So there I was, one daughter to my right, my mom to my left, listening to directions about sewing dresses. These are dresses with a specific purpose: to protect African girls from being seen as uncared for, and therefore susceptible to atrocities. My mother’s church women, plus several Girl Scouts, were trying to make 100 dresses to ship out. Yvette and I can barely sew a straight line, even though I’m ok with baby blankets (see “straight line”). This is because the baby doesn’t give a hoot if his blanket’s edge is sharp and the mom is too tired to see straight. I’m no dummy when it comes to choosing projects. My friend Marcie once said, “You’re a tight knitter. You probably shouldn’t sew.”
Anyway…my mom has sewn before but is scared to engage in a cafeteria line, much less join a chipper crew of ladies buzzing and chatting through yards of fabric. I noticed her backing away slowly as the nice lady told us about the “kits” they’d prepared, which were pre-hemmed, pre-cut pillowcase dresses that needed finishing and bright fabric pieces (skirts) that needed to be sewn onto t-shirts.
Me with Nice lady:
Nice Lady: …so then you flip the shirt inside out, flip the fabric inside out… (I avoid any flipping while sewing because it confuses me. Kind of like math.)
Nice Lady: …then you gather the edges on your machine…(Gather? Not by hand? Do you have tape?)
Nice Lady: …then you serge the hem…(Run. Throw down your pin cushion and run.)
I made Nice Lady repeat herself twice, politely identified which kit was easiest, and dismissed my daughter and mom to the ironing/sorting table, hoping it was not the cookie table in disguise. Then I sat next to Serge Lady. My bad. If you are intimidated by people cutting fabric at stores, try laying your crappy scissors next to someone who serges. The serger is a machine that has at least four little pyramids of thread on it and creates a special finishing stitch. I don’t speak Serge, so forgive me if I’ve gotten something wrong. Only Really Good Sewers should touch the serger. I heard generations of said sewers groan with disgust when I brushed against it. To my surprise, however, Serge Lady was very nice, but she was inundated by work; she was one of very few Serge People. Everyone was running up dresses and laying them next to her to finish. Her head was down the entire time; I’m not even sure she got a stale snickerdoodle. Very straight hair part, though.
After a few hours with occasional checks to make sure my mom and daughter hadn’t sneaked off to Target, I managed to make three dresses. Ok, two and a half (my bobbin crashed midway through the third and the machine wasn’t responding to the profanity, so I had to outsource it to Safety Pin Lady). It was a small gesture, but it felt nice imagining a little girl feeling safer wearing one of my screwy dresses. (Rest assured. Supervisor Ladies inspect all before shipping) I learned a few things: never to take my clothes for granted, drag my kids to as many of these things as possible, and never trust my mom when she promises the cutting table.