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Sewing Bee


Ready for anything

Arts and crafts are not my thing.  I have a great talent in the kitchen.  I can wield a knife to chop, dice, julienne or even slice fresh bread.  I get asked to cut cakes at weddings to serve the guests.  I can take apart a roasted chicken practically with my eyes shut.  Put a scissors in my hand and I’m hopeless.

I have a degree in theater arts with a focus in stage management.  Pretty much that means you need to learn how to do everything.  I took classes on costume design.  I learned how to make a pattern.  I turned in a project for costume design for a play including fabric swatches and design sketches.  I was supposed to spend a certain number of hours working in the costume shop.


sewing station

College theaters are staffed by professors and upper level students.  Most of the labor is provided by volunteers and to ensure an adequate number of volunteers most theater classes require signing up to put in hours.  These shops get students with all range of talent and experience.  They generally require that you prove dependability and competence before you are given anything too complicated to work on.   They also supervise closely the new volunteers.

The problem was that I had avoided the costume shop for most of the time I was working on the degree.  It may have been the first time I was required to put hours specifically in costumes but most of the staff knew me from working on other things. Maybe I didn’t get quite the attention I should have?  I was given an easy task.  It was sewing a simple seam on the sewing machine.  The machines were already threaded and ready to go.  The fabric was pinned.  This is pretty basic stuff for the costume department.

20 minutes later, having jammed up three sewing machines in a row I was kicked out of the costume shop and told I could do my costuming hours down in the props department.  Seriously.  I did end up putting in a few hours with costuming helping with hand sewing here and there over the course of the next year, but not that quarter.  I really was that bad.


sewing handed down through generations

I know a lot of people who sew.  I enjoy spending time with people working on projects.  I find myself invited to tag along when a “major sewing event” occurs.  Events like ‘let’s make everyone a swimsuit for the season’.  Sometimes there is a great new pattern that everyone wants, like (shudder) Zumba pants.  SHAZAM! An excuse for a mad sewing extravaganza.   I have literally had the scissors taken out of my hand and been asked to find something in the kitchen to do to keep myself busy!

The really tricky part is that when there is a sewing event and I’m on the list of people who need the garment (in this case ritual robes) I don’t fit the pattern.  I’m too large, too tall, too long in the waist and arms, too broad in the shoulders to fit a standard women’s pattern.  Things need to be adjusted. I need to get invited, even though everyone knows I’m really not much help.

This weekend I got to spend some time (not) sewing.  It’s good to spend time with friends.  It was great helping out in the kitchen.  I got prodded and pinned and fussed over as the pattern was dramatically adjusted to fit.  I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my sewing friends.  How lucky am I to have people in my life who are willing to work so hard just to be sure I’m included.

guilt free desire to get out!

guilt free desire to get out!

Thank you Rachael, Michelle, Vonnie, and Judy – the actually workhorses behind this extravaganza.  Thanks also to the men in the group who also don’t sew but who don’t feel nearly as guilty about letting the women do it for them.   (Sexism and male privilege at it’s best.)  At least I wasn’t alone.


weeds or ghosts?

With the storm winds blowing and waters surging up the east coast it’s hard to be in the “holiday” spirit.  With the elections looming and the mudslinging only getting worse it’s difficult to find the quiet mind for meditation.  This is the season of harvest, gratitude and remembrance.  Halloween when the ghosts walk and many cultures find themselves honoring their ancestors.

I wonder in this season what kind of ancestors we will be.  What legacy will we leave for our descendants?  Will they live in the zombie appocolypse because of some biohazard gone awry?  Will global warming change the climate so much that they will have mega-storms as part of their daily lives?  Will the bees disappear from their monoculture and pesticide laden diet and will our children follow after a generation or two of starvation and illness?

The bones of trees

The planet has seen many upheavals in its long life.  I’ve been reading the S.M. Stirling change series, which for post civilization literature is actually somewhat hopeful.  The motto of one of the surviving enclaves “the 14th century as it SHOULD have been.”  Complete with sanitation and plumbing.  Or to quote another popular culture phrase, “Life will find a way.”   On the bones of trees are already the hints of the new life of spring.

My maternal Grandparents on the farm

Such is the dilemma of working with the ancestors.  Even my Grandparents would have been hard put to imagine life as we experience it today.  Generations upon generations worked the land and even if they lived “in town” knew where their food was coming from and how it went from field to table.  The idea of spending days inside (house to car to work and back) would have made them wonder about illness and fragility.

“Size matters not, … Look at me. Judge me by size, do you?”

It’s good to be cautious about new things, to examine the possible repercussions of new directions.  At the same time, if we are to be good ancestors to our descendants it is critical for us to remain open and flexible to possibilities we can hardly imagine.  And now I’m round about to Halloween.  It is the holiday of celebrating the imagination.  Dressing up to become more powerful, or to face our fears.  We open our doors to strangers who often don’t even appear to be human.  Children costumed as animals, aliens, and nightmares offer a choice, “trick or treat?”

Ancestors and Descendants

There are many kinds of ancestors with advice and wisdom to help us through the storms of our lives.  There are the ancestors of our blood.  The legacy of our family.  We sort through the good and the bad, learning lessons from both kinds of examples.  We choose which of our family traditions to carry forward and which to let fall by the wayside.   May we choose wisely.

There are ancestors of the heart.  The souls that have touched us in our lives.  These are often people who were role models for us.  Or perhaps they were just the kind hearted souls that appeared at the time we needed them most.  They are our beloved friends and pets who we hold in our memories.  Our heart connection makes their own lives a part of our personal stories.  May we remember the love shared with these ancestors and may we further the legacy of open hearted love.

There are ancestors of the spirit.  These are our heroes.  The souls who’s stories inspire us.  They are the shining lights that encourage us to dream, to strive, to do better.  Let us our fears, make our choices, and move forward towards a legacy of spirit that continues to inspire and enrich those who come after.

Happy Samhein


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