How I Learned to Sew: Fear and Love

By Martha Michaela Hutchman Brown
aka Marf

I only really learned to sew in the summer of  2009. It was a year of wonderful and devastating change. I married a kind, funny, brilliant and amazing man in May, my husband David. And then in October, after a relatively short illness, I lost a kind, funny, brilliant and amazing man, my father.

Early in that year, I asked my mother for a sewing machine as a birthday present. I’m not sure why I wanted one. Though I could sew by hand — my mother is a clever sewer and had taught me — I didn’t really know how to use a sewing machine. Perhaps with the wedding coming up, and presents and registries on the brain, I was thinking that it was something that every household should have, along with certain kitchen gadgets. It was a great sewing machine, but it went in the closet with all the shower and wedding presents.

Sometime that summer, my dad got sick. I was terrified and powerless. I needed something to do, to make, to focus on. Fortuitously, I wandered past Cloth and Bobbin, a local fabric store. I thought about my mom and how we went shopping for fabric that she would magically turn into clothes. I went in. I saw beautiful prints. I bought some yards with no project in mind.

I picked up some books about sewing on the way home. I read.

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Here’s my full current collection of sewing books.

I thought, “I can do it! I’m going to sew something!” I looked around, wondering what might be handy for David and me in our cozy little condo built for one. And I decided, because I clearly wasn’t thinking straight:

“A full-sized quilt!”

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First project. Do not try this at home.

Never mind that I had no idea what went into making a quilt. I didn’t even know how to thread my machine. I got out the instruction manual, wound my first bobbin ever and sewed on computer paper to practice basic stitches.

I went to various local fabric shops and picked up batting and more fabrics and rulers and scissors and thread and chalk.

I thought, patterns schmatterns! I used a calculator, colored pencils and graph paper and made a design. I measured and cut and sewed and binded and stayed up late. Less than a week later, I was done.

It wasn’t until I was finished that I realized what I had created: a big collage of my family. My fabric choices were all based on memories of my family.

There was a Guatemalan pattern that represented an amazing trip I took with my sister E, brother M and sister-in-law C.

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Guatemalan pattern and beginner sewing mistakes.

There was a Japanese-inspired pattern that reminded me of the years when my brother A and his wife A lived in Japan. I was still a kid and I thought it was amazing and exotic to have a brother in Japan. And it’s even a fish motif! My sister’s husband D is an avid fisherman.

Fish are jumping, and the cotton is high.

Fish are jumping, and the cotton is high.

My father loved red delicious apples and would eat them with a paring knife, whittling them down to to the tiniest of cores. The red horizontal stripes that run throughout are his beloved college’s color.

Don't you just want to take a bite? So realistic.

Don’t you just want to take a bite? So realistic.

The scripty letters are for my brother M and me. We are both professional writers.

Purple has always been my favorite color.

Purple has always been my favorite color.

The quilt itself, is representative of sewing with my mom, of course. And I made something to keep my new husband and me warm.

Classic rookie mistake. I made it way too big. But in this case: perfect.

Classic rookie mistake. I made it way too big. But in this case: perfect.

I thought I was creating something that would take my mind off of what was going on. I was really just reminding myself of what was so important.

4 thoughts on “How I Learned to Sew: Fear and Love

  1. Your first project was a quilt AND you were done in a week? Goes to show the power of the human spirit. This is a beautiful piece if work (the blog post and the quilt alike).

  2. Pingback: Browsing the Possibilities: Cloth & Bobbin | marfdaze

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