#17: Sewing

Posted by Megan on August 3rd, 2011


Sewing is a dying art. Aside from a 20 minute demonstration in my seventh grade domestic engineering class (1995 lingo for home ec), I’ve never set hands (or foot) on a sewing machine. Even new sewing machines seem like antiques to me. How does anyone know how to use those fandangle things? Don’t clothes just grow on trees in the nation of Banana Republic? I am paralyzed by my domestic inabilities. I can’t mend clothes and can barely sew a button on. Since I have freakishly short legs for my height, my pants are constantly covered in an inch of dirt along the hem where they perpetually drag on the ground. I certainly cannot hem them myself and I’m far too cheap to pay someone upwards of $10 for a seemingly simple fix.

 This is a shame since sewing skills are in my genes. My Grandmother was an outstanding seamstress. She made beautiful clothes for herself and her loved ones. Each year she made me and my sister matching Christmas dresses. They were immaculate. The luxurious satin fabric and exquisite detailing was so extraordinary it made Christmas even more special. There was something wonderful about wearing such a special garment only once. The time and love she put into each dress was evident and as an adult, I respect her efforts even more.

My Grandmother attempted to pass down her sewing skills to my mother, however Joanie was a reluctant student. By the 1970’s ready-to-wear clothing became much more affordable and sewing your own clothing became passé. Today it’s actually more expensive to create your own clothes, and thanks to the overwhelming amount of stores, you can find most anything you want on the internet.

Sewing has become a rare skill. Any time a friend brings a homemade baby blanket to a shower I am in awe. You MADE that! Homemade gifts are a novelty in our fast-paced Hallmark world. Very few people utilize sewing machines anymore making it the golden opportunity to get accolades and praise for something I’m certain to be sort of crappy at. These opportunities don’t come along very often. Since there is such a limited number of young women who sew, making your own curtains or handbags makes you an instant domestic Goddess. I found the fast track to becoming a reasonably skilled housewife! All I need to learn is some basic sewing skills and buy a Hello Kitty sewing machine.

To get me on track for fame and fortune as the next Real Housewife of Burnsville, my sister Erin and I signed up to take a Sewing Essentials class at Sewtropolis.

Sewtropolisis an adorable storefront that sells fun, hip fabric, patterns and miscellaneous sewing materials. The store’s owner, Nikol, has a knack for picking out unique fabrics that you’d


This Babushka’s capital B is for Bad Ass!

easily spend a prime rate for. My personal favorite, a print featuring a Russian babushka, was woven into a charming quilt hanging next to the cash register. Towards the back of the store, six sewing machines line the wall where staff teaches several classes per week.

 I was instantly nervous. I have an uncanny ability to break expensive things. The machine looked delicate and complicated. There seemed to be an unbelievable number of levers and parts I could break with one wrong move. Thankfully Nikol was an incredibly patient and articulate instructor. I have Panicitus, a self-proclaimed disease that explains my propensity to panic in completely inappropriate situations. If I don’t know how to do something, if I feel awkward, or if I am working under time constraints my brain instantly clinks into freak-out mode. I can’t play video games because working under pressure, even video game pressure, is highly unnerving. Oddly, I typically don’t experience this kind of panic in real life danger. One winter I was driving down the freeway at 60 + miles per hour when I completely lost control of my car and slid sideways down the freeway at least 50 yards. I somehow stayed perfectly calm and collected and was able to drive myself out of the situation.  I barely batted an eyelid when a gun was pulled at a college kegger I attended, yet I have nightmares about the angry sun in Super Mario Brothers. It stands to reason that my Panicitus was in full force during our sewing course. Honestly, I may be one of the only people who is truly afraid of a sewing machine.

Megan vs. Pillow case, Round one



Erin and her sewing machine got along beautifully. Her pillow case took her about 15 minutes to complete.


This is the part where I cut off all my mistakes. I hope no one looks at the inside of my p case. It’s a royal mess.

Nikol walked us through how the sewing machine works, pointed out all the parts and their purpose, and then had us practice threading the machine several times before we began sewing our project: multicolored pillow cases. Her patient demeanor was soothing and reassuring to me. Erin, who is a much stronger crafter, was bored. My first seam went surprisingly well. It was somewhat straight and best of all, it functioned. A few more seams and my pillowcase was done! It only took about 30 minutes of stitching to create my very first sewing masterpiece. My pillow case is far from perfect. Several crooked seams and wayward stitches give it some character. It’s fitting for me though, as I’m often depicted using the exact same description.

Success! After three hours, several close injury calls and whole bunch of swear words – we had functional pillow cases.

  • © 2011 Megan Steil