I’m a little superstitious when it comes to the New Year. I believe that the things you do on the first day of the year set a pattern for the rest. I try to spend my New Year’s day on the kinds of activities I’d like to continue or achieve during the coming year. This year I’m planning some writing time and some photography, as well as time with loved ones.
I make resolutions too and try to stick to them. This past year one of our joint resolutions was making crepes on Sunday morning, which we’ve done almost every Sunday this year. Another of my resolutions was to take a yoga class. I’m approaching a year of that as well—one of the healthiest resolutions I’ve managed to keep.
We’ve had a busy December with a graduation, family visit, retirement from teaching, our Solstice get-away, and the usual holiday events with family. Today was our first real day of unscheduled time all month. A couple days ago, I started thinking about a sewing project I’d begun in 2003, something that I’d come across this month in my fabric drawer.
Last night before I went to bed, I got excited thinking about the project again. I decided to devote today to finishing it. It’s just a blouse, peasant-style with gathered neck, back, and sleeves, but off and on throughout the last nearly nine years, I’ve often thought I’d like to wear it, if only it were finished. I’d even cut out the fabric years ago, so it didn’t seem like sewing it up would take much time.
But when I got it out of the drawer this morning and read through the instructions again, I remembered why I’d stuck it in the back of the drawer. It was fussy, with bias tape casings around nearly every edge and little draw-stringy things that require tweezers and a magnifying glass to edge. I was out of fusible interfacing for the one little piece where the drawstrings come through, so I had to run to the fabric store for that, which was okay because I needed thread to hem some jeans anyway.
As anyone who sews knows, half the time sewing is spent ironing, so I set up the board next to my machine and filled the iron with water for steam. I had to iron all the pieces first because they’d been wadded up for so long, but the wrinkles came out easily. I cut the elastic, made the bias tape casings, and started sewing.
I had to adjust the elastic quite a bit for fit but it all went well until the last step, when I looked at the diagram incorrectly. I sewed the bias tape to the wrong side of the fabric and had to rip it out and start again. I was getting tired but I got all the machine work done by sunset. When I went outside for the mail, I heard our pair of great-horned owls in the trees and found them both silhouetted against the day’s last light. I hope that means they’ll nest nearby this spring so that we can see the owlette when it fledges.
I’ll finish my blouse tonight when I hem the bottom edge and whipstitch the casing edges closed. I love the turquoise paisley design of the fabric and the soft, cool feel of the cotton. I know I’ll wear it a lot on hot summer days.
Just last week I wrote about the value of homemade gifts and how objects made by hand offer a special kind of thoughtfulness. I contemplated that today as I was sewing my blouse. I spent about four hours on the project, not counting travel time, and another hour in 2003 cutting it out. Is five hours too much for making something that’s only a gift to myself? I haven’t sewed my own clothes for years (although I have knit some sweaters) beyond hemming pants or altering second-hand skirts. Today I enjoyed the work but I kept feeling like I should be doing something else, something more practical farm- or work-wise.
But I kept going because I didn’t want that project hanging over my head anymore—and I’m glad I did. Good to clear out the space in the drawer, good to have a new blouse to wear, good to quit thinking I need to finish it, good to end the year with a task completed, but most of all, good to remember that making clothes is real work that takes real skill. And that leads to gratitude to the women—since that’s who sews clothes for the US market—who make our clothes. My gratitude doesn’t improve the conditions under which they work but it does make me realize once again how enmeshed our lives are with people we never see.
Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. I’ll spend some of the day organizing for the year to come and another part preparing our New Year’s dinner. We’ll have a quiet celebration, just the two of us, New York time, and that will wind down a very busy year before the start of another. We are lucky to have each other, lucky to have the people who walk alongside us, and grateful for each and every one. Have a happy, healthy New Year!