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Failure of The Family Tree

One of my strongest childhood memories is falling asleep at night to the soft hum of my mother's sewing machine. My mother is a seamstress, my grandmother was a seamstress and I'm fairly certain every dead female leaf that once grew on that branch of my family tree was also a seamstress.

I once thought my mother sewing all my clothes was the. worst. thing. to. ever. happen. to. me. All the cool kids had mothers who took them shopping for the latest fashions while my mother routinely dragged us into one fabric store after another, looking at an endless ocean of fabric bolts.

To my mother's (and grandmother's) dismay, I didn't seem to inherit the sewing gene. As much as my mother encouraged both my sister and myself, I just never thought sewing (and crafting in general) to be very interesting. Or perhaps I am just not smart enough to become a sewing guru. I'm hapless at figuring out patterns, I tend to waste fabric and my fingers seem to be a magnet for straight pins to jab.

I spend more time cussing and crying when trying to sew than actually getting any thread into the fabric.

I bring shame to my family name with my inability to sew in a straight line.

After losing control of the sewing machine and sewing the shirt I was trying to make onto my index finger, I put down the seam ripper and vowed to never again darken the door of another sewing room for as long as I lived.

My mother shed a few tears for not having a daughter to share her passion with while I shed quite a few trying to remove blue paisley fabric from finger.

My mother continues to create beautiful couture in the small confines of her sewing room while I continue to twitch whenever I see a sewing machine.

I never really gave much thought to my mutation on the family tree until my daughter suddenly got this weird glint in her eye when she saw my mother working at the sewing machine. It was just my luck that my daughter inherited the gene I never did. My kid? She's a born crafter. And the need for speed, er, sewing runs thick in her blood.

Now I'm all "Crap! Why didn't I just listen to my mother and let her teach me how to sew??" This is one of those moments where hindsight is a total pain in my arse.

So with my daughter showing an active interest (read that as PESTERING me to death for sewing lessons) I'm suddenly wishing I had actually paid attention in those home-ec classes in school instead of using them as a free period to read X-Men comic books.

I'm just a girl, standing in front of a sewing machine, asking it to love me.

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

The easiest thing would be for me to admit that perhaps my mother was right all those years ago when she insisted that perhaps one day I would actually appreciate the skill and that learning how to sew wouldn't kill me (because sewing your fingers shut is painful but apparently not life threatening) and just ask for her help, but that would be like admitting defeat. Or that I was wrong. Either way, neither is going to happen. Mostly because I am a stubborn mule with rocks for brains.

I'd rather eat crow than admit I could use a little help with my daughter's new passion. And while my mother happily helps my daughter as much as she can, as often as she can, Fric needs more supervision than her grandmother can provide. Unless she moved in with us.

Bwhahahaha. Don't get any ideas Mom. (I love you, though.)

So I need to learn some basic sewing skills if only to keep up with my daughter and not look like a total dumbass.

Which is where my friend Deborah stepped in. Turns out, like my mother, she's a bit of a wizard with a sewing machine. However, unlike my mother, she has never threatened to jab me full of straight pins when I made wise cracks about her keeping me in stitches. Also, Deborah wrote a book. Which she happily sent to me when I told her my sob story about being the seamstresses daughter who doesn't know how to sew and how all the other seamstresses kids mocked me on the playground.

Turns out Deborah's book is almost as good as sitting beside my mother and paying attention instead of picking my cuticles and dreaming about Johnny Depp. My daughter and I are reading it together and I've even dusted off the sewing machine my mother gave me when I was younger. My mom may have been onto something with using sewing as a mother-daughter activity.

35 years old and I'm finally ready to start listening to my mother. Who says an old dog can't learn new tricks?

Stitch by stitch, I'm on my way to finally showing my mom what I'm made of. Which, at this point is just a bunch of crooked seams and uneven hemlines, but darn it, I'm back on the branch of the family tree.

