Categories
Frugality Recycling Simplicity

The Importance of Ingenuity

As I repaired my mother’s quilt, it became obvious that I would have to re-quilt it. The thread she had used to quilt it initially had disintegrated in places; to skip that step would defeat the entire purpose of repairing it.

I had a problem with completing that task. In order to quickly quilt it, I needed to use the machine but I didn’t have a quilting guide that would allow me to get the stitching somewhat straight. I headed online, determined to purchase one…

…but then I caught myself. Was there a way to make something that would work? I asked myself. My goal is to limit, and eventually eliminate my reliance on corporations. Thrift shops are closed, so the hope of finding a used quilting guide was slim to none, but could I make something instead?

A paperclip and some creative bending later, I crafted a device that allowed me to do what I needed. I crafted a quilting guide using an item I already had.

I came extremely close to buying one, not because I didn’t have the skills to make something that would work, but out of sheer habit. We’ve been conditioned to believe that we need to buy the solutions to our problems. I’ve been conditioned to that as well. I can remember during my childhood how those around me secretly made fun of people who solved problems and created items using the stuff they already possessed. That experience affected me more than I realized, and I suspect that it’s affected you as well.

I remember my grandfather getting secretly teased for using old leather belts to make hinges and clasps for doors and gates. I remember my aunties getting teased for knitting and crocheting scarves and hats for Christmas.

“Too cheap to buy something so they’ve got to pass out that nasty handmade crap,” I remember overhearing one person say.

I remember wondering why store-bought clothing seemed to be made funny until I got older and realized that they’d altered the construction process to accommodate their equipment. I remember the commercials and movies that defined those who made things by hand as being extremely poor or eccentric.

And now I realize just how deep that programming, the programming of generations, runs within us all.

A paperclip. That’s all I needed to devise something that met my needs. In time, I could fashion a piece of wire clothes hanger to make a larger one if I wanted to quilt in wider gaps, and I don’t need to buy anything to make it; I’ve got everything I need to make one right here.

I want you to think about that the next time you stumble upon a problem and immediately think to head online or to a store. I want you to think about how you have been programmed to buy the solutions to your needs.

I want you to think about that, because the marketers are being paid to program us to buy stuff instead of making it ourselves. They want us to buy because that is what makes them rich. That is what allows them to hole up in the Hamptons while they order us to work in contaminated factories despite the risk to ourselves and our family members.

They don’t care if we catch Covid and die. They don’t care if the processes they use harm us or the earth around us.

We have literally became sacrifices upon the altar of their Money God, and only we have the power to stop them.

All we have to do is stop buying their stuff.

I’m not going to say that it’s easy. We have a lifetime of programming to overcome, and even this eccentric old woman is struggling. But if we just stop and think about things, perhaps we can devise solutions that don’t involve giving them our money, and every time we do that we win.

A paperclip became a quilting guide. A plastic milk jug or butter bowl can become flower pots. A bit of string can turn a recycled jug into a hanging planter. An unwanted lid can catch the water from those pots even.

An unraveled sweater in our closet can be used to create socks, hats, mittens, scarves, bed coverings, or a number of other items. A sheet can be turned into a dress, a curtain, a quilt backing, or any number of things. Belts can be used for lightweight hinges or converted into pet collars. Even old computers can be brought back to life and used to surf the Internet.

There are so many things we can do with the items we already have, but they don’t want us to know that. They want us to buy everything we need and toss that old stuff instead.

It’s reached the point where I honestly wonder if the Minimalism movement has been hijacked by the corporations. Think about it: if we reduce our possessions to the bare minimum by discarding or donating our excess, what will we have to do when the items we keep wear out?

We have to buy new, that’s what we have to do.

I am proud of myself for devising a solution to my quilting dilemma. I solved my problem by using something I already had, and I didn’t give the corporations an extra penny, since I already owned the paperclip in question. Now I am looking around my home with fresh eyes as I ask myself what else I own that I can repair or create using the items I already have.

Have you ever considered the value of making things yourself? Have you ever solved a problem by creating something instead of buying a solution? Do you have any tips to share that will make it easier? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Simplicity Wardrobe

Old Pants, New Tailor

“Grandma, can I spend the night?”

It has been ages since I’ve heard those words from my beloved grandson. Risk or no, I could not have refused to save my soul. I reasoned that since we’d both been at home (and not exposed to potential nastiness), that we should be okay.

