Thursday, August 23, 2012

sewing as casserole

due in large part to my midwest upbringing, my immediate reaction to the birth, death, illness, or heartache of a loved one is to make a casserole.  or some cookies.  my recipe book is chock full o' amazing recipes for casseroles, most featuring varying ratios of butter, sour cream, and cornflakes.  this is a pretty universal human instinct, i think.  when confronted with the unspeakable, it feels good to make something basic and elemental, something that will nourish those you love through a difficult time.

over the past few years as my love of sewing has grown, i find myself increasingly replacing my white-trash symphony of hashbrown-cornflake casseroles with something i've sewn.  new babies get reversible pants, stuffed monsters, and bibs embroidered with their names.  when sho's dad had hernia surgery a month before she was born, i made him patchwork ice-pack covers and a microwavable neck pillow.  and as we count down the days to my friend sara's mastectomy, i have been sewing pockets and pockets on all her button-down shirts, a place to tuck the drainage bulbs from her surgery site as she heals.  i pretty much begged her to let me do this sewing for her, and was slightly obsessed with making sure each pocket matched the shirt it was being sewn on to, even the ones that were sewn on by hand so they can be easily removed once she's better.  there is just something about sewing, especially by hand with a needle and thread while your daughter sits in your lap, that brings new meaning to the words "made with love."  whenever i make something for someone in particular, i make a conscious effort to think about them and all the good things i wish for them as i sew, so they're pretty much walking around with a love-bomb from me to them.  and during a time when you are pretty much helpless in the face of cells, cancer, and modern medicine, it is really satisfying to do the mindless work of cut, sew, iron, stitch, knot, repeat. 

i've sewn a big pocket on the inside of all my winter jackets since i was in high school, and while the contents of these hidden pockets has definitely changed in the years since my outlaw days, my love of sewn-on pockets remains undiminished.  here's how i do it:  cut out two squares (or rectangles) of fabric, and sew them together, right sides facing each other, leaving an inch or two unsewn.  then turn right side out, stitch up that final inch, and iron.  you can sew a little strip of bias tape along the top if you'd like to get fancy.  then stitch the pocket by hand to the inside of your jacket - you have to do it by hand, because you're only sewing it onto the lining of the jacket (otherwise it would look stupid to have the stitches show on the outside of your jacket).  there you have it!  perfect for stashing all kinds of treasures.

speaking of sewing while feeling helpless, sho found a pair of pajamas i'd forgotten about that i made for her last winter when we'd just moved in with my parents and she was quite sick.  i remember staying up really late one night, feverishly sewing and sewing these ridiculously warm scraps of fabric from a blanket my mom had made into pajamas for my sick girl.  it's funny to look at them and see all the things i'd do differently while sewing them nowadays...guess i'm learning without even knowing it?  anyway, that was also a time when i needed to do something tangible with my lack of control in a situation, and sewing helped.  they ended up being way too big, but it was still good to make them, somehow.  shoshi found them again when she was sick earlier in the week, and bam!  they totally fit now.  how does that happen?

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