Remember that funny off kilter sweater you received from Aunt Mildred on your 12th birthday? The one in purple and orange with pompoms that she lovingly knitted with just you in mind? One sleeve was maybe a little smaller than the other, or the hem was perhaps a smidge crooked, or it had a strange bulbous shape that didn’t quite fit your slender pre-pubescent body.
I believe that I have inflicted that kind of awkward homemade gift giving onto my family. I am a horrible seamstress. Horrid, really. It’s true. I get sucked into the idea of creating something wonderful out of fabric, the endless ideas. Curtains made in the just the fabric you love. Pillows that perfectly match the couch. I like fabric stores, full of fun possibilities. When it actually comes to executing the action of sewing there is frustration, aggravation, and sometimes violence, and then profanity.
I have had the idea of making rice bags for a few years. You know the ones where you microwave them or freeze them and then lay them across an aching part of your body. I like them better than heating pads because they conform to your body. I also like them better than a bag of frozen peas because I’d really like to eat the peas, and after you have coddled the bag across your body it seems a bit gross to eat them.
So I did it. In the spring I was sneaking through a fabric store and couldn’t resist a bunch of lovely quilting squares that seemed to typify a ‘country cool’ look that was a part of living in Colorado. So I bought eleven of them, ten for the family and one for me. A few weeks later I hopefully sat down to sew them. I just sewed up the bags like a pillowcase and decided to fill them with rice later in the year closer to Christmas, because Christmas for us usually involves travel. Also this year I had no idea where we would be living. So after a few hours of verbal abuse heaped upon the sewing machine, a remembrance that I am no good at this, two occasions where I called for help from my mother in law, and quite a few crooked seams I had eleven inside out tiny pillowcases.
Then we moved to Boston and I lost access to a sewing machine. So they sat until about two weeks before Christmas day. We brought them to Colorado and I promised that I would finish everything before our family got there. Then I forgot until the day before Christmas Eve. The eve of Christmas eve, if you will.
Sooooo on Christmas Eve we went into town and bought ten pounds of rice, I attempted to be surreptitious as I loaded two huge five pound bags of rice into the bottom of the grocery cart in front of two of my sisters. Then later tried to be sneaky as I took them out from under one of their noses and hauled them upstairs to my mother in law’s sewing corner. In about two hours I had three done and one half filled, and the rice completely emptied out. There were enough done for the families that would be opening presents the next day so I was okay. There was cussing and only once where I smacked the table in frustration. I discovered that the weight of the rice would pull the bags out from underneath the needle of the machine, making some of the seams vaguely zig-zaggy. I would attempt to balance them on my forearm while feeding the bag through and pulling from the other side. A fair act of balance and coordination. Really, maybe, a bit more than I really have.
The next round of sewing happened the day before we were to get on the plane and fly to California for the last round of Christmas with my family. Only one of the bags burst open, spreading rice all over the table, when I didn’t get the seams exactly sewn together all the way. Only once did I need to get my mother in law to replace the bobbin thread. Only once did I swear that I would never sew again. My mother in law’s response,
“That’s what I always say.” Oh no. I hope that I actually stick to that threat.
So if you are in family and you received one of those from me and upon examining the seams you realize that you are much better at sewing than me, raise a glass to yourself, and toast being better than me. I may be bringing you pants to hem in the future. Don’t worry that I will try to sew for others again I know my limitations, I know how bad I am.
So family if one of those bags burst open in your bed while you are trying to ease your aching back and you are bent over, still standing, with your sore back, scooping rice into your hand, think of me. Because I love you enough to never do that to you again.