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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

What I really learned about fitting pants

I have often noticed that what I learn about sewing also turns out to be something I learn about life. So this afternoon as I ponder why it took me so long to make pants that fit I realize that there was a distinct turning point.

This occurred when I let go of previous assumptions about my "fitting problems" and stopped trying to apply what I thought the solutions should be - specifically the moment when I realized that my grandmother had steered me wrong when she implanted in my head the idea that because I was tall I had a long crotch length and therefore had to begin from the starting point that I had to add length to every part of every pattern.

I am thinking now that we do the same things in many areas of our lives when we continue to proceed with trying to fix, or feel bad about, fitting problems in our lives.

Next month is my Dad's birthday; he died now over 14 years ago. He was a terrific guy, funny, smart, and most of all compassionate and generous. He was raised to inherit a family business. Then when I was in grade two he quit, went back to school and became a high school teacher, where he excelled and had an enormous affect on many lives. Basically he walked away to be with his family, something he never would have had if he had lived his own father's life with 18 hours a day away at the business. My dad was an amazing father and set us up in life as people who enjoyed other people and were always able to deal with challenges with humour. 

Thing is I know that my dad sometimes felt like a failure. He made the right choices in his life but did so against a background of peers who went on to be CEOs and professionals and parents who valued material success. No matter what he did achieve I know that in the back of his mind there was some sense that he had not measured up. I wish that in his lifetime he would have understood how many people thought he was the bravest and most successful person they knew.

Those things, often unfortunately, get said at funerals when it is too late.

In my own life I have had to deal with getting out from under my own set of expectations. 

I married young and at 45 became a single mother with three children. My husband then for lack of another way to say it, had a wandering eye. There was no way I could have understood this when I married him, and I realize now not anything I could have done about it. The impact of this was of course that my wonderful, happy children had to go through a divorce and it pains me every day in some way that there was nothing I knew how to do to give them the complete family they deserved.

Now my life has turned out. I have since married a wonderful man and the kids are amazing, good people. But coming to terms with the feeling that I let them down has been difficult, and of course I know they have had their own pain to work through.

But in making these pants, all these pants, it occurred to me that holding on to the idea that perfect children had to have a perfect life has been holding me back, just like my dad's view of success from his old neighbourhood, and just like the wrong idea of my non-negotiable ways to alter my patterns was.

Sometimes you have to let go of the things you know to be true to make something turn out.

And they say sewing is just a hobby.


Anonymous said...

I love your last three paragraphs; they could formulate a creed to live by.


Barbara said...

I firmly believe that sewing has helped me work through some of my life's lessons, and also that like life I still have a lot to learn.

a little sewing said...

There are patterns... and then there are patterns!! Patterns for pants and patterns of behavior.

I heart your blog, Barbara!

Isn't it lovely that we can choose and make patterns to fit us? And I mean that in the grandest way possible. I bet your father felt your love.

Linda T said...

A very inspiring post. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for some lovely reflections, Barbara.

- Elizabeth (ejvc) from SG

robyn said...

First, congratulations on your pants! You have inspired so many people to create a simple thing that could have a huge impact on their daily lives.

There are so many life lessons that can be learned through creative endeavors of any kind. It makes me sad when I think of how many people there are who don't have a creative outlet. Really, the finished pants, painting, string quartet, or whatever, is just the icing on the cake. The process of getting there can teach so much. So I'm really, REALLY happy for you.

Barbara said...

Nice to read these comments, I really feel that my sewing talks back to me about how I am going through life and I try to listen when I can.

Thank you.