I have never considered myself a seamstress of any kind. I understand the basic mechanics of sewing — move a needle and thread through separate pieces of fabric to attach them together — but not the art of sewing. One time in college, when I repaired a snapped key lanyard by hand-stitching it, my roommate said that it looked as though I had sewed it with my eyes closed in the dark — and now that I look back on it, it was actually kind of a compliment in that she used the word “sewed.”
But I have this dream. A relatively small dream as dreams go, but a dream nonetheless. I have an old DKNY comforter cover that at one time, years ago, was a strangely large emotional and financial investment for me, a splurge in the name of claiming the right to own something nice. This comforter cover is a burlap-colored linen with a geometric hand-stitched pattern. It’s still on my bed, now worn and threadbare, and I plan to replace it when I can afford to. And then what I would like to do is turn it into a crazily beautiful Edwardian-style ball gown worthy of a runway.
It might take me decades to pull this off. But that’s why I’ve designated it a “dream,” and not, say, a “task.”
First step: learn how to sew.
So last week I enrolled in a beginner-level class called “Intro to the Machine” with Better Living Through Sewing, a local small business run by my friend Diana, who has been teaching people how to sew since 1996.
The three-hour class was hands-on and interactive, and Diana is an extremely knowledgeable and patient teacher. She explained basic concepts like the difference between knit and woven fabrics and how to choose an appropriate needle. Then she walked us through the different parts of the machine — a tour which broke down into manageable steps the labyrinthian process of threading a machine, which could pretty much be summarized like this: “Put switch over to right, press pedal for three seconds, wind bobbin, press pedal for 10 seconds, switch to left, put bobbin into base, thread through, pull other thread around and over and between and up and down and through needle, turn hand wheel, pull bobbin thread up and through with a ballpoint pen, check all of these switches and things, and ta-daaaaa, now it’s 2015 and you can start sewing!”
By the end of the class, I had more or less learned how to thread the machine from beginning to end and could serviceably produce four major machine sewing skills: seams, curves, hems, and corners, the foundation of most of the sewing I might ever find myself doing.
And I walked out of the class clutching a bookmark-sized strip of scrap fabric on which I had practiced my shaky seams, curves, and corners using bright crimson-colored thread that I had threaded myself. I feel irrationally, crazily proud of this scrap. Like, if I could somehow get married in just this scrap of fabric, I totally would.
Next step: the world! Or, at least, a follow-up sewing class.