How it Happened

April 30, 2008


I adore cloth.

I dislike sewing.

You have to understand what a betrayal this is on my part.  I am a fifth generation seamstress.  Actually, I am an infinite generation seamstress, because prior to my granny’s granny, the consummately chic Nanny (born a hundred years before me), my ancestresses didn’t have any choice: all of them sewed.

Maybe part of the problem was that mortifying and detestable 4-H sewing class I was forced to take in 3rd grade.  But no.  I don’t think so.  4-H did the job; I learned to sew.  I could have learned to love it later, but I didn’t.

To love sewing clothes you either have to be a spatial genius, like my mom; or a sensualist-pragmatist-perfectionist, like my granny; or maybe you just have to really, really like polyester double-knit, like my great granny.

I understand the last approach a little better than the first two.  I still intend to sew, because like Great Granny with her double-knit tunics, it is the only way to get the clothing I want.  In my teens I sewed ethnic caftans and bizarre gored skirts and fitted cotton half-slips because the clothes I wanted to wear did not exist, and I refused to compromise my aesthetic.  It was grueling.

Yes, I was a freakish child.

Skip ahead.  I’m in my late twenties.  The history and idea of weaving have fascinated me all my life; I pay careful attention wherever they crop up in my reading or at art exhibits.  Finally, restless for a real-life door to my daydream, I go to the library and borrow some how-to books by those krazy sixties and seventies kats.  Acrylic sunsets, anyone?  I consider constructing my own simple frame loom, maybe a Navajo loom–ooh, or better yet a bronze age Scandinavian loom!–not because I want to do tapestry, but because making it myself is the only way to obtain such an expensive tool, and a simple loom is the only kind I can make.

I was actually at the point of winding strings around an old oak canvas-stretcher I’d set aside for the purpose when we moved from our moldy rented farm-cottage into town.  The stretcher had been in the cellar, so it hit the dump along with the rest of our contaminated belongings.

After the move I read Women’s Work: the first 20,000 years: women, cloth, and society in early times by E.J.W. Barber.  Oh, this is a wonderful book!  It was in my head for months!  Closer. . .  Closer. . .  Meanwhile I found it necessary to sew curtains for every room in the new rental.  (Mini blinds give me the Puking Vertigo.)  So, it wasn’t until quite a bit later . . .

. . . that my husband was worrying about spending money on a Tai Chi class.  Not really thinking he would bite the bullet, I said, “If you take a Tai Chi class, I’ll take a weaving class.”

We were living about a block from a historic home owned by Parks and Rec.  Once a year they offered a weaving class there.  My husband signed up for Tai Chi.  I called Parks and Rec, but the weaving class had started a week ago.

To be continued. . .


4 Responses to “How it Happened”

  1. Cally Says:

    Hello, nice to meet you! I love that book as well – and it has such a great title. I’m looking forward to reading more about your weaving classes.

  2. Jane Says:

    Oh, oh! That is one of my favorite books, too. And I also am in to what I refer to as “compensatory spending” – meaning: my beloved spends $$ on something he wants or believes is important (or he gets a speeding ticket!!) and I then, too spend roughly the same on something that I adore.


  3. Cally Says:

    Sadly that wouldn’t work for me – my other half is far too modest in his spending. But of course that means there is more money in the pot for textile things, doesn’t it?

  4. trapunto Says:

    Hm, maybe I’ll think of that speeding ticket der Mann got several years ago (right after I warned him to slow down) as funds in reserve!

    Actually, he is very modest in his spending, and I am too, but we both believe in making permanent purchases–not skimping on stuff like garden tools. Our compatibility this way is a real boon, but it means we have to bribe and wheedle with each other to spend money on ourselves for “luxuries.” For instance, Der Mann is always delighted on the rare occasions I go out clothes shopping, while I can come home with three desperately needed $10 shirts from the sale rack and feel guilty for wasting money.

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