I’m struggling with something that feels like a silly struggle, but I need to resolve it. A brief history: for years I had a sewing machine I used only for repairs and to recover pillows, basically. I fought with the bobbin case and tension too much to do anything else. In early 2015 I was unwell and spent a lot of time in bed, and decided to make myself a bed bag for my remotes and pens and things. I sewed it by hand, figuring out what turned out to be box corners, then embroidered a little picture on it. I was so pleased with it, I made another for my daughter. Then I remembered I earned a Girl Scout embroidery badge back in 1973, and looked online to see what people do with embroidery. I ran across crazy quilts. I loved the idea, so I got to the store, bought some wild clearance fabric and some iron-on adhesive, set up an ironing station next to the bed, and spent the next few weeks hand-sewing a quilt, embellishing with clearance buttons and ribbons, and learning/relearning embroidery stitches.
This isn’t the lavish thing you’ll see if you Google crazy quilts. Most of those aren’t useable, though, and I don’t like to make things I can’t use.
That summer, I received a generous shopping trip for my 50th birthday, so I researched, then bought a new simple but well-rated sewing machine that didn’t need the bottom tension adjusted, and some fabric and accessories.
I made aprons and bags, and a simple baby quilt, then commenced to a new crazy quilt. I put it all together the same way, but on the machine, then hand-stitched over all the seams.
I was so pleased and satisfied with both, I thought I’d do one a year, but I haven’t gotten far this year. I’ve gotten good at the machine and learned many new skills, and seem have less patience for hand sewing. This makes me sad and frustrated.
I’ve talked before in the twin to this space about how I feel overwhelmed by choices these days, and disconnected from tangible stuff. I resubscribed to a magazine and a Sunday paper, and I’ve been looking at old TV shows on broadcast TV. To try to find the roots of something. But I have everything at my command that a person on a limited, but comfortable budget could have, and it’s much easier to just skim the surface.
I mean, I don’t listen to records as much as I could as it’s easy to just turn on I Heart Radio. But I love playing records.
It’s all one big ball of complexities I want to straighten out, but on top of the list is that I want to combine my awkward but sweet hand sewing pleasure with the ease of putting things together with the machine, and yet what that requires is sitting in a chair and focusing and using my fumbly fingers as best I can. I’m better, crazily to me, than most people seem to be these days at focusing on a single slow task, but I think maybe there’s some guilt mixed into the picture. Is it okay for me to spend time that way? And also, can I still allow myself the pleasure of imperfect stitching, when I can look online and see the burgeoning movement of needlecraft in which people have far outstripped my humble little borders and simple flowers with tremendous artistic displays?
I never worry about that while painting on canvas, and I never worried about having a very average singing voice that probably only my kids enjoyed. I’m not competitive in the least degree. But something is holding me back. I'm glad for the skills I've learned to do on the machine, and intend to keep learning more. I need to be able to make myself sit and stitch by hand just as diligently, though. I can't say why, it's just one of those things.