Thursday, 23 October 2014

I Unpick A Seam

When I walked into the sewing class with my son, the air molecules shifted.  It's strange how the reaction of a group can be felt as a frisson, a gasp, of atmospheric pressure.  Eighteen women recollected themselves, smiled, accommodated to the idea of sharing cutting tables, machines and space with a good-looking young man.  I stood up straighter.

My project for our six weeks of dressmaking classes is to make two pairs of pyjama bottoms; my son's is to make as many t-shirts as he can from a 4 metre stretch of wide black cotton jersey.

Having cut out my fabric, I predicted that I would complete the first pair of pyjama bottoms within the two hour session. I offered my son advice about cutting out. He, meanwhile, was unpicking the sleeves from an old t-shirt to use as a template.

When my mother taught me to sew, she showed me how to undo a machined seam by cutting through the tiny ladder of tight stitches using a Wilkinson Sword razor blade. Handling the blade felt dangerous - an adult secret.

One-and-a-half hours into yesterday evening's session I held up my work.  It looked like nothing; or rather it looked like a large replica of a diseased heart - a slack set of pouches with small tubes  protruding.  It looked like nothing you'd want to wear in bed, under any circumstances.

With my crumpled work in my lap, I watched my son as he draped black jersey over a mannequin and threaded a needle with cotton.  He looked confident, happy, fluent.

"Can I borrow your unpicker?" I asked him.  He chucked it over, smiling.  These days, I use a purpose-made hook with a sharpened edge to cut through my mistakes.

"Thought you were being a bit optimistic," he said, drawing long white stitches up the side seams of his new design.  Then, "You can't use pins in conjunction with an over-locker, so I'm doing tailor tacks."

"Ah," I said.  "What about the neckline?  It looks a bit ..."

He turned to me, grinned.  "It's in the Brutalist style," he said.

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