He was fascinated as he watched me sewing masks. Question after question was asked while I worked until he finally discovered my bag of sewing scraps.

“Grandma, can I sew on this fabric?” Grandson asked.

Once I gave permission, he announced that he wanted to make pants for his G.I. Joe doll. A few minutes later, he reappeared at my side with the creation in the top photo.

Those pants would barely fit upon his fingers.

I praised his attempt and reassured him that his next attempt would get better. The next morning, I discovered his first attempt at making a pattern:

Grandson’s second attempt

It was time to find the kid a pattern. He was obviously determined. After a quick online search, I found a basic pattern to work from. I printed it out and we went to work.

Grandson cutting out the pattern.

Since I didn’t have the doll available to check the pattern, I sacrificed a pair of my old sweat pants to the cause. I’ve widened a bit over these past few months so they’d gotten a bit tight and they won’t be missed. The stretch in the fabric would compensate if the pattern happened to be a bit small, I reasoned. We cut out the pieces and then started sewing.

Grandson sewing his first pair of pants from a pattern.

While he worked, I told him stories about how men who sew are called tailors, and how tailors used to be much in demand for sewing men’s clothing. I made an effort to discuss male fashion designers as well because I know in this area many consider sewing to be the exclusive realm of women. I wanted to mentally prepare him to know that it’s okay for guys to sew.

He was so proud of his creation!

Grandson’s finished pair of doll pants.

I am so proud of him! He did really well on those pants. I told him to let me know if we needed to alter the pattern, so the very next evening after he left Middle Daughter messaged me. She’d had to buy him a sewing kit and he was happily creating an entire wardrobe for his G.I. Joe. I gather she’s trying to locate a small sewing machine for him because she asked if I would teach both of them how to use it if she found one.

I readily agreed.

Back in the day before corporations trained us to buy their mass-manufactured garbage we used to make the clothes that we wore and the clothes we placed on our children’s toys. We made our own curtains, sheets, quilts, and anything else we wanted. We even knitted our own socks! My grandmother was so skilled at it that she didn’t even need a pattern; she could just look at an item and “know” how to re-create it at home.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately as I sew on those masks. We would sew what we needed, wear it out, re-purpose the fabric into quilts and other items, and then make more, so we didn’t have a lot of excess clothing. Even better, we appreciated the clothing we had, but due to the mental programming we’ve received we now look at clothes as disposable. We buy it, wear it once or twice, and then pass it on to someone else, donate it to a thrift shop, or toss it in the trash where it ends up in a landfill.

What if we changed that? What if, instead of giving money to the corporations who have programmed us to buy and buy, we started making things for ourselves to wear instead? It would cost a bit more to buy the fabric but each individual piece would have a part of ourselves in them, and they could be tailored to fit us properly. We could even select fabrics that reduce the harm to our environment by avoiding synthetics. If we wore those pieces out, re-purposing them into quilts or other items, we could reduce the burdens on our landfills even more.

I believe that I am going to do that. As I wear out the clothing I have already, instead of replacing them with commercially sewn options, I believe I may make some instead. When I mentioned that to my daughters, they were delighted. Middle Daughter wants me to teach her how to sew and Katie has already placed a few orders with the shop of Mom. As I become more comfortable with that, I do believe I may be able to take it a step further by re-working hand-me-downs and thrift store finds, which would reduce the environmental impact even further.

Time will tell how far I take it but I like the thought of reducing my reliance upon mass market goods even further. I like the thought of preventing the greedy corporations from receiving financial encouragement to treat workers as disposable objects so this is a thought I am definitely pursuing.

Have you given any thought about reducing your reliance on mass-produced goods? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
Frugality Simplicity Wardrobe

A Mother’s Work is Never Done

My Katie managed to score a day off from work yesterday, so we had the rare treat of sipping coffee together as we started the day. The conversation turned to brainstorming, since a relative had called to request some masks for herself and her son; she wants to pay and I don’t feel that it’s proper to accept money from her.

As we worked out a solution that would make everyone satisfied, Katie turned somber. “I know you’ve got a lot of masks to make, but if you get time would you mind patching one of my shirts? I love it but I can’t wear it now because of the holes.”

“Let me see it,” I grumbled good-naturedly.

