Earlier this year, I started taking sewing lessons. The first day of class, our instructor asked us to give a brief introduction and describe why we decided to learn how to sew. The answers were varied. Some where there to learn how to make clothes for themselves. Many expressed a desire to make clothes that properly fit them well when off the rack clothes so quickly and easily failed to. One woman quilted but didn’t know how to assemble a garment or follow a pattern. One was a high school teacher who wanted the skills to make her more marketable. Apparently, it’s really hard to find teachers for “home skills” (home ec) classes these days.
What Did I Want To Learn?
My intention for the class, I shared, was to learn to make Halloween costumes for my daughter. I had many memories of my mom sewing costumes for me and always loved the excitement of coming up with a design together. Picking a character to replicate through fabric and accessories. Her first success was my Kermit the Frog costume for my very first trick or treating outing. Although it is quite common now for costume hoods for children to have the character’s face on the top, it was not common at all in the 80s when my mom created the design you see below. In fact, when we were out trick or treating, one boy insisted that I “pull down my mask” when we rang the doorbell.
What I didn’t share that first day in class was that my mom had passed away recently and that I knew, deep down, that sewing lessons were a means of connecting with her. A way of manifesting my own geeky healing. That thought, however, was a recurring one through my class. My first surprise came when I realized exactly how much ironing goes into sewing. A fact long forgotten from my rudimentary attempts when I was a pre-teen. The ironing made me feel closer to my mom immediately. The smell. The heat on my face. Even the small burns I suffered on my finger tips. The ironing board was out when I cleaned out my mom’s house, stacked with freshly laundered linens prepared for the next family gathering.
This is the first Halloween since I took my lessons and of course, the stakes were pretty high. I found myself reticent to sew a costume for my daughter. Not because my sewing skills would still fall close to level one but because my daughter is strong willed and has yet to wear anything I’ve sewn for her. I didn’t want my first costume marked by a reluctance to wear it that would likely have nothing to do with the hours I poured into making it.
So I gave myself an out. I took her to the consignment store and let her pick out what she wanted. A Rainbow Dash tutu caught her eye and she was sold. We decided the entire family would dress as My Little Pony characters. She as Rainbow Dash, me as Pinky Pie, and my husband as their faithful friend and dinosaur, Spike.
Here was my opportunity to focus my new found sewing skill. I knew what I would do for Pinky Pie: pink wig, felt ears I bought at RCCC, and a pink tutu. For Spike though… that was where the challenge would come.
The Calm of the Storm
We were attending a Halloween party on Saturday afternoon with all of my daughter’s preschool friends. So, of course, I left the sewing until Friday afternoon. I had purple fabric for the hood, and two different greens for the spikes on Spike’s head and his ears. It wouldn’t be a full costume but it would be enough to get the point across.
The first thing I did was iron the fabric. Just that alone calmed me down and put me in a very grounded space. Fitting the hood came with some pretty serious frustrations, mostly stemming from my lack of experience with designing my own pattern. But once I wrapped my head around the project as a whole I felt each piece of it fall together.
I won’t wax poetic about feeling her with me as I was working. even though I did in many ways. I felt a great sense of calm, even as things were hard and as my daughter interrupted with a three year old’s attempts to help. There have been only a few times since my mother passed where I paused and thought, “She would love this.” That thought slid through my mind many times as I burned my fingers and ran my hands along my newly sewn seams, thankful I found my way to geeky healing.
Have your geeky passions helped you though mourning a loved one? Or been a rock in an otherwise difficult time?
Regina is a gamer, writer, teacher, and podcaster living in the Pacific Northwest. She completed her Ph.D. in 2011 from Washington State University in Vancouver and continues to teach there part time. Regina’s research interests focus on women and technology, and her dissertation discusses female gamers and identity in digital role playing games. A lifelong geek and technology enthusiast, Regina recently started a Girls Who Code club in support of their mission to close the gender gap in technology.
To continue the conversations about gender and gaming that Regina started during her research, she started a podcast called Game on Girl. Called the “NPR of game podcasts” by Chris Brown of The Married Gamers, the podcast features women involved in the game industry, and tackles some of the complicated issues in the gaming community. Season 2 began in the spring of 2018 and will premiere new episodes monthly.