One weekend, with our second Buenos Aires adventure looming in October, Suzanne and I swooped on The Fabric Warehouse in Thorndon to buy silk. We bought several lengths each, and this Sunday we set out to make up one of them.I used to be an avid sewer. Back in my teens and 20s, when there was virtually no money for clothes, I never hesitated to make them - for me, for the kids, and even, at times, for the various men in my life (yes, all right, the odd caftan - but I see the error of my ways now, honestly). A good part of the habit was the feeling of creativity and accomplishment sewing gave me at a time in my life when those pleasures were in short supply.
In the last 10 or 15 years, I've virtually given up. I found it easier to earn the money to buy the clothes I wanted than to sit shoulders hunched over a sewing machine. I still love fabric, though - love to see it and handle it, and imagine what I might make with it. Back in the day, I could turn a revere and set in a sleeve well enough to make others exclaim over my skills. So I continued to call myself a sewer.
Until I met Suzanne. Now she is a sewer. Her methods and results so completely outclass mine that I can't put myself in the same category. All I can say is that I know enough to understand just how damned good she is.
And, unlike any number of home sewers, how impeccable her taste. Coats, dresses, pants, hats, bags ... All beautifully constructed, so that to say they are indistguishable from manufactured ones is to downgrade the care, skill and vision that's gone into making them.
And her apartment is beautifully set up for sewing. Behind mirrored double doors in the sittingroom is a counter holding the Pfaff and the overlocker, a stool tucked underneath. Either side are pull-out drawers, and overhead, shelves holding dozens of labelled ziplocked bags of magical fabric, bought here, in Vietnam (she took her machine to Hanoi when she lived there) and elsewhere. Behind the door is a Suzanne-shaped tailor's dummy.
But even she balked at this silk - "It's like sewing water". It constantly slipped and fell and flowed as she worked with it.
I tried to help. And there did come a point when I was indispensible - easing the double-gathered silk to fit the fully stretched top while Suzanne pinned. This excercise was gratifyingly hard on my wrists and arms, requiring several rest breaks and allowing me to feel I was contributing. My only other initiative was to boldly take the scissors to the tank top. Most of the time, though, I hovered and dithered.
By dinner time, the seamstress was laughing wildly over how long it had taken two seemingly smart women to get this far. A mere four hours to attach side-seamed silk to a top! She decided a good night's sleep was a prequerisite for tackling the next stage. Just don't tell us how straightforward it will be!