Saturday, September 24, 2011

17: Sewing

I came home from work late one night in 2006, tired and hungry and grumpy. My brother and sister-in-law called to me from upstairs, where they'd been clearing out some long-held childhood clutter from the built-in cabinets. "We have a surprise for you!" my usually not so chirpy brother chirped. I mumbled something about laterafterIfindsomethingtoeat or justcomedownstairsandshowmeI'mexhausted. You don't always have the strength to enunciate clearly, especially one storey upwards, when you've just spent thirteen hours staring at pages of work by writers who have an anarchic view towards punctuation.

"No, come up now. We're hungry, too, so you can rest for a while in your room while we make something to eat."

no said tired then sofa down here call when...

You also don't always have the energy for complete sentences at such times.

"You really have to come up now."

All right, but you can't stop me being grumpy while I do it. I stomped upstairs and past two dusty, sweaty but inexplicably cheerful people, threw open my room door not looking forward to the messy sight of a bed I knew I hadn't had time to make before rushing for work in the morning, and saw...


"Surprise! Remember them?"

I don't know if I answered audibly, absorbed as I immediately was in being three again. It was Lowly Worm and his... lady worm friend whose name I can't recall. But I did remember. They were among the many stuffed toys in our childhood, distinctive for one very special reason. These were no store-bought, mass-manufactured worms.

They were hand-stitched by my grandmother, or mother, or both. In those early days when craft felt first came to our tropical home, and Richard Scarry was a hero in my household, someone had mentioned to someone wouldn't it be nice if the children had a stuffed worm, a three-dimensional, fully detailed stuffed worm, to play with? Not long after, we had worms. If only every child's early encounter with worms were so fuzzy and friendly and non-parasitic.

Image from here, but who knows where this person got it

In that moment I remembered something that used to be a major part of my life, but which I'd pushed aside except for one or two isolated incidents in the six years since my mother's death while I tried to be a responsible grown-up with no time for fun. I used to sew. I'm part of this family of women (and some men) who Sew. We enjoy this. We have huge stashes of sewing and knitting needles, crochet hooks, frames, patterns, threads, flosses, yarns, transfers... earlier that year I'd made a small concession to that part of my life when I made an E. coli, but I'd gone from that job into an even more hectic one and sewing was shelved again.

By the time the food was ready, I wasn't very hungry. Or grumpy or, magically, tired. I just wanted to play again, with the worms and some other long-forgotten toys that my brother had arranged on my window bench... and as I examined the tiny, even stitches holding Lowly together, the precisely copied Tyrolean caps, Ms Worm's string of pearls, the impossibly detailed red sneaker on each worm's... end? Well, I can't possibly call it a foot because worms don't have... anyway, not to split hairs, but that's the way Scarry drew 'em so we'll leave it at that... I realised how much I missed sewing.

I have tried since then, though life has continued to be just as busy and full of external stressors like you wouldn't believe, to keep sewing and related skills close by even if the projects are small and simple. Because if ever I lose touch with sewing again, I'll have again lost a huge chunk of me.

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