Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Life and Times of a Sewing Machine

     This is an essay I wrote back in March for a writing assignment about an inanimate object. It is one of my favorite things I've written because I love sewing and my determined little sewing machine. I thought I'd share :)


     My name is Athena. I am not the Roman goddess; I am better than she ever was. I can create beauty better than she ever could; I can make something out of nothing, which she never did.
     My full name is Singer 1200 Athena, but I just go by Athena. I am a sewing machine. I was built in 1976 and am still going strong, because of course, I am an Athena. No other sewing machine works as well as I do. No other sewing machine is even a valid machine. They all refer to themselves by their middle names, which is a bothersome practice. I know a machine named Singer 2250 Tradition, and he goes by 2250. Does he really think I’ll go through the bother of remembering all those numbers? (The Traditions always were an odd family, so boxy and plastic, not sleek and shiny and sturdy like me.)
     I am a warm, buttery yellow color with stylish brown panels and buttons and shiny silver knobs. My peers say that white is in vogue for machines now, which is positively ridiculous. Just seeing all those vain machines flashing their shiny plastic shells of pure white is laughable. How else do you say “Made in China”? Honestly. Butter yellow might be a little… vintage, but it practically screams dependability. I am no plastic shell. I’m built of sturdy steel within, with just one piece of plastic on the top to cover my, ahem, machinery. I have ten different stitch options, which include a leaf pattern, numerous zigzag stitches, and even one that looks like the Golden Gate Bridge. I also have multiple accessories: a clear buttonhole foot, a bulky blind hem foot, and several silver needle plates. I am as beautiful as my namesake, the Roman goddess Athena. Well, even more beautiful, because I can actually do something.
     I can create dresses and blouses and skirts, curtains and pillows and purses. I can alter outdated clothing and repair broken seams. There is nothing I can’t do. Just last week, my Seamstress and I worked on a new dress for her. The fabric she chose was simply beautiful: a turquoise and white floral print that takes me back a couple decades. Very retro; I liked it. This was a pleasing pick from my Seamstress; she has a lot of sense. While 2250 and his Seamstress are using gaudy polka dot prints and neon color blocks, my Seamstress and are sewing with red floral calicoes, feathery white muslins, and delicate ivory lace. My Seamstress clearly has as good taste in fabrics as she does in sewing machines.
     This turquoise cloth was for a retro dress she’s working on; I think she said she was for a 1940s dance she’s going to. It has a high waist, crossover bodice, fitted sleeves, and a gored skirt. She bought the pattern off the internet about a year ago and has made two other dresses from it, but the poor thing had no idea what she was doing when she worked on those dresses. Any merit those things could possibly have is because of me. The skirts were too long, the bodices too baggy, the waists too tight. My Seamstress, bless her heart, thinks she’s good at this stuff. (She was so proud of her first invisible zipper. I didn't have the heart to tell her that the only reason that zipper is invisible is because I've been doing zippers since before that girl was born.) At any rate, this time I did my best work to insure that the dress turned out right. Of course, my Seamstress thought it was all her own skill that made the dress so beautiful, and I let her think it. That’s the way to keep Seamstresses happy; let them think they are better sewers than they actually are. It isn't much fun at the time but in the long run they are more confident and patient and gentler with their machines.
     There is nothing better than the sheer thrill of sewing. I love the gentle hum of my gears as they turn faster and faster and the pressure of my Seamstress’ foot on the pedal as my needle punches up and down, up and down (the sound of it doing this used to be so smooth, until one day my Seamstress got impatient and put me on full speed. I think she sprained one of my belts, and now my needle makes a clackity sound when it moves. I’m still trying to forgive her for this).
     My favorite part of sewing, however, is the stitching itself. Every time is like the very first time I sewed, back when I was a young machine. I love the feel of each fabric as it speeds under my presser foot, as I punch the stitches into it, sturdy and tight. Silk is slippery but luxurious. Cotton is common but has so many colors. Linen is hardy and lovely. Knits are soft and cozy. Voile is a dream. Tulle is a nightmare. Each piece has its own feel and flavor: creamy silk from China, succulent brocade from India, sugary satin from the USA. Old fabrics, new fabrics, modern prints, and vintage ones. I can travel the world just by working with its cloths. They say that clothes make the man. Well, I make the clothes.
     So you see, I am much better than the Roman goddess.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Of Shopping and Turkeys

     I work at a retail store in a mall. It turns out that this mall (which will remain nameless) has decided to open for Black Friday early.

     At 8 PM on Thanksgiving Day.

