Sewing Plan

Posted April 30th, 2012 by Candice

It was the best April plan ever.   I’d use the month before my husband’s surgery to whip up a little book.  Keep myself sane, productive.   

First, I’d pick out a pattern for my new book (Simplicity!).  Next I’d go shopping for material–something chapter-bookish, maybe light blue gingham or a little sailboat print.  Then I’d come home, pin the pattern to the fabric, cut them out, baste the big pieces together.

While wisteria bloomed, I’d stitch up the chapters.  One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.  Maybe eight.  I’d sew on a row of pearly buttons to close those chapters fast.  At the last minute, I’d decide to add a pocket with the scraps.  Embroider the main character’s initials on it.  That would tickle her.

But the plan unraveled before it hardly started.  Today is the first of May and I’m frantically ripping seams.  There is no April book.  There is one revised-ten-times frayed Chapter One.  And that’s it.

I know, I know.  I was rushing.  But I wanted a new book so bad.  It was like ninth grade when I was dying for a Villager shirtwaist dress.  I might as well have asked for a Dior ball gown.  Then lo! our home ec sewing project was a Village-style shirtwaist dress!  I picked out a tiny turquoise floral print I adored.  In no time flat, I’d be sashaying down the halls of Woodson High in my new fitted-to-me dress, just like the cool rich girls.

A Dior ball gown could not have been more complicated.  Invisible side-zipper, button-front placket, buttoned cuffs, Peter Pan collar, pintucks.  Every day, I sewed feverishly on our class sewing machine.  Every day, the vision of myself sashaying in turquoise grew dimmer, especially after I sewed the dress to the skirt I was wearing.  I took the bungled mess home to my mother, who nursed it back to health, though it failed to thrive (my mother was an excellent seamstress, but not an exorcist). 

Some of the girls’ finished dresses could not be distinguished from a real Villager, their pintucks were that straight, their zippers truly invisible.  Mine wasn’t ready for the ragbag like my friend Sandy’s, but it radiated homemade.  It didn’t really fit.

This book plan didn’t fit either.  I can’t write a book in four weeks (though I used to, all the time).  Especially since I had a meltdown every week, zigzag-stitching my terrible mood right over my hapless characters.

So I’ve gathered up the loose threads of that story and packed it in my bottom drawer with all the other half-finished projects.  It’s May.  I have the Iva sequel to revise.  That will be like darning socks, lapwork I can do sitting in a comfortable chair with good light coming over my shoulder.

10 Responses to “Sewing Plan”

  1. Agy Wilson says:

    Isn’t it amazing what we learn along the way? How we change and how much we actually know about ourselves and process? I think we and our projects are the better for it. I had an epiphany (been having a LOT of those dear grrl, long story). My mother asked me when I was a little grrl what I wanted to play as an instrument. My dear Nana had given me a piano and she would play and I had fond memories. Of course I wanted to play. She said now and asked what I wanted to play. I said trumpet. I loved the buttons and thought it would be fun, I thought them VERY CUTE. She said no. You’ll play the violin. I took violin for three years, at one point she paid a man $35 a half an hour, a princely sum in the late sixties, early seventies. But then he was in an orchestra in Boston. He had one other student Andrea Zach who was a prodigy. She was nice enough but he made me know I wasted his time and was condescending, so I hated him, disliked her. It was so bad often times the neighbors would request that practice time come to an end. I HATE doing anything I can’t do well. I can suck a little bit, if I really, really want it, but I have to have a feel or a gift for it. I have little patience with myself when it’s problematic. I think this flaw in me was born then for at least partially these reasons. Now that I know why I shall work at becoming suckier and learning the joy of mudpies and whistling badly again. Who knows perhaps that’s where true gifts are born, in the joy of it. And knowing about yourself and your process.

    • Candice says:

      Oh, I can relate to hating “doing anything I can’t do well.” Does that make us poor losers? I don’t think so. But I love your violin story! The neighbors had to call for the lesson to end! I hope you’ve put this (or will put this) in a book somewhere!

      P.S.: Thanks on the photo. I use Radlab and Snapseed and process the pictures within an inch of their life.

  2. Agy Wilson says:

    Love your picture, p.s…

  3. Here’s my takeaway metaphor from your lovely, poignant post. In those years, I kind of hated sewing. Had that same sew it to my skirt experience; I guess we all did. I just wanted the pretty dress, which was always a disappointment. At least with writing, whatever I get, I pretty much like doing it.

    Hope you and Iva have some peace this month.

    • Candice says:

      I’m so glad I wasn’t the only clumsy one in home ec! Yes, we were in a hurry for the end result. And that doesn’t work with writing. I tell my students…I need to tell myself. Hoping May is better than April…

  4. jama says:

    Over and over this happens to us in life — our expectations at the outset, shining so brightly and full of promise, and then the reality is so different.

    Still, we’ve been taught it’s the process that counts, the learning along the way. I remember making ugly dresses in 7th grade home ec class, a pink one in particular. Hated it, never wore it, and couldn’t imagine how some of my classmates managed to sew such pretty dresses with the exact same pattern and everything. Why didn’t I have the knack? Never could have managed an invisible zipper . . .

    Enjoy your Iva revisions. The new book is patiently waiting for its turn. Likely, you’ll see in hindsight why it wasn’t ready when you were last month.

  5. Candice says:

    Another one from the ranks of home ec flunkies! Join us! I made an ugly dirndl skirt, an ugly apron, and a gorgeous granny dress (my mother helped, a lot). I wore it to shreds.

    So . . . patterns don’t always work. And sometimes the plans don’t either. I’m not sure I was ready–I just wanted the book to be!

  6. Melissa G says:

    Ah! I can see my childhood book friend Kobie peeking through the pages of this entry.
    I once studied clothing design and I am sure the teachers were glad to see the back of me and my poor sewing. There are certain things in life I wish to avoid – anchovies on pizza, parallel parking and having to sew in zippers, especially the invisible kind.

  7. Candice says:

    Parallel parking! Me, too! I will go home if I can’t find a pull-through space! As a teenager, I actually wanted to be a fashion designer, but I couldn’t sew. I could make fashion sketches and create outfits, which I had my poor mother make with no pattern.

  8. JG says:

    Love what you’ve stitched here Candice.

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