Stitch By Stitch

*Thanks so much Deborah for the book, it is FANTASTIC. And I swear, I am actually reading it and not just using it as a coaster for my coffee table. I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of her book if you want to learn about sewing. With her book she'll have you sewing clothes, curtains and cushions in no time. Plus think of all the money you'll save. My pocket book finally understands why my mother always insisted on hand making our wardrobe.*

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Reader Comments (26)

Impressive. I invite my mom to visit (it's an 800 mile drive) when I have sewing that needs to be done, including buttons sewn on. That's how pathetic I am. And she helps me pull weeds too, because I have trouble discerning weeds from non-weeds. And I am a farm girl. Pathetic, eh?

September 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIronic Mom

I finally took up sewing at 34 after looking at adorable bedding, but not liking the insanely high price tag that came with it. Enter my friend, the amazing seamstress, and very inexpensive fabric overseas. A couple of not-so-straight hems here and there, and voila, a duvet.

Fast forward a few years and I'm now buying a decent sewing machine, one that I can eventually teach my now 7 year old on ... when she turns 8 or 9?

My mom was not handy on the sewing machine or in the kitchen - two things I totally enjoy but never had anyone to emulate. Something I vowed to change when I had kids.

September 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill

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I've never been very skilled with a sewing machine either, but I remember begging my parents for one when I was younger. Much to my parents chagrin, I had a bad case of ADD and the sewing machine became a relic, tucked away in the confines of my closet. I never sewed any fingers shut though but HOLY GOOD LORD that must have hurt.

I wish your daughter the best of luck and that's wonderful your friend just wrote a book on sewing. And I think it's nice that you and your daughter can now bond over this activity :)

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

Congradulations on your efforts! Your daughter will appreciate it for the rest of her life.
My grandmother supported her family through the 2nd world war but my Mum didn't get the sewing gene.
I did, big time. I have spent my life drafting patterns, cutting, sewing... I've made everything from tutus (for actual dancers) to a massive puppet with a 42" head circumference. I've also made about a thousand wedding gowns for everyone and their sister except for...me.
I dream of someday working 40 hour weeks instead of 60-80 hr weeks and actually making it over the poverty line before my eyes fall out and my fingers are worn to stubs.
Damn that sewing gene! (careful what you wish for)
And one more thing... just keep stabbing your fingers with pins. Eventually you won't feel it anymore.

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenny Ann Fraser

I am the same way. My grandmother quilted and sewed, my mother made my prom dresses and hand beaded my wedding dress and the first time I tried to embroider a pillowcase, I stitched it directly to my jeans by accident.

I'm gonna get that book because dammit, I want to be able to make aprons.

Good luck!

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZDub

We have similar histories with Moms and our sewing capabilities. And, it seems that every time I attempt a sewing project now, it costs double what it would have if I just went out bought the darn thing! You're lucky to have such a talented sewing friend...

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

I ask inanimate objects to love me all the time. But they never do it.

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermuskrat

My mom used to make my clothes too and in 6th grade I got interested in sewing. I made one shirt, but that seemed to satisfy my "itch" so to speak. After I got married I wanted to learn again and my mom tried to give me lessons. NOT a good idea. As I gnashed my teeth and pulled out seams for the hundredth time my husband said "I thought this was supposed to be fun?" and I replied by throwing the offending garment across the room and screamed "I'm HAVING fun!"

So, I feel your pain is what I'm saying.

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeandra

I love sewing. My daughters will be the ones complaining about homemade clothes...I just wish I could do it more!! Like you, it runs in the family. My grandmother didn't, but my great-grandmothers, my mom and my aunt are all big sewers/crafters. Definitely something I inherited :)

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I'm that way with bowling. My dad is a state champion bowler, my mom was a stud bowler, my little brother was a stud bowler, but me. . .nope. I'm the one who throws the ball backward, launches it straight into the air, or trips and slides down the lane. Genes are funny little things.

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

I hope this doesn't happen to me....
You see, I also am a non-sewer. I can't seem to make it work. Sewing machines get confused around me and think they are garbage disposals. I sew clothes to myself. I shred fabric. It's a disaster.
So I stopped trying.
Hopefully my children can be satisfied with my science abilities and appreciate the mad scientist stuff and forgive the fact Mommy ain't terribly domestic.

