Sewing was distinctively a girl thing and I liked it. My granny tutored me in the summers and with a few extra lessons in tailoring from the local Singer center, I actually got pretty good at making facings lie flat and crisp edges. And then in college, about the time Virginia Slims tried to convince women that we’d come a long way baby, long enough that we could die of lung cancer at the same rate as men, I bought my own sewing machine for the equivalent of 100 minimum wage hours (a little less than $135). Blackberries and laptops may have been glimmers in someone’s eyes, but in mine, I was set. That zig zag machine and my new electric Underwood were the only two machines I’d ever need.
Like riding a bike, sewing skills stay with you for life. I could recreate that apron tomorrow. Over the years I’ve made drapes, curtains, pants, suits, kids nighties. Some projects to be worn, and others soon found their way to the back of the closet with that first apron. No matter. I just like doing it. But like finger painting and star gazing, I just don’t do it that much anymore. But I love the new fabric smell, putting the pins in, taking them out, even ripping and starting over is okay. Part of the process. Sewing is a novelty now. I’ve outsourced my own craftsmanship.
Unfortunately somewhere between their T Ball games and pre-calculus, I forgot to pass this knowledge along to my daughters who have never learned to sew. So when Kelly wanted Thomas to have a new blanket with weights in it (new idea for making restless little sleepers less, well, restless) I welcomed the task. No gingham, but being a bit rusty, I did choose a fleece with a block pattern.
Along with the wagon full of mother-regrets I and every other mother drag around, I deeply regret this oversight. And it’s not because every time they need a hem tacked up or a split re-seamed they come to me — I like that part. Because somehow, treading water in the tsunami of self-doubt that was seventh grade, using an overworked checkered apron as a sail, I managed to gain some self confidence. Suddenly I not only knew how dresses and skirts worked from the inside out, I began to understand how tables and cabinets are made. How pieces can be notched and attached. How to make a pattern. To know what it means to have a vision and make it. The ability to sew is part of the fabric of me, being a constructionist is part of who I am and how I view the world — in little pieces that just might work if put together right.
So, tonight while adding the binding to Thomas’ blanket spread out on the dining room table, twirling thread between my fingers to make knots, I was listening to the misogynistic debate over Sotomayer. Does she think she’s better than white guys? (doubtful, but has she had to work harder than white guys to get where she is?) Is she smart enough? (ivy league, summa cum laude, pahleeze) Limbaugh compared her to David Duke of the KKK despite her lack of hateful actions or rhetoric and G. Gordon Liddy even went so far as to say he hopes he doesn’t have a case come before her while she is menstruating. How stupid can an white male convicted criminal be? She’s 54 years old. In lawyer speak, we call that twisted point moot. (Maybe he was the white guy she was talking about having better judgment than. Eh?) Who are these people and why does the news media give them a platform? Honestly, this kind of rhetoric really tests a woman’s opposition to gratuitous, blood spattering violence, especially one no longer in possession of a gingham apron.
Which is all to say, us fifty something women still need some girls only time with the young ones. Passing along such important wisdom such as “you can’t go wrong with dual duty thread,” teaching them how things are made from the inside out. How to be constructionists in their own lives. Clearly, we might have come a long way, but not long enough.