It's not about sewing

When people see or hear about my kids sewing, most think it's pretty great, everyone comments on their creativity and no one says, out right, that it's a waste of time.

L's first dress, designed and sewn herself
They don't point out any obvious flaws and seem genuinely impressed with the finished product. They want to be supportive and encouraging. And, for the most part they are. I love the feedback my kids get and they grow immeasurably in the light that the wonderful people in our lives shine on their hard work. Most of our friends and family, this is what they give, in endless waves, building and encouraging.

 K and her cousin made a playmat for a teacher's first baby
Inevitably, though, there's that one person who, as the kids walk away, or occasionally just before, turns the conversation to the usefulness of such a skill. There is almost always someone who, in essence, says sure it's a neat thing to know how to do, but it's so much more costly to sew your own clothes nowadays. You can buy stuff so cheap and fabric is pricey. Or maybe they imply, there aren't many good jobs in the field of fashion design, seamstresses aren't paid high wages. Oh, but maybe they could work in costume design for movies! In fact, maybe, there have been times when that person was me.

C's first time solo at the machine, a gift for a cousin's birthday
 But, here's the thing...It's not about the sewing. Sure, if my kids choose a job in the fashion, sewing, fabric, or textile fields (of which I am quite sure there are opportunities) they may have a leg up being exposed so young, but maybe not and, really now, they're kids, we're not planning career paths just yet.

B's first sewing project a tree decoration we still use every winter solstice.

No it's not about the sewing. They sew because I sew and it's accessible.

What it's really about is taking that thing in their mind and making it real. It's about seeing an idea, turning it over, looking at it from every angle and figuring out how to share it with the world.

They do this in other ways too. They do it with their drawings, their stories, their Minecraft worlds, the small businesses they start, the skits they perform for us, the movies they write, direct, film and edit, the dances they choreograph for family get togethers, and the video game designs and animations they dabble in.

K designed and sewed herself a medieval costume
So while I'd be proud if any of them chose to pursue a career that put the sewing skills to good use, it's not about the sewing. Instead, lets talk about the research, the trial and error the figuring out when to ask for help and when to plow through. Or about setting deadlines and falling short, all the times it goes wrong . The tears and tantrums and try it agains.

Lets talk about that feeling you get when you add that small detail or find the perfect ribbon that makes all the hard work so worth it because the finished product is even better than you ever could have imagined it would be.

L attaching her first zipper, an invisible zipper. A squeal worthy accomplishment.
Yes, I'd much rather, after we build my kids up, filling their buckets with our beautiful comments, if we could then talk about learning how to learn, learning we are capable, learning we'll mess up and it'll still be fine because that right there, the process, that's what it's really about.

The Pirate Quilt

Ah the pirate quilt. Took me about 9 years from dreaming it up to finished. It's taken me over a year to blog about it. It's like my ultimate procrastination triumph. Never give up! 
I started this quilt with a fair amount of confidence, 3 years sewing experience in my pocket, but not a whole lot of real skill beyond the basics. This quilt was all about pushing my limits. Every piece I dreamed up required techniques I hadn't mastered.

I do this a lot with sewing, rarely using a pattern or changing it drastically when I do, adding details I have no idea how to work with. I think we all need these things in our lives. Something to show us that when we push our skills we grow. Something that maybe we don't have to take too seriously, that gives us the courage to test our limits.

Goodness, this pirate quilt is so loaded for me. There are many different directions I can go with its story. This is my 3rd attempt in a week and if I hadn't given myself this deadline, done today or move on, I'd still be working on it. 

We can talk about the growth in my sewing skills, the late nights after finally putting babies to bed working a little here and there while trying to stay awake long enough to make it through a movie with my husband. 

Or, how much I learned about fabric. When you spend that much time with a piece of fabric, you get to know it intimately. Bottom line, don't skimp on the big projects and PJs are perfect trial runs for anything.

I could tell you how each piece reminds me of the growing boy who waited so patiently for his quilt, piping in with ideas of his own. How while I was working on the palm tree, one of my most favorite, skill stretching pieces, my boy had fallen in love with Franz Ferdinand and would request his song then bop along to the fun beat while I maneuvered each leaf through the machine, sketching with my needle

I could go on about work spaces. The kitchen table set up I had, with a wall plug just a hair too far away, which caused an innocent hop over a stretched out cord to send my machine crashing to the floor bending metal bits in impossible places at impossible angles, and how that led to a basement studio near to the playroom that sounded like a good idea but, out of sight out of mind, my sewing frequency slowed. 

We can share frustrations, the times it was put aside and sat until the guilt of not working on it for ages became unbearable, or a burst of excited inspiration caused it to be picked back up. And how the stories that fill those moments in between, when it was set aside, they are here too. Little reminders in each stitch of all the life happening along the way.

We could talk about how much I learned about learning and how infrequently I applied that knowledge when we first started homeschooling, even though I really wanted to and knew it was the best way, for me and my kids. 

Or, how about the nuts and bolts of it all? How I did the appliques, each piece has it's own method. And the hand quilting I opted for. Having burned through two sewing machines by then, I was left with only my daughter's, too small to handle a twin size quilt, Hello Kitty Janome. which is actually much nicer than either of my other machines ever were. I loved laying the quilt down on the carpeted living room floor, a book under the spot I planned to quilt next, to sketch the swirls in the water, the ropes of the ship, the fish hidden throughout. Then sitting with needle and thread on winter evenings, cozy under it, many times my boy snuggled next to me his patience wearing as the finishing seemed so close. It was already getting regular use even before it was done.

See loaded. I've already rambled on and on and I've just scratched the surface of all I see and feel when I look at this quilt, at these nine years of my life, at the time I've had with my boy who is quickly becoming a young man. (he has assured me he will cherish it forever, will never be too old for its childish appliques and embroidery, and plans to pass it on to his own children one day)

I could go on for days. I haven't started another quilt since finishing this one, but my youngest and I have started planning hers. Actually we started planning long before the pirate quilt was done, and she and her brother still shared a room, and so Mermaids and sea creatures it is. We've started buying the fabric. She's much older than her brother was when I started his quilt, but I'm faster and have learned to dedicate more time to my sewing so I'm confident we'll have it finished up before she's 9...maybe...we can dream. And even if it takes another nine years to finish it, we will have another nine years of learning and growing and memories wrapped up in the finished quilt. I think I can handle that.