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Manly misadventures in Sewing.

I could write a long post about my misadventures learning to sew, in an attempt to do something special for my wife Sheryl’s birthday. I won’t make this long though, a sampling of my misadventures. It was fraught with misdirections, that included starting projects that I couldn’t finish, buying too little fabric and having eyes rolled at me in fabric stores because of my ignorance of all things to do with fabric and clothes, and that sort of thing. It dawned on me that I have a lot of tools, but none of the tools or know-how associated with this kind of hand made giftery. Yes, I just made that word up. Just to sometimes not feel so dejected I would hurry over to Home Depot to run an errand where I would feel comforted in knowing my way around tools that are not associated with sewing. Still, I’d eventually return home to the “secret” box that held the sewing machine I hastily bought not two weeks ago, turn it on and make something each night, good or bad that was the goal. After all, I asked myself, how hard could it be?

Exactly how do you attach sleeves?  Why can't i just glue this right about here...

Exactly how do you attach sleeves? Why can’t i just glue this right about here…

I know that is not a very insightful thought process. Perhaps I was not thinking clearly after many weeks trying to rebuild our home in one way or another following the Colorado floods. Still, I couldn’t get out of my head this idea of making something for my wife. I had planned it months ago, but one thing or another delayed my start, and then the Colorado floods happened and I thought it wasn’t meant to happen. I had to rebuild my studio before I could even consider trying.

It wasn't enough to make pajama pants, i had to learn on smaller things first.  That's why i made the little shirt for our smallest son, and the test pajama pants for our other son. At least that way I could mess up on a small scale first.

It wasn’t enough to make pajama pants, i had to learn on smaller things first. That’s why i made the little shirt for our smallest son, and the test pajama pants for our other son. At least that way I could mess up on a small scale first.

The idea wouldn’t go away though, so I started pondering it while mucking mud, pulling down walls, and as my new studio took shape I thought again about it more seriously. The thought process here wasn’t just to make something, but rather to continue stepping into the role of a husband and father that didn’t just take interest in what his family wore, but was willing to step into the role of making things, that so often women do for their families.

I thought of what Louis CK said about Father’s Day, and stepping into fatherhood; “don’t be mom’s assistant, be a man.”, he chided me. Yes, I always take things that Louis CK says personally.

I also think of what he said about making mistakes as a father. I make lots of mistakes as a husband and father. This project, which I tried to execute in less than two weeks mostly in the middle of the night, was somewhat misguided and the end results? Well, the results are riddled with loving mistakes and a total misunderstanding of how to actually sew.

Here's a mistake. I made this drapey sort of blouse, and I couldn't figure out how to finish it.  Arms and front band holding me up.  But I'm real good picking out fabric.

Here’s a mistake. I made this drapey sort of blouse, and I couldn’t figure out how to finish it. Arms and front band holding me up. But I’m real good picking out fabric.


Often I would roll my eyes after trying to understand the non-existent directions that come with patterns I had chosen. I soon realized they were meant for people who already had a working knowledge of this subject, which I clearly don’t have.

I wished I had just made something out of oak, oak and I have an understanding.

I continued though. It wasn’t that failure was not an option, it was that even in the face of everything we have gone through lately with the floods, giving up was not an option. I didn’t give up on our house during the floods, and I wouldn’t give up trying to do something special for her birthday.

oh why did i pick a pattern with sleeves?  And this slippery material? What made me think that was a good idea for a beginner?

oh why did i pick a pattern with sleeves? And this slippery material? What made me think that was a good idea for a beginner?

In the end I had to rely on good ol’ duct tape to help me finish up this blouse. I just couldn’t see how to finish attaching it. I had to make sure sleeves and edges aligned when it wasn’t laying flat on floor. So I did what any artist with loads of duct tape and extra R16 rated insulation would do; I quickly sculpted a duct-tape sewing dummy at the approximate size of my wife (who I went to repeatedly for hugs so that I could surreptitiously size her).

When I pull out the pins this blouse slips to the floor quickly, so I'm pretty sure I have some work to do, but more likely it will hang to low on one side, and slide off her shoulders, beautiful fabric, ineptly handled.

When I pull out the pins this blouse slips to the floor quickly, so I’m pretty sure I have some work to do, but more likely it will hang too low on one side, and slide off her shoulders, beautiful fabric, ineptly handled. Luckily I have several more yards to work out the kinks.

It’s an imperfect present for sure. It’s more of a promise though, to keep showing up and celebrating my wife’s birthday, our marriage, our family and the life we are creating together, flood or not. I’m hoping she can see past the mistakes the dropped stitches, the dangling threads and unprofessional back-stitching to see that it was made with love. It was made to celebrate her forty second trip around the sun, and to show her how crazy-grateful I am to have her in my life that I was willing to put down my tool belt, put aside the digital medium, and the oil paints… and go someplace new for her.

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