Sunday, June 9, 2013


Who would have thought I'd have more work to do now than I did in the past couple of weeks. School is out in two days. All the volunteering there is over, yet somehow, I need to raise money. I need to raise $550 for the Boy Scout troop so that all the kids can go to camp. That's how much we needed to raise for the pancake breakfast and that's, thankfully, the number we've whittled it all down to after the pancake breakfast.  I still have ten and a half pounds of bacon and four pounds of sausage in my freezer, but I bought that back knowing that I can use it up. Someday.

You know, I don't want to write about this tonight. I want to write about how Mike tries to use my sewing machine. It all started at the state fair.

No, it started before that. When my grandma died, the one who made biscuits and jelly for camping trips, I inherited her sewing machine and all of her thread. She was fond of colors like pink and jade and teal. Not exactly my style. I don't know why I was so appointed except that my mother said I was the only girl who didn't already have a sewing machine. The reason for that was that I had no need of a sewing machine. I was not good at patterns. Do you remember those things? I would unfolded this tissue paper that looked like a wayward map. It came out of the envelope, tearing as I tried to make heads or tails of it. It read like a treasure map only I could never understand the directions. And it never folded up the way it came out. I have at least one pattern that I jammed back into the paper envelope in a wad and then smashed down flat with my fist.

I was terrible at choosing fabric for anything I was making. Either it was itchy, it was supposed to drape when it clumped, or I just couldn't get the material through the machine because it would jam up into a knotted thread ball under the foot. Plus, all those clothes were three-dimensional. The pattern might fit a standard size twelve girl, but I had never been a standard size twelve. I was thicker here, longer there and there, smaller across there, and I had a slight twist that nobody but a tailor would notice.

So, I accepted the sewing gear even though the thought of using it made me sweat. I had learned how to sew, but I did not want to do it. For three years, I used the sewing machine strictly for making repairs and as a book end. It made a good book end.


When my sister said she was going to have my first nephew, I knew I'd better get cracking. I was going to make him a quilt. I had never made a quilt before, but I was sure I could do it. Quilting, for me, falls into a quite different category than sewing. My grandma, the one who loved me best, was a quilter. She'd gather once a week with the ladies from her church and I'd make a little nest under the quilt frame where they were working. When they dropped a needle, they asked me to push it through for them. I think they were just trying to keep a bored little girl involved.

But I will tell you what I never told them. I was never bored. Sometimes I read a book or played with tinker toys, but, if I was quiet enough, I found the ladies, except for Grandma, would forget me and begin to tell stories. Oh, these were good stories. Maybelle's daughter had taken up with a man from Bechtel and had run off with him, leaving Henry with the two kids, one still in diapers, and a second mortgage, whatever that was. It was because of the pool, the mortgage, not the running off. These women would get to cackling about what the two of them were up to down in Pensacola until my grandma would remember my presence under the frame, probably because I was sitting on her feet, and shush the ladies just when they were getting to the good part, the educational part, the part about the meaning of life itself. Now, quilting, that was interesting.

On top of that, my grandma had made my blankie and about three other quilts I'd had on my bed since I was a baby. I'd run my fingers over the stitches at night as I fell asleep.

So, when my sister gave me the good news, I thought, 'Now, that baby will need a quilt.' And I got to work making an ugly pink, green, blue, and yellow quilt out of sweat shirt material. That thing was fugly! But I learned something about quilting that separated it from sewing clothes. What you made laid flat. Plus, it usually involved squares, at least at first. I could sew squares. And the best part was that there were no tissue paper patterns to wrestle with. I could make it any way I wanted.

So, I started quilting on my grandma's machine. Except for one thing, it was wonderful. The not wonderful part was that I had to grab the back of every piece of fabric I ran through that sewing machine and pull it through as it stitched. It was the feed dogs. They had stopped working and there was nothing for it. So, for the next three years, I made quilts by pulling all the pieces out the back of the sewing machine. It was that simple. I got pretty good at it, most of the time. It may have been frustrating, but I'd done it so long, I forgot it was frustrating. It just was.

Then, one day, at the state fair, after a demonstration and a sticker price of $1000, Mike said, "Why don't you get one of these new sewing machines? You need it."

"Really?" I said and burst into tears. Now, you men - you know an idea is a good one if you mention it to your wife and she bursts into tears. Oh, you know what kind of tears I mean. I don't mean the tears that come when you've filed Chapter 11 and you thought you could make back a bunch of money you owed by going to Vegas with the last of your grocery funds. Not that kind of tears. Mike scored a hundred that day and I walked away with a 20% discounted, because it was a demo, brand new sewing machine that didn't require your left hand to feed-dog all the fabric through the back.

Oh it was a nice machine. It was a Husqvarna. Mike said to get that kind. He said, "Get the Husqvarna. They make good chain saws."

It's still is, even after these twenty years. And I can also tell you that I still get a chill whenever he sits down at my machine with the intent to use it. Oh, he could use it. I don't mind. He used to know how to thread it. But he always seemed to wait until I was watching and sit down with cordura or denim or waxed canvas for some crazy project.

If I had my way, my sewing machine would never see anything but silk or cotton. I make quilts. That's it. Just quilts. Mike wants to use my sewing machine like it's a power tool. Any time he'd sit down at the machine, I'd jump right it. I think that was what he had in mind all along.

But Mike, oh, he's had me make so many strange projects. I've made a knife sheath out of webbing, a dog bed from cordura, closed-cell foam, and ripstop nylon, a traveling case for our canoe paddles, a map case from vinyl, fleece hats, glasses cases, neck gaiters, and sleeping bag liners. I've made cloaks, drawstring pants, tunics, vests, belts, and bracers. These days, there are lots of patches to sew onto uniforms and I'm beginning to teach Nick how to use my machine. I have reservations, though. Last week, as Nick stood and watched, Mike sat down at my sewing table with leather in his hands. I'm pretty sure I have a leather punch among the needles I used when I took the free class Husqvarna offered years ago, but after tackling blue jeans hems, I'm thinking he needs to get me an industrial sewing machine if he wants to sew leather.

And it had better be Husqvarna. They make good chain saws.

Thank you for listening, jb

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