The first time my mother tried to teach me how to sew, I made a small, four panel pillow. After that, I never really sewed until I was about 10-ish, when I would go into my mother’s sewing room and raid her fabric stash for something pretty and try to make an article of clothing with absolutely no experience in doing so. Today, I was awoken by the sound of her Janome.
When the golden light from the sun beamed in my eyes, and when my body permitted itself, I got up from bed. From the other room, a faint humming repeated over and over, then stopped then started then stopped again. The air smelled of bacon and eggs, and the old matted carpet on my feet felt like walking on sandpaper. I walked straight and then made a left, peering into the Tiffany blue room that once was my bedroom, that had been renovated into my mother’s sewing room. As soon as I opened the wooden door, a wave of dog smell launched at me. I looked down at the ground, to find my German shepherd, Loki, staring up at me with his big brown eyes. White cabinets lined the walls, shelves with fabric rolls and small projects displayed my mother’s love for sewing and her job, along with picture frames with sayings that you’d see in a teacher’s classroom in school.
Sewing was always near and dear to my mother’s heart. Growing up without a lot of money, she decided to start making her own clothes out of old ones and fabric she could buy for cheap. Years later, she got involved with the sewing machine industry and became an educator for Janome America, and specializes in teaching people how to use and sell the machines, so, naturally, she wanted to teach me too. And then, she did. We started off with a bag that, although complex, wasn’t too hard. A saddle bag made out of a beautiful screen printed cotton, printed with vibrant flowers and vines and leaves, with rose gold hardware and a green cork bottom.
A lot of this project consisted of cutting and ironing. Measuring out 11” by 22”, 2” by 35”, ironing interfacing onto it to make it strong and thick, the heat permeating through the room, steam from ironing spray covering up the dog smell and making it smell like a weird starchy peach. When I finally began to sew, the heat from the sewing machine warmed me up quickly. The humming continued, but much louder. After finishing some of the basic assembly, I pressed seams open, trying to keep them down with my fingers after opening, but burning them on the hot fabric. I kept sewing and sewing, ironing and cutting, pinning and folding, and then my stomach rumbled a deep rumble that shakes your entire body, and I turned to my mother. She gave me a knowing look, and we ran out to get food. Although it was fast food (considering these were the only restaurants open at the time) my first sip of Baja blast from Taco Bell felt like a dip in the pool of youth, and my steak cantina bowl felt like I was eating a three michelin star meal. When we finished our meals, we returned home and finished the bag.
My mother often goes on about the mental health benefits of sewing. She remembers this experiment that she read about, where human trafficking victims were taught how to sew and how that then, in turn, taught them how to plan ahead. They spent so much of their life living day to day that they forgot about that aspect of life, and when they re-learned it, it helped them grow. She thinks, although I haven’t experienced something as extreme as that, it still helps keep you in the moment while also helping you learn how to think in advance. And she was right! The entire time I spent sewing, there was no overthinking or intrusive thoughts or paranoia, it was just me in my mother’s sewing room with my dog, making something together.