Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sewing and the Companionship of Women


The need for community has once again driven us to leave hearth and home.

I discovered, along with the other students in Emma's pattern drafting class, how important the company of other women is when one is sewing. Everyone got more done than at home, and the results were better because of the input and assistance they gave each other, especially with fitting their muslins. I never knew how much trouble fitting bodice darts could be until this class.

I knew that Emma was lonely sewing in her bower. That's why I often go out and read to her while she sews, but the expertise and support of eight or ten other women improved greatly upon my poor efforts.

What really amazed me is that these good results came despite the fact that the women are of all ages, from 17 to 72, and they have very little in common besides sewing. Even their countries of origin are diverse. One lady is from the Dominican Republic, one from the Philippines, one from Russia, one from Trinidad. We even had one from Iran, but she had to drop out.

The only real conflict we have had is when we discussed continuing our class, which ended last Saturday, by transforming it into a sewing club which would meet once a week at the teacher's townhome clubhouse. She told us that she would like to invite a couple of former students who happened to be a gay couple. I said right away that Emma and I would not be able to come if these gay men participated. This raised a few voices of protest. One lady even said, "Why? They are more feminine than we are!"

Somehow, I don't think we share the same definition of femininity!

I held firm and said that they are still men, however disordered, and Emma would not be able to participate with them in the group. This discussion went on for about five minutes with me being the only vocal opponent. No one got angry; we just stated our views in a cordial manner. Interestingly, the same women who welcomed the gay men opined that Emma should take the unwanted attentions of the alterations shop man as a compliment. You can see how different our worldviews are.

Although it was somewhat uncomfortable to state my views on the subject of the gay couple, I was glad that I did rather than just quietly opting out of the group. Later that afternoon two other ladies mentioned that they, too, would not have been comfortable having fittings with men in the room. The gay couple's supporters never elaborated on whether the men were supposed to actually help with the fittings or just watch. Either choice was unthinkable to me.

So last night we had our first club meeting, and it was really wonderful. It was good to be with everyone again and see the progress they had made on their projects.

Emma and her dear Myhd shared a table and chatted about Emma's cow and wedding dresses. Myhd got out her phone and showed Emma a picture of her wedding dress--35 pounds of beads and lace! I sat with the lady from Trinidad. We talked about homeschooling and her work and how Emma started weaving.

The clubhouse is perfect. It looks out onto a fantastically huge pool, and the teacher invited everyone to bring swimsuits from now on and swim at the end of the meeting. Emma can't wait.

Artwork: Young Woman Sewing in a Garden by Berthe Morisot

2 comments:

Emily G. said...

That sounds delightful! I rarely have a sewing companion. I find that if I do, though sometimes less work gets done, it goes better with someone to consult. I have been helping a friend trim an 1860's ball gown lately. I am teaching her a lot (she did not sew previously) and we have such fun working together.

I'm a little jealous of your drafting class, too. I should try to find something like that someday. And yes, bust darts are terrible, especially with no helper and no dress form. Which is why I have only ever sewn one darted bodice for myself.

Wendy Haught said...

Dear Emily,

I hope you will post pictures of the ball gown on your blog. We would love to see it.

I definitely recommend a drafting class. I don't sew, but I have seen the amazing results of this class for women who do.