Sewing Lessons

I’ve been teaching Cara to sew. It’s been a couple years since I’d rounded up fabric, pattern, notions, thread, buttons, and elastics. After sewing for fifty years, I often sew without directions, or even make my own patterns. I’ve learned shortcuts, know what’s fixable, and love the happy serendipity that occurs when creativity combines with craftsmanship and surprising new ideas emerge. Cara’s got a spirit of fun and adventure that will go well with the craft. She also has a beautiful little girl to sew for.

I’d forgotten that my many failures had taught me more than my successes, that Simplicity Patterns are still the least simple to follow, and that doing something that’s almost second nature is sometimes hard to break down into careful, basic steps for a newbie, even a newbie as quick and able as Cara.

Teaching Cara was humbling. Usually, a student takes a while to ‘get it’, during which time I could work out the best way to express how to place pins for cutting versus sewing, how to lock a seam so it won’t unravel later when folded over into a hem, how to ease curves, and properly align seams. Even before sewing, laying out the pattern on the fabric must be done carefully. Woven and knit fabrics have ‘nap’ and ‘grain’ which must be considered. Stripes must be parallel or perpendicular to the line provided on each pattern piece, and designs must be plotted out so that they’re symmetrical on collars and large designs not parked on an awkward part of one’s anatomy. This fabric’s design was sweet, with little red ladybugs on a field of chartreuse.

Cara caught on very quickly: faster than I could set up our next step’s lesson. Two years off had left me rusty. Maybe I was tired and fooled by the toddler’s pants pattern, where the rise to the waist is almost equal to the inseam of the leg and not clearly different like an adult’s pants. Cara had mastered her new sewing machine and was sewing all the pieces together very well. The little sleeveless top was already a success.

As I was folding down the waist on the pants I noticed that the ladybugs were all lying on their backs instead of creeping along on their tiny legs. I’ve sometimes squeezed a 3-yard pattern onto 2.5 yards if the store had no more and I was determined enough. Now, in attempting to have some fabric left over, perhaps for a hat, I’d pinned the pants pattern pieces UPSIDE DOWN! SO embarrassing!

Fortunately, there was enough fabric for a do-over, so Skye’s little outfit will be fine. And I was happy to demonstrate to Cara that sewing is fraught with small misadventures, that usually the outcome is good, but not without angst and do-overs. I just hope she doesn’t follow my example too closely. She has the patience and exactitude to sew beautifully and has now produced three outfits!. Congratulations, Cara!

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