Over the long weekend I made the Torrens Box Top from Muna & Broad. I’ve quickly become very fond of this small, independent pattern company. For one thing, they make patterns in my size, which I’ve found most pattern makers don’t, not even the ones who make plus-size patterns. For another, I love their style, sort of minimalist and oversized. I got tired of all the plus-size clothes that emphasize cleavage and try to make you look as small as possible a long time ago. I don’t necessarily need my clothes to make me look small. I’m not small, and no dress will show otherwise. And I’d rather keep my cleavage to myself, thanks. So I was happy to find their patterns, and look forward to working my way through their collection.
I was intimidated to start. Sewing a whole garment on my own seemed overly ambitious maybe? One sewist I started following suggests starting by thrifting clothes and then refashioning them to your liking. This isn’t a terrible idea, but at my size, most thrift shop clothes won’t fit me. And my current life is such that I don’t have a lot of chances to rummage around thrift shops anyway. So I decided I was going to disregard that advice and make something from scratch. I found some fairly inexpensive fabric online, and decided this first project would be what sewists call a wearable toile, something meant for practice and to perfect fit. I also promised myself that I would do my best to enjoy the whole process, to take it all slow and step-by-step. Cross stitch and embroidery have been such a joy because they bring me to a meditative state, and I hoped to achieve something similar with my first sewing project.
I started Saturday morning. Just cutting out the pattern (which I’d had printed by a print shop on large pieces of paper, another thing I’d had to figure out in advance), laying out the fabric, and then laying out the pattern pieces on the fabric took more than an hour. I reminded myself that was okay, and enjoyed stroking all the wrinkles and bumps out of the fabric, which I’d draped across the dining room table. By the time I was ready to cut, my family was ready to head out and have some fun together, so I left the fabric on the table and went with them. When I returned, I cut into the fabric, which in many ways was the scariest part. It seemed possible I would make some really dumb, irreversible mistakes. And I kind of did. I told myself not to be scared, just to cut, and then promptly cut a tiny hole in the wrong place. I stopped myself before I got too far, and told myself it was okay, I could darn that tiny hole shut later. By the time all the pattern peices were cut out, it was time to make dinner, so I stopped for the day.
Sunday afternoon I came back to the project, and fused interfacing onto the facings for the collar. Then I did some actual sewing. I have learned that much of garment making does not take place at the sewing machine. In fact, I rearranged the guest room Saturday morning so that the ironing board is easier to use. Cutting, pressing, pinning, all these things to me seem to take longer than the actual sewing. I made sure to stay in the moment with all of these, to enjoy the process. But the sewing bit is fun, especially on my vintage 1941 machine. When I stopped Sunday evening, the facings had been sewn to the collar portion of the top, and the shoulder seams on the top were done. Me, I was getting tired, and I could feel myself wanting to rush through the next step and get sloppy, so instead I packed up for the day.
Monday morning I came back to it all. I wasn’t sure if I’d finish that day, but I ended up working from 9-2:30, and by the end, I was done. I stayed in the moment, reminding myself to slow down and enjoy the pressing, the pinning, and, yes, the sewing. And I did. That morning was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Something about doing something that is entirely new to me is thrilling. I’ve been out of my MFA program for more than 10 years. It had been awhile since I’d learned something entirely new when I first started embroidery. I find I like the dopamine rush of mastering a new skill, so I keep doing embroidery and cross stitch, and now sewing. Sewing seems to be a font of new skills to be mastered. I think it will keep me busy for a long time.
When I tried on my new top, before hemming it, I was shocked to find that it fit, and that I liked how it looked. Through it all, I was expecting I’d mess something up and end up with an unwearable garment. And I’d told myself that would be okay. But instead, I put it on and it looked like something I’d like to wear. I was excited as I took it off and went about pressing in and then stitching the hem. I put it back on, and hemmed I liked it even better. I was filled with… pride. Feeling proud of myself is something I don’t feel all that often. It felt fantastic.
So that’s where I’m at. I have a new top hanging in my closet that fills me with pride every time I look at it, and I’m planning my next project. (Black linen wide-legged Glebe trousers, or maybe a black linen tunic-length Torrens Box top. I got a LOT of linen for a very reasonable price online, and so my next 2-3 projects are going to be black linen). And I’m wondering why I don’t feel that flush of pride more often with my writing. With writing, I am always aware of how it could be better. Of how I could be better. I’m wondering, what can I do to enjoy the process more, and to look at the final, imperfect result, and feel that flush of pride?