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBecoming-mommy

Better late than never to re-claim the branch that is so rightfully yours!

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Boldman

This is how I sew, it's fail-proof:

1) I think up a great sewing plan
2) I gather all the materials I need
3) I begin the project clumsily in front of my mother
4) I ask for the seam ripper
5) I sit back and marvel at what a fantastic seamstress she is
6) I enjoy the results!

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBetsy

my daughter and 2 brothers are in love with sewing. Its taken hold in the last three weeks. What are you working on?

October 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbridget mckee

I put the book on my wish list. Perhaps, and I do mean perhaps, I will get two copies. One for me, and one for my daughter. "They" (remember them?) tried to teach me when I was a kid in 4-H. I was the kid in the back seat of the car sewing in a hem on the way to the fair. So didn't like it. But now I cannot but ponder how wonderful it would be to be able to make some things. . .

October 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranother sue

Did you just say pocket book?

October 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZoeyjane

I taught myself to sew.

I have made many wonderful and beautiful things over the years.

Costumes that would stun and amaze.

Alas they are all 'one wear only' cause I suck at sewing.

October 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelley @ Magnetoboldtoo

My mom sewed, crocheted, knitted, embroidered, and excelled at "womanly arts."

Me? Not so much.

But a few years ago a friend got me into card making and then one of my readers sent me the book Visual Chronicles by Linda Woods and Karen Dinino, which is all about art journaling. Five years later, I had my mixed media artwork and painting accepted in juried art shows. Who knew? And it all started with a BOOK from a blog friend.

October 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterV-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

Same story. I have oodles of photos of me in weird homemade cothes. My breaking point? The ten button henlies, which were worn over the turtleneck and only buttoned up to number 6 and the top part was carefully folded down. Usually accompanied by a gold add-a-bead necklace, which I never got either by the way. Anyway, I never had a 10 button henley because my Mother just wasn't hip. Nope, not at all. I will say, however, that I learned to manipulate her a bit...because I did have drop-waist tunics over leggings (purchased...yeah!). Remember Units? My mother's heaven in the sewing room.

She made all of my prom/dance dresses for high school, to my specifications pretty much. I forgave her for the henley era.

I have a sewing machine and I know the basics. What I lack is the precision and the OCD to make sure every seam is straight and perfect. But I always thought how grand it would be to make my daughter's prom dresses...we will see.

Unlike you, I'd totally give in and send her to my mother :) But my mom is in a postion to do so and close enough....

Have fun with it...you've probably learned by now to seize your mom-daughter moments when you can!

October 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

I'm so pathetic that I can't hand sew, I can run my machine like a wiz and all buttons are sewn on by my 13 yr old son. Yes, you read that correctly. He took Life Skills the first half of his 7th grade year and they were sewing EVERYTHING! Now he loves it and wants to learn my machine... Soon grasshoppa, I'll show you the way of the machine, soon...

October 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShawn Marie

I really disliked my home-ec teacher in junior high what an anal-retentive thing to make us sew piece of lined paper to fabric and god help you if you didn't stay on the lines ! Fast forward several years to being pregnant with first child and boom all of a sudden I was all keen to sew. Made all of his pjs and pants for a few years and had a blast being all creative and not being judged, even started a kids polar fleece clothing business that kept me busy while I was a SAHM. Have fun with Fric because nobody is judging you anymore.

October 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhabanerogal

Order a subscription to Threads Magazine.
It might seem advanced...and it is...but it's also super understandable.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobinM

I will be picking that up!! I can quilt, but I cannot sew clothes to save my life. Well, maybe to save my life, but they would NOT be pretty! Nor would they fit...LOL Maybe it's because I can sew a straight 1/4 inch line, but all the intricate seams and crap for clothes just confuse the heck outta me.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterToni Schneidt

Hi I'm new to your blog... this entry cracked me up! I taught myself to sew and am a born crafter, unlike my mother. She would rather have a high-powered, career orientated daughter and wonders how I can possibly be a happy homemaker. Failures of the family tree come in all shapes, with and without pinking shears I guess! Lol

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRo-Ro

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