Sew What?

Sometimes I need to read the instructions. Better yet, sometimes I need to read ALL of the instructions before I start a project. Then again, if I did, I would probably find myself shying away from learning new things that I am absolutely capable. I am not a person who handles change with anything resembling mental ease, and this includes change in my own abilities unless I am thrust unwitting into a situation where my need to make something complete is pitted against my fear of the unknown.

Yesterday, in the course of switching the containers my office supplies and sewing notions were in (in order to actually be able to use all of said items effectively), I realized that I no longer owned a pincushion. Somewhere along the way, I guess I decided it would be a more efficient use of space to toss all the pins in the bottom of a plastic container with a bunch of other stuff. That worked very well for who knows how long–right up, in fact, to the moment when I actually had a project that required me to hand-sew a seam that required pinning. More and more I find myself willing to take on projects that include a bit of sewing, and as such, a pincushion seemed like a prudent investment.

I hate the tomatoes, not because they’re bad pincushions, but because they’re just so, so…ubiquitous. Also, buying a cheap-o, factory-wrought pincushion would have required me to get off my duff and leave the house. I had yarn scraps, fiber fill, and an internet full of clever knitting comrades within my reach, so I decided instead to put my hand to knitting up my own little cushion.

I’m glad I did. There’s a whole world of fiber arts centered around making pincushions and I found a plethora of lovely and/or hilarious options. The problem is that many of these patterns involve either crocheting or felting or sewing or a mix of these skills, none of which I especially love to do. When I found a pattern that looked, from the front, to be nothing but knitting, I cast on without a thought and started happily working the chart as I watched my newly discovered retro-crack (i.e., Stargate SG-1). Two episodes later, I realized that the pattern I was working was more like a square than a sphere, so I took a moment to look more closely at the pattern and discovered that what I was knitting was merely a counterpane to be sewn atop a biscornu insert.

Seasoned crafters, go ahead and laugh yourselves silly while I explain what this is to everyone else. A biscornu is basically a freak of crafting geometry nature. It’s an eight-sided little cushion made of two four-sided pieces of fabric. The way you make one of these happen is by sewing the sides so that the corners of each square end up in the midpoint of the sides of the other square. Sewing requires this complex shaped to be flattened into two dimensions, which requires spatial reasoning skills that I simply do not possess.

Oh, did I mention that I didn’t have any fabric in the house and so had to get off the couch and drive to the store anyway? That’s a classic example of irony right there, folks.

And let’s not forget that as I am both lazy and incapable of sewing a non-hem seam in a straight line by hand, I decided that I should finally figure out how to work my aunt’s sewing machine, which has taken up residence in my home because she uses a smaller and newer model. I was absolutely delighted to inherit the older Singer, but it is from the generation when machines were made of  ecru-colored plastic and steel, which means that it threads a bit differently than the machines I learned to thread almost ten years ago in my high school quilting class. Add to that the fact that it’s built into a cabinet and is designed to fold up and down using a very clever but not-immediately-obvious-to-a-person-with-poor-spatial-reasoning-skills mechanism and the result is a crafter who was in over her head.

To make a long story short, I did succeed. It took half an hour on the internet, a conversation with my mother, and a fair amount of trial and error, but I did succeed. Miraculously enough, I didn’t even end up having to rip any seams out. By following the instructions on blind faith and pulling the fabric together the same way I play Prince of Persia (that is to say, by following the only possible path even when it made no sense), I managed to produce a reasonably tidy biscornu that, miracle of miracles, actually fit very nicely under the knit counterpane. Along the way, I managed to conquer a veritable Everest pile of skills I didn’t have yesterday morning.

Here you have it, picture proof that I really can do anything.

3 thoughts on “Sew What?

  1. Wow, you are really good, Melissa. I have always admired people who have the patience and dedication to do everything well. Alas, I come from the world of ‘Good Enough’.
    I know exactly what I would have done upon discovering that I needed a pin cushion; shuffled over to Tom’s sock drawer, found a ‘spare’ sock, filled the toe end with another ‘spare’ sock, gathered and tied off the end. “Voila”….a pin cushion.
    Needless to say I will never own anything as lovely as your pin cushion. It really is beautiful, Melissa
    Love you.


  2. More admiration to you. I for one would have gone out and bought one, which I have done. Mine is a boring strawberry… I think.


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