Monday, January 26, 2009


So there are plenty of things one can master without bothering to enrol in formal lessons. Cooking, I think, is one. Sewing, is not.

Well not for me anyway. I am an absolute dunce and even when I think I have made something half decent it only takes me a minute to either see an awful fault in my latest offering or I happen to stumble upon something one of my friends has made. Seeing the work of my fellow housewives who sew really reminds me that sewing is just not one of those things you can fudge.

It was December 2007 and I was extremely pregnant, extremely hormonal and as high on idealism as I've ever been. My husband asked me what I might like for Christmas. -A sewing machine, I answered. For what? He asked. -For sewing, darling. But you can't sew. -I know. So will you use it? He asked. -Oh yes, of course. The only reason I can't sew is that I don't have a sewing machine. Oh ok, I'll get you one then.

So he did. Days later, our tiny girl had arrived. It was about 40 degrees in the shade, we'd just moved into our new house. We had no airconditioning and about 65 million boxes to unpack. I figured once the house was sorted I'd be able to switch on the machine and whip up some dresses for my daughter, new curtains for the windows and maybe a dress or a skirt for myself.


Months later I unpacked the machine. My mind boggled. So I went straight for the manual. Not much better. Must be the sleep deprivation. Surely it is the baby's fault. I'll try again tomorrow. Nope, still no luck. So I called up a sewing machine shop and paid $40 for a grumpy old lady to show me how to thread the machine, how to switch it on and how to change the needle. If I wanted to actually learn to sew I'd have to enrol in a course and she didn't run courses anymore so that was that. I went home and whipped up a blanket. When I say "whipped" I do not mean for you to imagine any sort of efficient, successful outcome. No, it was pretty shonky.

Since then I have tried to make a dress for my daughter, a number of very wonky soft toys for friends' babies and I have even attempted to mend a shirt of my husband's. Every single thing has turned out badly. I've seen a few online tutorials, I've even unpicked my own clothing to get an idea how things are out together. I just can't do it!

Fine motor skills do not come easily to me. I think I am clumsy, also I am impatient. Either way, I need some serious sewing help. I keep trying to psyche myself up. I remind myself of the many years I spent at university, of my so-called intellect, of the millions of uneducated simple women folk who have been able to sew since the dinosaurs... still, I cannot master this skill. It is time to find a course.

Today I made a doll for my best friend. She isn't very well and needs some cheering up. So instead of flowers or chocolates I have my idealistic hat on for the day. I am a housewife dammit. I should be able to cheer friends up with freshly baked cookies and home made dolls. I have created a home made chemo companion. Her name is Polly and she is very very wonky. She is made of pretty materials so that is one good thing. She also has one of those "cancer bands" like Lance Armstrong. That's got to work in her favour. Other than that, she is another piece of evidence to support my argument- I need to do a course. "Husband, darling... the only reason I can't sew is that I haven't done a course."


  1. Carolyn, that is a lovely gesture for your friend. I am sure she will love Polly. I think it is adorable.

  2. Wonky is good! It makes them even more special and much nicer than something store bought, even if it isn't perfect! Anyway, sewing is something you will surely get used to... just make friends with the manual. Everything I made was very wonky for a long time till I looked at the instructions for how to use the machine. It is getting better but nothing is ever quite right!

    A very nice thing for you to do for your friend.

  3. Carolyn, I think Polly is just perfect. My thoughts are with A xoxo

  4. I think Polly is gorgeous - who wants perfect - those slight imperfections make us unique!

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  6. Polly looks lovely to me.
    BTW, I've had lessons and I am still atrocious. I have come to the conclusion that some people have it (the patience, time, calm disposition) and other would like it! Also, there have to be people to buy things from Etsy, instead of making things. That's where I come in!

  7. I think the doll is lovely and the more you practice sewing the better you will become. Have you tried with a piece of paper, no thread in the needle, sewing a spiral, lines, zig zag pattern. Draw things on paper, see if you stay on the line. (we did this for two weeks in my fashion design course, I thought it was a joke, but it helped). Then do it on calico. You'll get better each time! Good luck

  8. You could always become Amish :)
    (Isn't it an Amish custom to deliberately make things "imperfect")

    I think Polly is gorgeous! :)

    I took sewing lessons - I actually found them quite helpful, but still can't sew LOL

  9. Oh that is a great tip, thanks Naomi. I will get some paper out and give it a try. As for becoming Amish, hmm might be fun. I have always been partial to bonnets.