At some point my daughter had acquired a camouflage button down Army Surplus shirt. While it was well-made, the years had made themselves known in the form of two holes that had appeared in the fabric. Katie wanted to patch the holes but she didn’t want the repairs to be too obvious. Fortunately, she had recently picked up some mask fabric in similar colors, so I offered to use that to make patches. She readily agreed.

I spent the remainder of the morning stitching those patches upon her shirt. She was so delighted that she made plans to wear it today:

Close up of Patch #1
Close up of Patch #2

While the images above make the patches seem noticeable, when she dons the shirt you can’t even see them unless you know where to look. I was quite pleased at the fact that I was able to repair that shirt using bits of fabric that I already had on hand.

Once that task was completed, I settled down at the sewing machine and worked on the masks. After a while I decided to take a break. I felt grubby so a bath was in order. Just as I began to relax in the soothing warm water I received a phone call from Middle Daughter. She had picked up some more fabric and was on her way to my home.

I didn’t even get to soap up. I climbed out of the tub and quickly toweled off, barely managing to pull up my pants before she arrived. She displayed her fabric finds, looked through my fabric stash, gushed over her excitement at being able to have Mommy make her some more masks (“I want to wear a new one every day!”), and asked how soon I could have them done.

“Let me finish my current batch, okay?”

“But Mommy! I want to wear a new mask! I like showing off your masks! No one else has masks as pretty as the ones you make!”

I ended up compromising. I would cut out the material for a single mask and whip it up along with the current batch, but she’d have to wait a day or so on the others. At 2 am this morning I’d just finished up, so, knowing that she was excited, I snapped some quick photos and sent them to her:

One side of Middle Daughter’s Mask
The opposite side of Middle Daughter’s mask

So my butt is tired today. Once I publish this blog post, I’ve got to finish up this current batch, arrange to ship the ones to my elderly relative, and start the batch of masks for Middle Daughter. At some point, however, this old woman is going to attempt to take another bath. I didn’t even get to soap up during yesterday’s attempt.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Frugality Recycling

The Stitch Rebellion

As our governor began to list the dead yesterday evening, chants from the protestors outside drowned him out. He sighed, explained that this wasn’t about popularity. He would save as many lives as he could save, despite the protestors campaigning for him to let people die by reopening our economy.

It reminded me of a parable I read in the Bible ages ago. There was a shepherd who left his flock of 99 sheep in order to search for the single lamb who had wandered off. Preachers tend to use that parable to illustrate how the Christian God cares so much that they don’t want to lose anyone. Considering that our governor is trying to save lives, is deliberately challenging a society that says money is more important than human life, that parable seems to match this situation.

What would the shepherd in that parable do if his flock were in danger of dying from coronavirus? I pondered that for a long while last night. I do believe that that shepherd from the tale of old would do whatever he could to save as many sheep as he could – even if the sheep weren’t happy with his choices, especially if the wolves were whispering that they needed to endanger themselves, even endanger others rather than obey the shepherd.

To me, this is about so much more than Coronavirus now as I think upon the situation. We have corporate CEOs and other rich people who are upset because the economic shutdown is endangering their yachts and their summers in the Hamptons. They don’t like the thought of losing money so they are campaigning to eliminate restrictions, even at the cost of human lives.

Even now, as medical workers die, essential workers are falling ill and dying as well, and neither their employers nor the organization who was formed to protect them give a shit. They are expendable; we are all considered expendable in the money-making machine that is our current society.

At least it’s out in the open now; at least we know what the major corporations think about us. We are just fodder for their money machine. We need to work their jobs and buy their stuff even if it kills us because they need money to quarantine on their yachts.

These were my thoughts as I continued to rearrange my living room to make a home for the sewing machine. As I tidied, I stumbled upon a ripped sheet that I’d intended to reuse as scrap along with a pillowcase with failed seams. Rather than continue to use them, I was going to recycle them and replace them with new. I wadded them up to place them in my scrap bag.

But then I paused. What if, instead of scrapping them and buying replacements, I patched them instead? I’ve got quite a bit of random fabric scraps here. Both kids have given me their discards and I’ve quite a few mask scraps as well; what if I used the true scrap to repair these items and keep them in service?

I grabbed a leftover piece of tee shirt from the scrap bag, pinned it beneath the tear on my sheet, and started stitching. I initially began to stitch by hand but as I worked I grew angry. We have been programmed to believe that it is wrong to repair items; if something isn’t shiny and new and perfect, if it doesn’t match the decor in some fancy magazine, it is wrong. It is wrong and we are wrong if we don’t do what the corporations want us to do. We should toss our old crap and buy their new stuff, even if we can repair it because that’s what keeps them rich.