     Other stores and shopping centers have made similar announcements (Including Macy's, JCPenney, and Best Buy) as more and more of them opt to open their doors before Black Friday, offering their customers an early start on their Black Friday Christmas shopping. Here's a flyer from Wal-Mart that illustrates:

(photo form examiner.com)
This recent news (and my thoughts about it) can be summed up in this meme:

(photo from blog.aarp.org)

     (Only in this case, we trampled each other the same day as being "thankful" for what we have.)

     This news makes me sad and angry and confused and frustrated. The meme is funny because it's so true, and because it's so true it is also so sad. Is no day sacred? Out of 365 days in a year, can we not set aside one day to be thankful? Must we always be taking taking taking, always desiring to get more instead of looking around and saying "hey, we are pretty darn blessed"? Are we really even that thankful if we gobble down our Thanksgiving dinner (pun intended) in a rushed attempt to get to the store? 

     It's bad enough that the holiday of Thanksgiving has been virtually eclipsed by the self-centered, commercialized holiday of Christmas (which isn't supposed to be self centered in the first place, either). Now Thanksgiving is just another day to stockpile more stuff for our already spoiled selves. Instead of sitting down to a quiet family dinner, enjoying the food and the company of each other as we go around the table asking each other what we're thankful for, will we now grab a bite to eat to go as we frenziedly check our smartphones and ask each other which store has the better sale? What kind of holiday is that? What kind of thanks-giving  is that?

     Someone I know said recently that "If people didn't shop, the stores wouldn't be open." This is true. The problem is not that the CEOs of major retailers have decided to open their stores on Thanksgiving. The problem is that there are people who will shop in them. With their bellies still full from turkey and pumpkin pie they will push, shove and trample to be the first to get that latest electronic device or cashmere sweater or Superman action figure for half price. And more than likely, there are smiling, helpful employees waiting on them who have had to skip out on their own turkeys and pumpkin pies, who have had to skip out on family and loved ones because America could not contain its hunger for materialism. 

     Before you write me off as a bitter retail worker, please understand. I personally don't have to work the Thanksgiving shift. That is something I am thankful for, not because I don't love my job, but because the thought of the millions of people pouring into shopping centers on Thanksgiving Day makes me sick. I will be spending my Thanksgiving with my family. We will be eating turkey and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. We will tell each other what we're thankful for. We will read about or discuss the Pilgrims (remember those guys?), their harrowing journey across the Atlantic for the sake of freedom, and their day of celebration in thanksgiving to the God who kept them safe and alive. And then on Black Friday I will be in my store with a smile on my face, happy to help shoppers in any way I can. I don't like crowds, but I can do shoppers on Black Friday. I have no problem with shopping on Black Friday. But on Thanksgiving? I take issue with that. I am offended by that. Are you?

Hanneli

   





Thursday, November 14, 2013

We're All Drivers Here

Hey everyone! I've returned from my hiatus. Life has been crazy and full of fun! And I'll start back into my blogging activities by sharing a few thoughts with you all.


I've realized that life is a lot like driving on a highway. I'm living in the Nashville area right now, and while this here is the road I live on, I take the interstate into town when I go to work. There are a lot of cars, all going very fast, and if you don't pay attention to what you're doing, you will most likely end up in an accident. Just the other day my boss was stuck in traffic for 3 hours due to one person's mistake.

One day as I drove to work, my body and a 2,654-pound hunk of metal hurtling across the pavement at 70 miles an hour, I thought for a moment what it'd be like to be driving the opposite direction on a five-lane interstate. What if, instead of staying on my side of the road, I chose to go over to the other side, and tried to get to work driving 70 mph on the wrong side? I wouldn't last long; probably less than a minute. Maybe, with some expert bobbing and weaving, about two minutes. I can't just speed headlong into opposing traffic. The multiple lanes of scores of speeding cars would literally kill me and most likely someone else. I'd never make it to work. I'd never make it back home.

The Christian life is a lot like driving on the wrong side of the road on an interstate. Only, we are not going the wrong way; it is the world who is going the wrong way. We have a set destination, a set route, in mind. Out GPS, the Bible, tells us to go this way, so we do it. However, the rest of the world is opposing traffic. Millions and millions of people in their multi-ton hunks of metal are careening toward us at 70 and 80 and 90 miles per hour. They are going the wrong way. So we try to tell them, try to get them to turn around, show them where they need to go. Some listen, and turn around. But the majority grow angry, use nasty words and gestures, tell us we are crazy, that we are going the wrong way.

The Christian life is dangerous. You will get pummeled and beaten and smashed. But stay on course. You will not wreck. You are going in the right direction, and with God's help you will reach your destination unscathed. Remember that today.

Hanneli