writing

Dostoevsky and my sewing machine

I’m thinking of getting rid of my sewing machine.

I don’t use it anymore. Not really. I tried doing some mending on it and it turned into a frustrating mess that only got solved when I pulled out an ordinary needle and thread. When you know how to make hand stitches that can pass for machine stitches, you learn pretty quick that the beauty of a sewing machine is only that it makes larger projects feasible. And more frustrating than imaginable when you get to the end of a project and realize you made a mistake a loooooong time ago that you just. can’t. fix.

I haven’t touched the thing in over a year. And yet, I can’t let it go.

Letting go of my sewing machine would be like ripping out a part of me that I’m not ready to re-examine yet, let alone let go.

Sewing machines, to me, represent freedom. I’ve made a number of shirts, dresses, pants, skirts and so on for both my children and myself, using that same machine. The pretty curtains that hang in my daughters’ room were made with it. The napkins I used to hand out to the kids, the ones I didn’t mind getting grape jelly on, were made on that machine and I didn’t mind the stains because I felt I could always make more if I couldn’t get the stains out.

I made maternity clothes with it. I even made a few cloth diapers, the kind with elastic and velcro.

I’ve had to replace broken needles on it, dust it, maintain it, and it hit me as I’ve written this that I’ve had that machine for almost fifteen years.

But the past few years, our family has been dealing with a crisis. This past year, I finally took self-publishing seriously and have been trying to learn as fast as I can. That means I not only haven’t sewn anything, but I also have a pile of mending that’s been waiting for my attention for weeks.

And do you want to know the truth? I hate sewing. The idea is fun, and the finished product makes me smile, but the process makes me curse and fume and cry and gah I hate it. I would much rather pay someone else to do it.

Does this make me any less feminine? Some would say yes. Sewing is a key part of homemaking, the womanly art of thrift, and with the way fashion has been going, a key part of making modest clothing for someone of my religious bent. Giving that up would be giving up part of who I am.

But…

I only have so much time. And writing has become more than a fun hobby I can giggle about with my friends. I certainly love it more than sewing. Even at its most frustrating, I’ve never cursed or cried with frustration because something hasn’t come together. It becomes the problem percolating in the back of my head while I go about my day or work on another writing project.

I also only have so much space. And my table no longer supports a sewing machine. It’s too light. I have no place to work except at the dining room table, and I’ve always hated sewing around the kids. Too much noise and I can’t concentrate, which leads to mistakes, which makes me snap. And I think that kind of frustration is pretty unfeminine anyway. So, perhaps, sewing is making me less feminine?

No, I can hear the critics say, it’s a problem with your character.

Maybe. Maybe it’s not.

All I know is that when I’ve searched my heart and prayed (yes, prayed) about this subject and our current problems, writing is what comes back. Not sewing.

Last night, three books came up: Writer Mama by Katz, A Broom of One’s Own by Peacock, and Diary of a Writer by Dostoevsky. And it occurred to me that keeping books is one of the ways I keep focus. It applies to other things as well. As long as the sewing machine is still on the shelf, it’s like a bookmark to me. I can pick up right where I left off when I set that down. Can’t I?

I may give it to my daughters. They enjoy it, and it would be good for them to know at least the basics and the amount of work that goes into creating even simple items. It might make them more appreciative. Who knows? And as creative as they are, I think they’ll make some very beautiful things.

As for me, I think the sewing machine does have to go. For now.

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2 thoughts on “Dostoevsky and my sewing machine

  1. Honestly? You need to do what works for you. It doesn’t make you any less of a woman if you don’t sew. Seriously.

    I’ve gone through periods were I don’t sew anything for months. Then I turn around and make heaps of clothing. Seasons happen.

    Either way, do what’s best for you. 🙂

    1. LOL. Thanks. 🙂

      I think the biggest thing is coming to terms with the fact that I just don’t like it, and my cultural/religious background made a big deal about it when I was younger (not so much anymore).

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