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Sewing up 2017

Before being felled by the flu shortly after Christmas, I had intended to write this at the end of December. Better late than never.

The last quarter of 2017 was a busy one for me. This was largely the result of acquiring a new hobby. Like some people collect books or plates, I seem to collect hobbies. The first weekend of October I decided to purchase a sewing machine. It’s something I’d been thinking about for a while, and had been setting funds aside from my paychecks for when I finally figured out what to get. I’m not exactly sure what sparked it: my mom and aunt both sewed when I was growing up, working together for a period at the Nimble Thimble; I had 8 weeks of home economics in 7th grade, split evenly between sewing and cooking; I’ve played with embroidery, needle point, and other fabric arts over the years. Any or all of the above, combined with some feeling that the clothing I wanted to wear wasn’t just waiting on the rack.

So armed with a rugged Husqvarna Viking, I set out to see what sewing was all about. Since that first weekend in October, I’ve made

  • two dresses (Halloween costumes),
  • a tank top,
  • a short-sleeved henley,
  • a button down dress shirt,
  • another button down dress shirt,
  • baby clothes and a coordinating blanket,.
  • two capelets,
  • a tunic top,
  • and a pea coat.

Phew. I guess the sewing bug has bitten me a bit.

There’s a way in which sewing has been an unexpected application of the skills I’ve learned in my printmaking practice. In printmaking — especially linocut — it’s easy to make a mark on the block you didn’t intend. That becomes part of the print, there’s no going back. That leads to creative solutions, working it into the image in a way (hopefully) works. Sewing is more forgiving, but — especially as an early sewist — I found myself making mistakes in cutting, stitching, etc, that I had to work with. In some cases I could unpick the seam and start again. Other projects, such as the tunic, though, were made of fabric that resisted do-overs.

A friend of mine visited me in the printmaking studio a couple years ago. Observing me listen to the ink as I rolled it as a way to gauge viscosity, he commented, “Oh, it’s really like applied material science.” Sewing seems like that to me, too: working with things repeatedly to understand how they can be pushed, manipulated, and stretched.

Looking at the above list I understand why the last quarter of 2017 felt like all sewing all the time. I want to keep doing it in 2018 — I’ve already started a small first project — although probably not at that pace.