Monday, 1 October 2018

Small and inconsequential breeds of fear

First I had simple ironing fear. Why is it so hard to get a double thickness of fabric flat and even, with the central fold straight and the selvedged edges together? Our actual iron can be a bit tricky all by itself; tends to blow the fuses.

I managed it, but chose to do the ironing on the landing so as not to alert the inhabitant of our bedroom (working away at publishing arcana on his computer) to the fact that I had started a sewing project, just in case I messed it all up and had to add to the misery by explaining. There wasn't really room on the landing and I managed to knock off the duvet cover someone had left drying on the banisters so it slid down to the passage below. That would have been all right if she hadn't taken the day off work to visit her grandmother, and so found her duvet cover lying abandoned in the hallway. So my ironing fear was compounded by laundry shame; or it might have been relative shame. Not relative to other shame, but shame induced by annoying one's relatives — happens to me constantly.

I got all five yards (I like a full skirt) of homespun ironed flat — no mean feat. I'd washed it first because it always shrinks, and there wasn't really room on the washing line for something five yards long, without it trailing on the courgette plants. Their leaves have an odd mould, so I was worried this would mark the fabric. It didn't, but I suppose that means the entire odyssey began with mould fear. But it ironed up nicely and I consulted the sewing instructions to see if everything was okay so far. Oh. No, it wasn't. They said you must iron with the wrong sides facing each other, which is sort of hard to tell with homespun, but on balance the lumps and loose bits of thread seemed more on the outside than the inside, so I had to iron it all over again. This was harder because the crease didn't want to go back the other way, and I had to get it exact because it's plaid/check. But I did it.

Then I got cutting out fear. You have no idea of the immensity of my homing instinct for making the wrong choice, or getting things the wrong way round or inside out. If there's a way to mess things up, be assured I will find it. You can't really get cotton homespun in England (well, only fat quarters for quilting). Cheap though it is from America, it ain't cheap once you've paid postage that costs more than the fabric, plus taxes on the fabric, plus taxes on the postage and anything else they can thing of to tax and then charged you to wrestle it off the raccoons and get it out of their shed. So I was afraid of cutting it out all wrong. But I followed the instructions carefully and I think I've done it okay.

It's all resting now until the morning, because our lights are dim and so is my eyesight and the combination is not conducive to getting a good result from sewing pumpkin coloured fabric with pumpkin coloured cotton — let's face it, I even need one of those gizmos to thread the needle.

This pause has gone on long enough for me now to have developed buttonhole fear. I've looked up online how to hand-sew buttonholes, and the advice is in unanimous agreement that you must practice lots first. The fiftieth one you do might come out all right. Well, they didn't look all that hard to me, and I hate practicing things so I doubt if I'll bother, but I'm afraid I may be all too wrong about that, and I'm scared of messing it up.

By the way, while I'm writing this, there is a brass band playing in the room underneath me — really jolly, cheerful tunes. I wish you could hear them. Its fab.

I think I might be getting ahead of myself with the buttonhole fear, because I know that once I get to sewing it all together there'll be wrong-order fear — matching the wrong sides together or doing one half inside out or upside down, Oh the possibilities are endless. 

Then there's the fear that once I've actually made the thing, inexplicably it won't fit me, or else it will and I'll get too thin/fat for it, or I will just look stupid in it and people will mock me.

Of course, it might just turn out okay. I mean, it's only a pinafore dress. Or, if you're American, a jumper.

I could have waited patiently and sidestepped all these besetting fears (as bad as John Donne*), because I have a kind relative (my daughter's mother-in-law) who said she'd sew the dress for me, but she has a pile of other projects to complete first, so couldn't get to it for a month or so. And I have this fear that either she or I will die before she sews it so I'll never get to wear it. Not that either of us is in danger of imminent death, but you never know, do you? Life is short.

They're playing the can-can now! 

*  "I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done;
I fear no more." ~ John Donne, A Hymn To God The Father


Suzan said...

I understand. I have a fear of sewing. I loathe dress making. My mother mocks me for following the pattern. Her brain works in a different way to mine. I have sat in quilt making class trying to not panic. My mind boggles that I want to quilt but I persevere. I am sorry that homespun is so expensive. Good fabric tends to be pricey here too.

Ganeida said...

Uh~huh. My mother is an exceptional seamstress ~ who stressed me when she taught me. I thought I could teach my oldest daughter. She doesn't like to read instructions & stressed me. I do not sew any more.

Helen said...

Well you've made a start at least!
I have been putting off a sewing project that I really want to do, and which would be really good to get done, all because l fear that I won't be able to translate the idea I have in my head into reality. Think of me and I shall think of you and together we shall overcome!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Suzan — Well done you for sticking at the quilting! The homespun fabric isn't expensive at all — it's the UK government that's pricey! I get mine from Jubilee Fabric online; lovely stuff and not much money at all.

Hi Ganeida — oh, I can imagine that scenario all too well!

Hi Helen — United we stand! May you proceed and overcome!

Rapunzel said...

Hi Pen,
As a writer I think you won't be offended that I found it great fun reading about your sewing anxieties. It's the way you put things..... ; )

Sewing is my greatest pleasure. Needlework in general is really, and I've done an uncountable lot of it in my life, but even now I hesitate to cut into a huge swath of fabric, and my daughters are the same. When you've got the fabric all spread out on the cutting table it is just so perfect, it seems a shame to start hacking into it.

My anxieties turned up big time in learning to drive. Hilly terrain and a stick shift Volkswagen just about undid me! I love driving now, 45 years later, but it was rough in the learning phase.
My other anxiety area is mathematics. When I design a knitting pattern I have to pretend to myself that I'm not doing math at all. Mind games work sometimes.

A professor once told me that Anyone can write, the secret to success is in the re-writing!
I find sewing to be similar, as I learned to spot mistakes and correct them the whole proceeding became easier and eventually I got to where I could often see a potential mistake ahead of me before I actually make it.

Do let us know how the pinny comes out or we'll perish of curiosity!

Pen Wilcock said...

Ah yes — mind games to the rescue! Indeed. I'm forging ahead with the pinny. Bodice bit done today, buttonholes tomorrow, skirt on Thursday. Ha! That's the plan, anyway!

Buzzfloyd said...

You can do it. If there are imperfections, only you and Jesus will know.

Julie B. said...

I'm not sure if your intent on writing this post was to make me laugh out loud, but I did. I apologize. It reminds me of a sermon I heard long ago -- "Name your fears! Get them out in the light and apply the antidote (a certain scripture, the blood of Jesus, etc.) to them!"

Well, I could name a few fears as you have. Returning Catalog Clothing Fear. Cleaning the Birdcage Fear. Staying Current on Foster Paperwork Fear. Too-short Jeans Fear. Having to Watch Football Fear. And on and on. Thank you for the thoroughly enjoyable post, dear Ember.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello Buzzfloyd. I (also) fear there may be some other people as sharp-eyed as Jesus. I didn't space the buttons quite right (despite measuring and re-measuring), and I regret following online advice and 'making a feature' of said buttonholes by working them in thicker, contrasting thread. They're a feature now, all right!

Hi Julie B — Well, it was my intent, so I'm pleased it made you laugh. Too short jeans fear. Oh, yes.