Knowing how to
sew is both a blessing and a curse.
For a time, I
enjoyed making dolls and doll clothes, occasionally a dress for myself,
curtains for the house, a formal for our daughter’s 8th grade dance…
But then word
gets out and people start asking if you wouldn’t mind fixing this ripped
pocket, or taking in this dress which is six sizes too big, or hemming these
jeans or making the sails for your 15 foot sailboat….
And then the
world decides to catch the MOTHER OF ALL VIRUSES and suddenly your 12-year-old,
4-H self feels obligated to make masks to protect family and friends.
Only the minute
you sit down at the 35 year old Kenmore machine, you notice that every little
thing begins to annoy you, from the color of the pin heads to the fact that
EVERY TIME you try to take a stitch the needle un-threads itself and you can’t
see that stupid needle hole because, seriously, you could NEVER see that stupid
needle hole even when you were 12 years old and in 4-H making a circle skirt.
So, you throw
all the mask making supplies in a heap, slam the bedroom door and vow to never
go back in until overseas visitors arrive and need a place to sleep.
There may have
been some cursing, also.
But then your
friend Mel comes up to you at work, all excited because she has ordered 100
pounds of fabric, 2500 miles of elastic and seam binding and a spool of metal
wire large enough to secure millions of things that need to be secured with
wire, all so she can make masks.
|just a sampling of supplies...
And as you
stand there waiting, the words come out of her mouth….
“You know how
to sew, right?”
And she has
such a hopeful, excited look that you don’t have the heart to say that even the
thought of talking about making masks makes you want to scream horror movie
style and run to the nearest closet, curl up in a ball and slam the door.
trying to teach someone how to sew in the process…
(It should be
noted that the last time I attempted to teach people to sew we were planning a
fun trip to Jamaica and everyone needed super cute girl pirate shirts. NO where
in that process was the concern that those shirts might save a life or at least
prevent the spread of anything but laughter.)
But then, in a
nearly out of body experience, you see your mouth open and the words hang in
the air like a Sunday morning comic strip: “SURE, Let’s make a day of it! We can do
And that is how, a couple weeks ago, Rob and I
hosted Mel and her partner for mask making and BBQ.
Before this goes further, there are a couple things
you need to know about my friend Mel. She is ALWAYS prepared and has researched
everything exhaustively at which point she has taken all the information she
has gleaned and used it to invent an even better way to do something.
She is generous to a fault.
And, due to an unfortunate intestinal issue on a trip to Cabo several years ago, has earned the nickname CrapMonkey.
(check out the original CrapMonkey post: https://www.coastofillinois.com/2013/02/travels-with-crapmonkey.html )
So, it was no surprise when she and Joy arrived
with the above listed mask making supplies, Mel’s new Brother sewing machine, a
bag full of beer and wine, and some very delicious looking steaks.
We set up the basement with a big table, our sewing machines facing one another like partners in a crafting law office.
were discussed, chosen to meet personality needs of family and friends and soon
an assembly line began with Mel cutting, me pinning and Joy ironing.
The lesson was going along pretty well, until
the new sewing machine refused to sew a straight line, tracking to the right,
and wadding the fabric up into an annoyingly tight ball.
Given the fact that my machine is a good 35 years old, pretty
much only goes forward and backwards and is not a Brother brand, I gave it my
best shot and spun all the dials and changed all the settings I could and then
still managed to act surprised when it continued to refuse to sew a straight
line. All the while, Mel is frantically looking online at an owner’s manual the
size of her phone screen.
Because she was looking at it on her phone
Thankfully, we were saved by Rob announcing
that dinner was ready. We had some much needed nourishment and even more needed
wine before returning to one last attempt.
As Joy continued with her pressing of seams, I
assembled and sewed, and Mel continued to fight with Brother.
Suddenly there was a shriek of only CrapMonkey magnitude.
“I found it! I searched ‘BUNCHING’ and here is
After searching ‘poor tracking’ ‘fabric
wadding’ ‘tension issues’ ‘how do you make this expletive piece of expletive
work’, the google search for bunching fabric yielded an embarrassingly easy
The machine was threaded incorrectly.
That was it.
Re-threading the machine produced a fine
And it was time for Crapmonkey to GO TURBO!!
In the next half an hour we power sewed about a
By now, it was getting late and everyone had
work the next day. We barely made a dent in the warehouse of fabric and
notions, but the foundation was laid, and mask production was ready to proceed
at our respective homes.
For two weeks now I have walked past the abandoned
sweatshop, throwing disdainful glances at the nearly finished masks spread out
on the table just waiting for elastic earpieces and metal nose bridges.
I managed to make a few requested masks in
support of our local baseball team for a sister-in-law. And some adorable
littles and their stuffed animals will be sporting the latest in virus
protection out West.
But the fun of Crapmonkey Mask day is long gone
and the thought of making masks for tiny kiddoes is nearly too much to bear.
I guess that’s what living in a Pandemic is.
Trying to find a way to make the weird and unsettling
You don’t have to like it. You just have to find
a way to get through it.
Maybe I need to turn to google for a better
It worked for CrapMonkey.
Hoping everyone is staying safe out there, an
appropriate 6 feet apart, and wearing your MASKS – over both your mouth and
As a person of science, I am here to tell you
that while they are irritating, uncomfortable and irritating, they are actually
very important in the fight against the spread of disease.
The Healthcare System and Coast of Illinois