Rabbit Holes

I have never thought of myself as a crafty person. Creative, yes, but not crafty. All the things I made were things involving words. Essays, poems, blog entries, letters, all of these were the things I created. I cooked and baked, but my interest in that waned a long time ago, and I mostly did what was necessary to feed the family and didn’t really consider it a creative or particularly enjoyable pursuit. So that is why it is pretty funny that I now find myself a person who embroiders, cross stitches, and sews.

The embroidery came first. I decided I needed a hobby that did NOT involve words and I read an article on Slate about how latch hooking was the perfect pandemic hobby. I went on Etsy and looked around for appealing latch hook kits. I found a couple, but while I looked, I also found some appealing embroidery patterns designed by Krista West at Avlea Folk Embroidery. I bought one of those two. When they all arrived, I discovered very quickly that I loathed latch hooking. I didn’t find it relaxing at all, just tedious, and I thought the resulting rug was ugly. But I also quickly learned that I loved embroidery. I wasn’t very good at it, and I found parts of it mystifying, but I found it incredibly soothing and satisfying. Gradually, embroidery led to cross stitch, also from Avlea. I liked how her cross stitch designs are meant to be finished into things you will use — table runners and mats, pillows, and more. I finished a small mat, and was as proud of my mitered corners and hemming as I was of the design. Then I finished a larger design, and finished it up into a pillow. The pillow came out great, but it took me 2-3 hours to hand sew the thing. It occurred to me while I was doing that, that a sewing machine would have gotten that portion of the job done in 5 minutes.

And that was the beginning of an enormous rabbit hole. I won’t detail it all, but I now find myself with a gorgeous vintage Singer sewing machine, a Featherweight. I love that it was made in 1941 and yet still works marvelously. I love that it is all mechanical and I can teach myself to do its upkeep. I’ve made a couple bags, and have plans to start work on a Muna & Broad Torrens top this weekend.

I also have, already!, a second sewing machine coming next month. My late mother-in-law sewed clothes for my husband and his sister when they were young. The two of them are now working to get her house ready for sale, and it occurred to me that her sewing machine might still be there and in need of a home. My husband asked his sister, and she said yes, the machine and all the accompanying sewing stuff, were still around and I was welcome to them. He’s going out there next week, and then when he returns, it will be with my inherited machine and notions. I have no idea what kind of machine it is. I’m guessing it was made in the 60’s and that it can do some things my straight-stitch Singer can’t (zig-zag stitching, mainly). I’m looking forward to getting it tuned up and learning how to use it. It will be special, using the machine that my mother-in-law used.

I’m loving my new hobbies. I am working on a large and complicated cross stitch right now, and I’m constantly researching sewing, because the things I don’t know are legion. I think the thing I like about both is how they force me to inhabit a beginner’s mind. I embrace the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m open to all this new knowledge. It is such a joy, learning new things in my late 40’s. I had been in a bit of a rut, and embracing these new hobbies have given a spark to my daily life.

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