When I look at this, it sort of scares me a touch. Just a touch. There’s a memory of the arms – flesh and blood ones – inside them, and there goes a shiver down my spine. But it’s all fine, really. There’s nothing sinister going on, and no horrible subtext lurking at all. What I was doing with my Labo
ur Day holiday was all perfectly innocent. Nobody’s arms – not mine or anyone else’s – were or will be hurt! (I’m rather pleased with the title of the post, I have to say.)
What was I doing?
Well, as you learned from an earlier post, the new academic year started last week, and so I was (a week late) doing “Back to School” stuff. And I was doing it the way it was done when I was a child. At the end of Summers in my childhood, my mum (later joined by my sister) would be sewing clothes. School uniforms, to be precise. We could not afford to go out and buy such things, and it was much cheaper to make clothes, and besides, making clothes and knowing how what you are wearing was put together is a wonderful piece of knowledge to have. I got into making clothing when I was very young. It started with me watching what was going on and getting interested in the assembling of completed three dimensional clothes from lots of flat (two-dimensional) pieces of cloth stitched together in interesting ways. I liked the skill that some people (my mum and sister for example) had of looking at en existing piece of clothing and beginning to imagine what the flat pieces are that you’d need (the “pattern”) to assemble a version of your own. (I did not think of these processes, as far as I’m aware, in the terms I’m describing it to you now, but I remember being interested in those and other elements of the process.) I got hand-on experience by helping out from time to time, over the years, and sometimes, pitched in since I was good at helping my mum to occasionally interpret instructions for the pattern of a new garment.
My first major project of my own came about because there was a particular jacket that I liked that was old, and/or did not fit well any more, and so I designed a new one that had elements of the old one, but then had all these extra features that I put in specifically for myself. You could never buy that off the shelf. It was the only one in the world, and that was a neat thing. The best thing I ever made, I think just before going off to university at 18, was this ankle length tailored coat that I still have and (sometimes) use. It had all the hidden pockets in the lining where I wanted them, and was a (somewhat extreme, I’ll admit) length that I could not find (affordably) in any store. Looked great with a black pork-pie hat, incidentally.
And so it is that once again I report to you on some thing I was doing that can be interpreted as me regressing to my formative years! I was sewing on Monday. I love doing things like that, as you know. Furthermore, I hate waste and this consumerist society we live in and tend to do my part to resist. I see no reason to throw things away and get new ones just for the sake of it if there is some reasonable way of making adjustments or repairs. (That reminds me – I’ve a big report on some computer matters from earlier in the Summer to write and post at some point.)
There were two main issues to hand. The first is that I’ve been meaning to obtain more short-sleeved shirts for the Summer time. Not t-shirts, but proper loose short-sleeved shirts I can wear on campus, not tucked in (it’s hot, and the improved airflow works wonders), while not looking like I’ve arrived to meetings or classes dressed for the beach, or a hike. The obvious plan would be to go out and buy some, but then why do that when I can make modifications to various existing long-sleeved shirts that have lost some of their lustre in the mode they were originally intended for?
The second issue is that I’ve a few torn seams here and there on various items, and more pressingly, due to cycling to work and so forth, several pairs of pants rather thinly worn in the, er, nether-regions, so to speak. Rather than throw them all away and buy new ones, why not repair them?
This also saves me the tedium of having to go clothes shopping too – I can go shopping for a sewing machine instead! So that’s what I did last week, and of course I had to get a Singer sewing machine in honour of the lovely old Singers of my childhood. It’s a fairly simple electro-mechanical one with the standard stitches – I did not want a fancy electronic one that can write your name and so forth. It was great to see that the basic (and marvellous!) mechanism that makes the stitches in the cloth is pretty much the same as it was in my childhood all those years ago. I remember being fascinated by it, figuring out how it worked, and how all the various parts worked together to give stitches of the right length and tension and so forth, and hence being on hand to make repairs for my mum and sister when things went wrong. (Indeed, it was that way with most things when I was young, and even now: – “How does it work?” “Why does it work?” I suppose I now do these same things for a living, and also teach others how to ask and answer those questions too. This is nice.)
So Monday, Labo
ur Day, saw me mostly cropping, shearing, pinning, measuring, unpinning, remeasuring, fastening, stitching, and more. It’s actually really fun making short-sleeves shirts from long-sleeved ones, finishing them by hemming the sleeves and removing the shirt-tails and hemming those too so that I can use them as semi-respectable “work shirts” as well as casual shirts.
I had a lot of fun, and three new short-sleeved shirts to show for my efforts.