Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ripping Seams

Of Weddings and Dresses

I have a friend who is planning her second wedding (and marriage). This is all very exciting and fun and we are all atwitter with plans and ideas. She asked me, to my great honor, to make a dress for her daughter, who is in second grade. Now, if you know me, this type of project sits firmly in my wheelhouse (which is a phrase people are throwing about like pennies these days but we can talk about that some other time). In fact, it might BE my wheelhouse.

Since the friend lives far away, we designed the dress through text and IM. I sent images of fabric, dress patterns, sashes... and she replied yay or nay. We recognize this kind of seat-of-the-pants decision making may not pay dividends; the color may be all wrong (it's not), the size may be ghastly (it won't be. I know how to measure). But it's kinda too late, because that picture up there is the dress.

It's not completely finished. I need to handstitch the lining to the zipper, which I'll probably rip out and resew, possibly using a T-square so I can get the edges perfect. The hem can't be done until I'm in the presence of the wearer of the gown and she'll most likely, as kids are wont to do, grow in the intervening weeks. But, you can see it's rather a lovely gown, perfectly respectable for any 8 year old attending a wedding.

I took every single instruction to heart when constructing this dress. I took no shortcuts. I ironed the fabric before I cut. Made every pattern mark I could see, double checked the dart placement, even ironed every seam. If the pattern asked me to trim to 3/8" then by golly that's what I did. I wanted the dress to be spectacular. I ripped out the seams attaching the bodice to the skirt three separate times, each time growing more frustrated that the gathers were hanging wonkily. I cursed myself. I cursed the dress. But darnit, in the end, that skirt hangs like liquid silk flowing from a...oh, it's just perfect, okay? Take my word for it.

In Which I Attempt the Ill Advised

On Sunday, I decided to make myself a sweet little knit tunic top before church. I'm not sure exactly what spirit possessed me on that fateful day, but I guess I was feeling adventurous. Or dumb. I threw the fabric out on the floor, didn't iron the pattern, let alone bother pinning it in place. I didn't check measurements, didn't even fold the fabric as suggested because I wanted that dress and I wanted it now. I figured, three seams, unfinished edges and I'm out the door. What could be easier?

Ha. Using a hastily cut mess of fabric and unmatched thread, I sewed that sucker together in under an hour. It's fine, passable. But it's ENORMOUS. I like roomy clothes but my husband asked with fear and trembling: "Is it a moo moo?" There I go taking things too far again. I would not wear it like that to bed. Essentially, I had to take it apart, cut it down and sew it back together again. Not only that but the thrill is gone. I knew I was taking short cuts, and I knew I would pay for it. I didn't care as long as I got that dress.

But now, when I look at it, I ask myself a remarkable question. Why is this friend and her little girl worth so much trouble when I'm not willing to give myself the same effort?

Oof. Are we worth the effort we give to others? I'd like to reply resoundingly, "YES!" But this anecdote reveals that what I want to believe and how I behave are utterly opposed. Sure, I wanted to make a beautiful gift for my friend, and I was confident in my sewing skills. It still leaves me wondering. Should others get more from us than we get from ourselves? Do we bend over backwards to please others to our own detriment? I'm not suggesting I'm a used up rag with no value. I'm just kicking around some ideas about worth, time and effort.

What do you think?

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