I grabbed a colorful spool of thread from my box, a spool of thread my kids picked from a clearance pile when they were small. Deliberately selecting a random, mismatched bobbin, I stuck that sheet upon my machine and went to work.

I vented my rage upon that patch, deliberately experimenting with random stitches as I sewed. When one bobbin ran out, I grabbed another and kept sewing until that patch ended up being a statement of rebellion.

Because fuck the system that says everything must be picture perfect. Forget the system that says we must toss our old stuff and replace it with new. Why not go back in time, to how the Japanese would continue to layer new fabrics upon old items for years in a method called Boro?

This is what the patch looked like after I vented my rage:

The backside of the patch. This won’t show when the sheet is on the bed.
The top side that will show. I went wild playing with the stitches as I vented my frustration upon the patch.
The patched sheet back in action. To my surprise, my patch gave Katie a giggle. She thinks it’s a great idea.

I know it’s not perfect but you know what; it works. It works, and it’s one less sheet I have to purchase from some stupid corporation who thinks money is more important than people. This sheet was purchased at a thrift shop at least 15 years ago and if I have my way, I’ll patch it from now until Hell freezes over, just because I can.

We’ve been so conditioned to believe that we need to toss things that aren’t perfect, but why not embrace the imperfection instead? Why don’t we go back to the ways of our ancestors who used to repair things instead of throwing them away? We can not only help our environment by keeping things out of landfills and reducing consumption, we can save money and quietly protest the corporations who want us to toss our old and buy their crap instead.

So instead of tossing that shirt or that sheet or whatever it is into the rag pile or even into the trash, take a good long look at it instead. Can you repair it and keep it in service instead?

And remember: this isn’t just about sheets. You can keep your car running, like my friend who ordered the mechanic to replace the motor in her truck instead of taking his advice to purchase another vehicle. You can keep your old computers in use instead of buying a new one. You can take old stuff and make it into something different when you get bored. You can even recycle leftovers into a completely different meal. You can do this in so many different ways, and each time you do that you make this world a better place.

If you happen to have something that you’ve somehow patched, repaired, or recycled around your home, please share your story in the comments below. Let’s show the world that this is a good thing.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Food Frugality Minimalism Simplicity

Blast From the Past

“Is it done yet?” Middle Daughter bounced in her toddler chair as she watched me sewing her latest dress.

“Not yet, honey,” I repeated patiently. “It takes time to make a dress.”

“Okay.”

“Is it done yet NOW?” she asked a few minutes later.

“If you don’t quit asking, I’m gonna quit!” I’d eventually warn her in frustration.

The death of my mother in 1992 left me with her sewing machine and several boxes of patterns and supplies. At first I stored them away in my “retreat” – a tiny extra bedroom that I would hide in when my husband’s movie and video game habit got on my nerves.

Every time I saw that machine I felt guilty. It was a piece of my mother. She loved to sew quilts as she aged. As a child, she had even sewn me a few outfits. My family had little money and I had no skills. That machine could fix that…if I only knew how to work it. I could do what my mother did and craft the things my children needed.

My first project was an unmitigated disaster. I knew nothing about needle size, thread tension, or any of the other myriad settings and procedures needed to turn fabric into something worthy of use. I burned that first dress in the backyard in shame.

But then I became angry. I was angry because my mother had refused to teach me how to sew and angry at myself because I didn’t learn the skill by osmosis. I began lurking in the fabric sections of stores as I worked through my rage.

That was when I stumbled upon my first sewing book.

With every book I managed to acquire my sewing skills improved. My kids loved the outfits I made them. They even started putting in requests when they saw patterns that they liked. My middle daughter was especially persistent. She would sit beside me as I worked, playing with her toys as she encouraged me to “hurry up.”

Friends began to give me money to make clothes for them as well. When I started making quilts, the demand grew even higher. I didn’t make a fortune but the money I earned allowed me to buy supplies that I used to make things for my family.

But times changed. It became cheaper to buy things off the rack or at thrift stores than it was to purchase material. Wearing particular brands became popular. People didn’t want to buy something designed to last, they began to look at items like clothing, quilts, and curtains as disposable. Use it a season, toss it, then redecorate with new became the trend.

