It is true that I’ve fallen in love with many a dress. Fallen in love with many a sewing technique. I love the satisfaction of understitching a bias binding, of discovering a new way to insert an inseam pocket, of some perfect edge stitching on a cuff. But this dress? This dress is different.
Okay. Fair. I say that every time I write about a garment
Maybe every time I write about sewing. But is it true every time. And when something feels true you have to hold on to it and let it see you through all the bullshit that sometimes makes up day to day living in this world.
Making things is my anchor. My throughway, my constant, even as things change, as I change. In my most dramatic moments, I would have said 2022 began with the most difficult breakup of my adult life and stretched into a bad year. But time, it doesn’t really work that way, does it? 2022 had bad parts, sure, but it had so many beautiful moments too. I wouldn’t be here, laughing my way through 2023, without the heartache of those months that came before. And I wouldn’t have made this dress if I hadn’t let it sit, cut out on my table, unable to convince myself to sew it up for 6 months.
A little more than a year ago I drove down the Durham freeway and cried when I saw the redbuds were blooming because I couldn’t believe a season had passed since my breakup and I still felt the heartache. And today I drove down that same freeway, unwashed hair piled on top of my head, laughing at the memory of a great late-night phone call with my best friend a few days ago, those same trees blooming again.
This is what a life in progress should feel like
Sadness, happiness, anger, laughter, heartache. A year is never just one of these things. And they all bleed into each other. At least they do for me.
I try not to let unfinished projects bother me. When you have a lot of hobbies it is inevitable. I have projects tucked all over my house. I have a quilt that has been in progress for literal years. Maybe I should feel more of a desire to check things off, but why? Some things will always be in progress and that is how it should be. After a year of feeling unmoored from myself, unsure of what I wanted to the point where I considered getting breast implants, a tattoo, and braces, (not in that order, and not that getting any of those things is wrong,) and ended up getting none of those things, in progress feels like a pretty good place to be.
But back to the dress
Like poems or dreams or even perfect recipes, garments have a tendency to get comfortable in my head, to stretch out and make themselves at home for a while, before they exist in the real world. Before I can pull them out and make them manifest in front of me. And though it is easy to say in hindsight, I think this dress had been lounging in the back of my brain, little more than a thread, for a long time before I even had the skills and tools to make it.
My mom helped me cut out this particular Hinterland hack last summer, after the course had been out for a couple of months. And I really thought I was going to sew it up right away. But something about those release tucks just seemed impossible. So it sat. And I made other things. Knitted sweaters. Life moved forward. 2022 became 2023 and so too, did I begin to feel differently. And finally, one Saturday afternoon, I wanted to sew up my camp collar, circle skirt Hinterland hack. I ate dinner and got to work, completely ignoring my mom’s advice not to overdo it, full of confidence that I could sew the whole thing in one night.
I couldn’t. But that’s okay. I sewed the release tucks. I made the collar. I stitched and understitched and topstitched the facing. Then I went to bed. And the next evening I finished the dress and it was better than I had envisioned. As I sat on the couch hand sewing the buttons, smiling to myself, I felt so lucky. Lucky to be able to sew something, to be part of this long story of making dresses, that ties women together through history.