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I am a mother, a new 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 first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Sunday, November 7, 2010

What white shirts are telling me

I discovered something about white shirts and about myself this weekend.

The first thing I discovered is that taking the colour and garment range out of the equation sure gives you time to focus in again on the real act of sewing.

I made a decision when I sat down yesterday, with the plain white thread in my machine and the plain white fabric in my hands, to take my time, really take my time with these shirts.

Just making that decision made me realize how rushed my sewing has become, for years now. Trying to produce so much in such slivers of time, giving myself deadlines, always feeling that I should be working on the next one while I was sewing the current project. I decided to slow that down, in fact I decided to do nothing but practice and experiment with different seams yesterday, to see what ones I might want to use in this and subsequent projects.

I mean I never do this, I am always in such a rush to get things done.

I think I will post the results of those experiments tomorrow because I want to stay with this subject for a while.

A few things in my life are making me rethink time.

For a start I have been doing some sitting of my 14 month old granddaughter.

I had forgotten how full a toddler's day is, completely agenda free.

 There is practice walking, and saying meow at the cat, and reading books upside down and then trying to tear them apart, and saying no to yourself before someone else takes something pointed and interesting out of your hand, and dancing, and there is lying on the floor with your thumb in your mouth and your blankie waving your legs in the air while you look at the ceiling.

How long has it been since any of us just hung around like that? Just spent some time doing things for no particular reason?

How would you act if you actually felt you had lots of time to do things, in fact some time to just move around in? What important and interesting things would you do if you opened the spaces around your time like that?

So I decided to play around with seams before starting on my sewing job.

I had the best time.

I also discovered, or rediscovered, just how the act of sewing gets me back to myself.

It was a crazy busy weekend and it is lucky I had any time to sew at all. My husband went stateside Friday, and Saturday morning the one week old new giant fridge started to heat up. About the same time the clothes dryer stopped heating up at all. A weeks worth of wet wash and a weeks worth of melting groceries are an interesting combination. 

It is like the appliances got a memo that Mr. Fixit had left the building.

I am also in the middle of my last full-time teaching year and have 70 term papers due Wednesday. This means that the "can I have an extension" emails and requests for emergency appointments have started coming. I had already warned them, no grandmothers this year. I had five go down the week before papers were due last year (thank god they pulled through and recovered a week or two later).

For those of you with college aged kids tell them this. If they have to go to a teacher and ask for an extension say the truth. 

Something like "this is my first term away from home and I have been fooling around and partying and I need three more days because I screwed up.

This make sense, instead I am hearing:

I have been called home because of an unforeseen medical emergency in an elderly family member and am late because my car broke down on the drive back to school and my room mate was supposed to call but her cell phone was stolen so I couldn't call her to tell her to pick up my computer and now the repair place is closed to Monday and my laptop had all my notes on it and I can't get it back until next Thursday because I have to work and it takes me six hours to get to the place where my computer is because I have to take the bus because my car broke down, and I am sure you understand because I am passionate about your course and definitely feel I have a strong future in the profession if I can just have the opportunity, until next Friday, to show you how I can excel, which you deserve to see since I got only a 30% on the midterm through no fault of my own but due to extenuating circumstance which I am not at liberty to discuss as it involves an elderly family member with issues that are causing great stress in my large and very close family to which I am highly committed.

 Thank you so much in advance for your  support.

It's enough to make a sewer run away to her sewing room and close the door and spend three happy hours making play seams and finding at the end of that,

 she feels just like herself again.


Ms.Alethia said...

I'm just starting my first white shirt; I can totally understand about rushing through projects to get them completed so I can get to the next preconceived idea. However, I'm totally excited about this project. I'm interested inseeing how long I can endure. :)

Kristine said...

I totally understand (on both counts)! I spent 4 hours alone at home in my sewing room today, and it was AWESOME! I felt better than I have in a long time. On the other topic, I teach HS math, and hear lots of "my backpack is in my Dad's car at the shop" excuses on a daily basis. Honesty really is the best policy!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear you are taking the time to 'just be'. This is what I am doing after a very hard past two years. It has come to either 'relaxing' and starting to enjoy life or risk my health getting worse.

I love the white shirt idea, but must admit I'm not sure I have any white fabric laying about, so to the fabric store I MUST go, and then there's the excitement of going thorough my patterns I haven't gone through for years to find one for this perfect idea. This is going to be fun, THANKS!

Irene said...

I applaud you for taking the time to play with sewing. I agree, so often we're sewing a project for a deadline, not really caring how it's going together, only worrying if it will actually be done on time. I have started slowing myself down, trying to think of what it is that makes me love to sew. I hate to admit it, but the best sewing in the last number of years, has been when I go to the sewing room because I'm so stressed, I need something to take my mind off things. I start sewing slowly, concentrating on only the sewing, and somehow the troubles melt away, and the project at hand usually turns out extremely well.

RuthieK said...

Barbara I love you blog. It makes me think and smile. Still not going to sew any white shirts though!

The Pattern Junkie said...

I love this post -- what a great concept, to think of a toddler's day! I, too, rush through projects because my "dream list" of sewing projects is so inhuman...

The extension stuff made me laugh. I remember once my freshman year my computer melted down and I needed a few extra days to extract the data -- I knew the T.A. didn't believe me and wanted so badly to prove I wasn't making it up! Now college friends who are profs tell me all about dead grandma syndrome...