As my children lost interest in my homemade clothing I began to sew less and less. The demand for homemade quilts faded when mass-manufactured imports emerged on the market for far less than I could acquire the material to construct them. The quality was inferior (in my opinion) but those who were fond of the items didn’t care. They didn’t want to keep the quilts forever – just a season or two until they changed their color scheme.

By the time I began to explore minimalism I rarely sewed. Aside from the occasional quilt, my tools sat unused. Clothing was so plentiful that I rarely needed to buy any; people were happy to give me their discards since they bought so much more than they could use and store. Clothes shopping had become a hobby, and quickly fading trends made them disposable.

I didn’t see that ever changing so in time I gave away my sewing equipment and supplies. Save for a sewing box my daughters had gifted me with on Mother’s Day one year, everything was eliminated.

But then Coronavirus happened. Medical workers needed masks. Cashiers needed masks. Everyone seemed to need something that they could not obtain in a store, so people started asking me to start sewing again.

As I began to hand-stitch my daughter’s first mask, she emerged from her bedroom with a surprise: her dad had gifted her with a sewing machine he had found in a yard sale several years previous when she’d mentioned to him that she would like to learn but she’d never gotten around to even opening the case. Would the machine make sewing the masks even faster? she asked.

Oh yes!

After a bit of tinkering I fired up that machine and set to work. The kids got masks, some friends got masks, and the requests increased. I started using the rotary paper cutter my kid had to make the process a bit faster.

My kid noticed. For my birthday she replaced my cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter. Both daughters (middle and younger) had remembered the tools I’d owned in the past so both began to hustle to replace the things I’d eliminated.

Cutting mat and ruler.

That was when Katie found a pattern for a handbag that she liked.

“If I get the stuff, will you make this for me? I’m tired of my purses falling apart,” she explained.

“Of course!” I replied.

She was so excited that I set the current batch of masks aside to get started. She even helped me pin the pattern to the fabric.

Help from Katie.

When my daughters realized that I was going through quite a few spools of thread, they remembered how I would buy cones in days past. Middle daughter located the largest spool of black thread she could find in one store; Katie actually managed to locate some cones.

Coned thread feeds from the top as opposed to the side. To use cones with a standard machine, one typically spends $10-$15 on the special stand. As I did years ago, I refused to spend the money; I took a wire clothes hanger, some cardboard, and a bit of tape to construct one myself. I had to explain to Katie that she’d gotten the right thread; I just refused to buy the gadget that consumerism demands.

She laughed after she saw my solution.

DIY thread cone stand.

I finished the purse in a day, reinforcing it because the pattern was not designed for the abuse I knew my daughter would give it. She keeps everything in her purse; at times she’s used it for a overnight bag when she’s taken trips to visit her fiancee (now husband). I’ve even seen her stuff her laptop in her previous bags so I took extra care to ensure that if it failed, it would not be because of my stitching.

Before I could take a photo of the finished purse she tossed her gear in it and went to work. I do have a photo of the pattern however:

The pattern for Katie’s purse.

EDIT: Katie came home from work as I was finishing this post so I managed to snap a couple of photos of the completed project.

Katie’s new purse.
Another photo of Katie’s new purse.

While I intend to take most of today off from sewing, I’ll have to work up some more masks starting this evening. Here are some photos of the ones I’ve made so far.

Grandson wearing his mask.
Middle Daughter and her mask
Granddaughter’s masks.
Right after completion of one of Granddaughter’s masks. Middle daughter was impatient to see so I snapped her a quick photo.
One of my latest mask creations.
Backside of mask. I make them reversible.

It took several days of research to come up with the final design. I knew from previous experience that elastic (especially the thin elastic most use) won’t hold up with repeated washing and use, so I crafted straps that would hold up for an extended amount of time. This allows people to fit them to their face properly and position the straps based upon their needs.

When I consulted with nurses, they informed me that the standard CDC and NIH guidelines weren’t sufficient so I also followed their advice and used a heavy non-woven interfacing instead of the fabric liner those agencies recommended. When I make something, I want it to be as effective as possible, last as long as possible, and look nice as well.

Based upon the feedback I’ve received I suspect I will be crafting these things for quite a while. I also suspect that both of my daughters will keep me busy sewing other items as well. Middle daughter plans for me to make matching Princess dresses for her daughters as soon as her youngest gets a bit older, and Katie is already shopping for pattern lots featuring clothing that she likes.

