Monday, August 13, 2012
I have actually become a teeny bit of a “crafter!” No seriously it started with what I hoped to be the cost-saving measure of making rubber-stamp Christmas cards last year (which ended up setting me back about 250 bucks) and from there went on to knitting, curtain-making, several dinner parties, and now I’m thinking maybe I will try my hand at a couple of pillows. I don’t even need to put a zipper in, I'm thinking, just buy the foam or down thing and some material and baste the fourth side. The heck with it, when they start getting shabby, I’ll make more!
The curtains, green-gold organza with swirls, were many weeks in the execution. I had to shop/plow through zillions of possible selections for the material, thread, pins, a tape measure, and then I had to learn how to use my dear housemate's sewing machine (I gave mine away three years ago in an ill-advised faux St. Francis of Assisi "paring down") on which I promptly broke the needle. Jacqui has a darling little guesthouse-type building that houses TWO sewing machines, on which she apparently used to fashion, among other things, pillows and sell them at farmer's markets and probably make a killing as she is possibly THE most entrepreneurial and handy person I have ever known.
Anyway, this cottage is great. French doors before which are positioned two tailor's dummies clad in smartly-styled jackets with slash pockets, fabric-covered buttons, gussets, and perfect lapels which Jacqui no doubt dashed off in some long-ago spare hour. Hardwood floor, an old kilim, the rich smell of good cloth, lace, trim, and sewing machine oil. My mother was an expert seamstress so this is all evocative of my childhood. I was a miserable pupil--as usual, I wanted the finished product without having to go through the long hours of painstaking trial, error, and work (the one possible exception being writing).
Still, I thoroughly enjoyed kneeling, turning the fabric under, pinning, humming, and saying, "Oh shoot" when one panel of a pair turned out to be five inches shorter than the other...You would not want to examine my curtains up close--I ended up measuring more by eye than measuring tape and the hems look somewhat like they were done by a blind person--but I am happy with them and my plan is to remedy all imperfections by sewing a nice length of tassel fringe along the bottom.
Caryll Houselander, of whom as you may or may not know I'm a huge fan, believed we should all have a little handicraft. She worked with traumatized children and was always teaching them how to carve animals out of wood or make papier mache masks or paint icons and she saw how the work soothed and calmed and stimulated and delighted and helped bring the children back to the land of the living. I am not very handy and yet I have come to treasure the hours I spend on my amateurish projects. We all have a deep urge to create, to make something out of nothing, to see some physical form take shape. Flannery O'Connor also believed a writer should cultivate at least one other art. For her, it was painting, which she was actually good at. So there is something here as well about the fact that we need to let our minds lie fallow every so often; to "see" with another eye than the one we use for our main work.
Finally, I am building a nest. I live pretty much in one large room and day by day, week by week, month by month, in two years it has become almost a living thing on its own. The light now filters through sheer green curtains on all sides, making everything seem fresh and hopeful and new.