Twelve Things I Do When I Sew

Allie Olson Sewing Studio
  1. I listen. To Eckhart Tolle, to bluegrass music. There’s background noise, sometimes rhythm. There’s always something to listen to while I work.
  2. I press the pedal, varying the speed of the sewing machine, the sound of the whir, the frequency with which the needle travels up and down through the fabric.
  3. I stand, and pin, and snip, and iron. Thousands of automatic repetitive movements that I don’t think about, don’t consider.
  4. I fantasize. Dream about where I’ll wear this garment, the type of person I’ll be when I’m wearing it, what people will think about me. I dream of a new life in this blue dress, in that floral robe. I think only of how I’ll be different when that thing is sewn.
  5. I get disappointed when something doesn’t fit right, or just doesn’t feel like me. And I set those things down and sometimes never come back to them. Often I do come back to them weeks, or months, sometimes years later and they suddenly work. I learn that sometimes things just need time to marinate.
  6. I distract and I think. I soak in all my self-absorbed thoughts, I have pretend conversations with people I currently dislike, about the kiddos I'll teach this week, about whether I'll ever really work with passion again. I think about anything but sewing and sewing makes all my paranoid thoughts more tolerable than when I think them sitting on my couch or laying in my bed.
  7. I look at the red terracotta wall outside the window a lot. I memorize how the light hits that wall and I always think about how grateful I am for a sunlit wall in my favorite color that I get to gaze at when I’m fantasizing or thinking said self-absorbed thoughts.
  8. I try things on, strip off my clothes and put them back on. Often depositing a pair of socks or slippers or a sports bra on my studio floor that I will not rediscover until I come back down into the studio, sometimes months later. 
  9. I stare at my naked body in the full length mirror. I take its measurements. I dissect every new dimple, fold, and how the curve between my hips and waist has changed. I obsess over that change and then vow to stop doing this every time I sew. Eventually, I always do it again.
  10. I swipe my fingers up and down my stacks of folded fabric. Dream about those fleece-lined leggings that I bought that wine-colored lycra for three years ago, that green two-toned swimming suit, that silk dress that I was going to look so elegant in. I wonder if we, the fabric and I, will have those moments or if they’ll turn into something else. I wonder how I’ve changed and how I’ll continue to change and how those fabrics just sit there waiting to become something.
  11. I flick the iron on and off, the lights on and off, the sewing machine and serger on and off, over and over. Every time I enter the room and every time I leave. A hundred beginnings and endings and hopefully something to show for the in-between, but not always.
  12. I wonder why I do this, why I’ve sewn for so long and if I’ll always sew. I wonder if coming down to the studio in my cold basement feeds me or if sewing is someone else’s expectation of me that I just continue to live day after day. I wonder what it all means, this craft that my mom taught me when I was seven. The craft that I built a business, a community, around, and subsequently shut down. This craft that brought me so much validation and also stripped the confidence right off of my body. I wonder why I do this, and yet here I am again, another day in my sewing studio.

The piece above was the result of a writing prompt given in my non-fiction writing course. The assignment was to write for ten minutes on the phrase "25 Things I Do When I..." and is an exercise in getting intimate with your job, hobby, or something you do often. I encourage you to try it out!