Based upon the messages Katie has sent me just today about how her friends have been drooling over the purse I made her, I suspect I will stay rather busy.

Even more importantly, I learned a valuable lesson from this experience. Just because an old skill goes out of fashion, one should never eliminate the equipment and supplies one uses to make or repair things. You never know when times will change and those skills will be necessary once more.

For the record, however, I am still dreading that garden. If I didn’t believe so firmly that the food would be needed, I would say “forget it.” I am so very thankful that I know how to make one, however. I suspect we will need one for this year at the least. Depending upon how this mess sorts itself out, I might have to raise one next year as well. Thanks to the old skills I have been teased for over my lifetime, our family is in a lot better shape than many out there.

I am immensely thankful for that blessing.

What are you thankful for today? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Business

The Prom Pickle

Earlier this year my beloved Katie excitedly prepared for the prom. She shopped and shopped for the perfect dress. One evening she emerged from her bedroom with a troubled look.

“Mom, my prom dress is going to be way too long,” Katie announced.

“Can you get someone to hem it?” I asked.

She frowned. “If I get the seller to hem it, the dress won’t arrive in time and the price goes up significantly,” she replied. “Do you know of anyone in the area that does alterations?”

I didn’t. The last person I knew who did alterations passed away several years ago. In this age of off-the-rack clothing, it is a dying art.

That said, I used to be pretty decent with a needle back in the day. I taught myself how to sew after my mother died as a way to remain close to her. I used to sew clothes, quilts, costumes, curtains, and could even craft custom-fitted furniture covers. Here are a few pictures I have on my computer that were taken during that time.

My oldest daughter as “Queen Cabbage” in a school play.

 

Middle Daughter’s school play outfit. I made the legs a bit long since she was in the midst of a growth spurt. She wore those overalls for years.

 

I sewed the baby quilt the kids are stretched out upon using gifted and clearance fabric.

 

A baby quilt I made on a whim once.

 

A quilt I made after being inspired by the fabric.

 

The Lone Star quilt I made in memory of my mother.

 

“Mom, do you think you could hem it if I got you the thread and stuff?” Katie asked when our search for a seamstress came up empty.

“I’m not sure. I’m a bit out of practice,” I replied, hesitant. I’d not sewn on so much as a button in years; between that and the fact that my daughter and grandson have liberally raided the few sewing supplies I kept left me wondering if I had so much as a single sewing needle to my name.

“Would you try?” Katie persisted.

I nervously agreed. Katie set about replacing my missing straight pins and sewing needles while she located the right color and quality of thread. Before I knew what was happening she was up in a chair, patiently still as I pinned the skirt to a proper length.

I had one week to hem this voluminous monster and fancy fabrics have never been my forte. Even worse, once I began the project I discovered that the method the manufacturer had used to assemble it…

…Let’s just say that my inner pirate came out. In order to hem the dress properly, I would have had to partially disassemble the skirt to hand-sew both the skirt and lining as different sections. The manufacturer had hemmed the lining and skirt first then assembled the section by sewing them both together along the side seams.

I didn’t have time for that. I had less than a week by this point and would have to work on it between my shifts at work.

I examined the beast, madly brainstorming a solution. If I adjusted things just a bit, I’d be able to treat the lining and skirt as a single item. It wouldn’t be my best work but it was do-able with the time limit and the fact that the two pieces had been hemmed before the dress had been assembled. I explained my dilemma to Katie and demonstrated my solution.

She agreed so fast my head spun. She didn’t need perfect; she just wanted it to look nice.

I spent four days tethered to that dress. When I wasn’t at work I sat in the kitchen, stitching madly to hem the dress. Katie kept me company when she was home and a friend kept me company via speakerphone otherwise.

I completed the task with one day to spare.

 

The story of that adventure is making the rounds in our little town. Since prom I’ve been approached to alter wedding dresses and today a friend is dropping off a jacket that needs a zipper replaced.

Katie is now convinced that I need to start hanging out a shingle. She’s even volunteered to leave her sewing machine behind when she moves so I would have another tool in my arsenal.

I’m considering it. I will have space to create a work area once the kid moves out and I will definitely need something to keep my mind occupied. I already have the skills and there is a shortage of seamstresses in the area. The extra income would make things easier as I adjust to life alone.

Do you think I should try this?


Have you ever helped someone out of a situation only to discover that you had a marketable skill? Please share your stories in the comments below.