

Well, now that I’ve gone off on that tangent, what precipitated it? Ah yes. Boggled mind, blown brain, how do I do this? In the past I have had a lot of trouble getting past the “measure twice” step in “measure twice, cut once.” This time I had no actual pattern, so I just cut. And pinned and hemmed (bless Stitch Witchery forever), and draped. The toy stitching machine at the ready, I stitched one side closed. Well, partly, a little clunky, uneven, some stitches too loose and long, some tight. What does that matter, they’ll all be inside the sack. I tried again.

Machine wouldn’t stitch. I wiggled it, examined it, tried again, and again. After many attempts to figure out why it wouldn’t stitch, with just a day before the baby shower, I discarded the deceitful machine and sat down to sew by hand. 17 x 17 x 31, how long, how wide, which sides are stitched, which open? Oh no! Wrong side stitched closed, where’s that little tool, the seam ripper, maybe that’ll keep me from destroying this thing completely. Maybe not.

I shooed the cats away from the model boxes. Wilbur, that is not a new hideout for you!

I pinned and pinned and pinned some more. Pins, thread, needles, where’s that thimble I use to make the dent in thimble cookies? How did my mother do this, my eyes were killing me, I couldn’t even teach my eyes to look through a magnifying glass to rethread the needle. Does it reverse? No, it’s my brain. Thread, knot, sew, sew, sew, knot — aw, come on, surely I left enough thread to knot. Not. Repeat repeat repeat.

Turn it inside out. Pull it down over the model boxes. OK. Go back to the flour sack. See where to fasten the ribbon. Done. More than a full work day to make a sack. My mother would be… amused? ashamed?

I enjoyed the sewing, because I’d set aside the time for it. It was calming. My hand hurt the next day, my eyes ached, but it worked. The portable stitching device didn’t work, but I got it done. At the shower venue, my brother carried the box in, and my niece’s mother-in-law Sue helped me to tie the violet bow, and there it went.

I wonder if they’ll keep the sack for … something. Is Mom looking down, chuckling with her sisters with just a little bit of “I told you so” happening, since I never listened when she tried to teach me to sew, or to knit. Curse the academic course in high school, which taught nothing so useful as the commercial course! My mother would say A for effort, D for execution. Maybe I’ll get to that toppling pile of mending now….  

~ Molly Matera, signing off to plot the route to the hospital where my niece has given birth to a wonderful daughter.


  1. Ever looked at Furoshiki? No sewing, just wrapping. I'm sure it was lovely and unique.

  2. So far I'm only vaguely aware of Furoshiki, and will try to practice with leftover fabric -- love the idea, but have no reason to believe my tying will be superior to my sewing!