I can swing a hammer pretty good and work a drill not too bad either. Enough to where I can manage doing most house and home improvement projects without hiring anyone. I know how to handle some basic car and lawnmower maintenance by myself, too. Oil changes, radiator flushes, changing breaks, etc. It was my goal to not have to call my dad every time the lawnmower wouldn’t start or I had a leak under the sink. And just as I don’t want to have my dad save me every time something broke, I don’t want to call my mom every time I need my pants hemmed or want something made for Ellie. So in an effort to expand my skill base, I decided to take a sewing class. Knowing that I would most likely be the odd man out, I asked my friend Kelly if she wanted to join in on the fun. Luckily she agreed. We sent in the registration forms and received the confirmation phone call. There was no turning back now.
My mom is very proficient on the sewing machine. She always made our Halloween costumes growing up (she made Ellie’s the past two years), and also made some of our clothes too. She can make curtains, quilts, pillows, scarves, and all sorts of things. She even made her own wedding dress, as well as Aya’s! When she sits down in front of a sewing machine, she knows what she’s doing. So growing up watching my mom always working on something, the concept of making something from scratch using a sewing machine was not completely foreign to me. It’s amazing how much you can learn just from watching. But even though I was familiar with the process I was still nervous for my class.
The class description wasn’t very descriptive. Do I bring anything? A notebook, sewing machine, scissors, fabric? It’s a three hour class, is there a break time? Should I bring a snack? I didn’t want to be the over prepared nervous sweaty guy, but I didn’t want to be the underprepared sloppy idiot guy either? I settled on a notebook and a pen to start with.
When we got to class there were a few women setting up their equipment. They looked like experienced established sewers. They all had Tupperware bins filled with supplies and rolls of printed fabric. They couldn’t be a part of this class. This was intro to sewing. These ladies had callused fingertips, I could see them from where I was standing. But the teacher assured us we were in the right place and firmly instructed we sit down in the front. Gulp. What did I get myself into? When she asked if we had paper and pen to take notes, I felt a little better knowing I was prepared. Kelly, on the other hand, was not. She didn’t have paper or a pen. I was now in the running for the teacher’s favorite.
There were three of us new students, sitting in the front row not knowing what was going on. I began to worry. Where were the sewing machines? Where was the rest of the class? Who were those other ladies? Is this going to be a three hour lecture? Is it too late to drop this class?
The teacher was a small older woman with a slight European accent. She sat directly across from us with a stack of fabric swatches while the other women behind us started working (At that point, I still wasn’t convinced they were part of our class). Before getting into the stacks of fabrics, the teacher looked at me and said, “So Matthew, what do you expect to get out of this class?” My mind went blank. (Why’d she call me Matthew instead of Matt?) I wasn’t expecting to have to talk yet. I was still sizing up the situation. “To learn how to sew?” I said, feeling my face get red.
This was sewing class, right? I wanted to learn how to sew. What else? I didn’t have any specifics though. I didn’t have anything I really wanted to make. I just wanted to learn how to work a sewing machine. I just wanted new skills. Luckily Kelly and the other woman in our group had similar goals as mine so I didn’t feel as vague.
After the intros and sharing our expectations, she went through the stacks of fabric. She showed us the difference between a woven and a knitted fabric. Wool vs. polyester vs. cotton, etc. Having gone to school for interior design, this was a Cliff Note’s version of my textiles class. I hope there was a test, because I’d nail it. But while we sat through this lecture I was antsy wondering when we’d get the machines out. I know, I know. You gotta learn how to crawl before you can walk.
After an hour of discussion, it was time to get the machines out. Alright, let’s fire these bad boys up! Anytime the teacher asked us to do something, she’d always say our names, and she always started with mine first. “Matthew, Kelly, Suzy, come here and watch how I do this.” “Matthew, Matthew, Matthew…”
Before we could get too far on the machines, it was break time. The teacher asked if we would like to join the rest of the class for a break. And they way she asked, I thought we would be leaving the room to go hit up some vending machines, or something. When I turned around to get up I was surprised when I saw the other four ladies behind us stocked with food already breaking. Oh, this is break time. I feel like I should have brought a dish to pass. They started talking about Dr. Oz and how the chance of getting pregnant when you’re over 40 drastically goes down. Wanting to participate in class, I tried to join in.
When I’m around a bunch of dudes that are into sports, I try to pretend like I know what I’m talking about (I’m not into sports at all). I try to say key words I’ve heard in the news like “Verlander” or “Tebow” and hope it goes somewhere. I did the same thing with these ladies and dropped the only key word that came to mind, ‘Oprah.’“Dr. Oz is the guy that took over Oprah’s timeslot, right?” I asked. (I only know this because I remember hearing my mom talk about him). But as they continued to talk about reproductive ‘things,’they lost me. I looked around the room thinking of what to say next. I kept looking at Kelly to follow her lead, but she seemed just as puzzled as I was.
After politely declining the offer of snacks from the teacher twice, she finally forced me.
“Matthew, eat it!” she demanded in a friendly-but-you-couldn’t-say-no kind of way.
“Yes Mam, of course, thank you, they are so good,” I replied nervously.
While listening to the conversation, I learned that the other women who were in this class have been taking classes with this teacher for years and they all know each other very well. It sounds like it’s kind of become a night out sewing club for them which was really nice. But then I realized there was a clear division in the room. The ‘senior level best friends cool kids’club on one side of the table, and us, the new kids how-do-I-hem-my-pants-gang, on the other side. We were separated by age, experience, best-friend-ness, and a table. Maybe I should start watching Dr. Oz and reading O magazine to help tear this wall down.
The second half of the class consisted of us new folks doing line tests with the sewing machine. A test!? On the first day!? Sure was. We had to follow line patterns on paper with the sewing machine. Straight lines, curved lines, spirals, and maze-like patterns. I have to say, I did pretty good. I think I’m ready to move up and sew actual fabric.
By the end of the class, my nervousness turned to enthusiasm. We start our first project in the next class, an apron. Since Ellie got a kitchen for her birthday, I figured I could make matching aprons for us when we play ‘kitchen.’I now had a clear objective to start with and something to focus on. I also realized that this was just like one of my studio classes in college, except the median age is a little older and the topics of conversation are much different.
And sew it begins… my journey into the sewing world. I might not be able to fit in with the conversation, but at least I know I can bring a snack.