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Claudine Jones

That Thing

It's a long story, but my concert sparkly jacket is in pieces on the crowded worktable; the easing on one of the sleeves is sub-par & that won't stand & the neck line is not going to be quite accommodating enough for the fullness at the waist.  This flocked chiffon has me freaked out.

There was no pattern, only a picture to go from.  


Sister-in-law to the rescue.

The woman is beyond capable; she even got the nod from my mother, who doesn't often bow down. No, she had to admit that K is a better seamstress.  Unprecedented.

Of course, Ma's canny: now that she has made this pronouncement, she must remind everyone periodically—this means they're forced to remember how high K had to go to best her & this goes in the gain column. Everybody wins.

However, I had to swallow my pride. Not only did I lose the original donated concert sparkly jacket (not really my fault; by the time I remembered it was back in the rehearsal hall under my chair in a paper bag I was half-way home. Leaving the hall quickly & quietly while the miserable section chosen to stay continues to work...well, in this choir, that's not any more conducive to checking your belongings than is making a leisurely exit from a burning aircraft.)

I had to check in with the clothing maven & throw myself on her mercy. In the aftermath of my humble admission of guilt,  finding that nobody really seemed particularly upset, I then felt some primordial pull—something waaaay back in my past that I can't quite put my finger on...has to do with facing a problem, but avoiding a confrontation, doing an end-run  & triumphing in due course.  A personal trial.

Anyhow, the internet…blah, blah… I located fabric!  Not too dear, but I think an exact match--pretty darn good for only having seen & felt it in person once & just PC eyeballing. Ho! Prime chutzpah here!  Ordering a random amount of (cheap) yard goods online, without a pattern, before I even thought of K much less contacted her. 

My default aide-de-sew would have been my mother, however for reasons that are too painful to recount, this is not an option. O, she's perfectly capable, not all totally dithery or anything, no; we just can't be in the same room for long without risking mental fisticuffs. I think she's given up on some dreams she had for me as a daughter, as have I for having a certain kind of mother. O well.

Karma being what it is, K & I hatched a plan: she would guide me to a pattern through her myriad sources; I would then cut & sew that l'il bitch. Trim it with black satin, too. And roll the hem & sleeves. Neat.

Except K has great scissors & an unoccupied dining room table (mine has my son’s collection of comic books and graphic novels awaiting disposition, & an antique slanted piano stool disassembled awaiting glue, epoxy & clamps).

So, clever as I am & not entirely machiavellian, even though K said she was overextended & just doing this to give me a good old  jumpstart , I did actually come back home with everything all ready to stitch. Yay. Just had to move unfathomable amounts of junk off my upstairs work surface & dust off my Necchi.

God that brings back memories.

I was raised on Singer. Pedal machine that weighed as much as a small elephant, left out by the garbage cans next to our apartment in the old Navy housing—first place we stayed when we got to California. I barely remember this of course; another story of salvage treasures gleaned by my mother.  I do remember the sound of the treadle & I do remember making a complete mess out of a costume for some high school show ‘cause there wasn’t enough light &I didn’t pin it properly.

Just before I moved out on my own, that tank got replaced by a modern Singer with plastic bobbins. Shocking.

Have to say, though, that by the time I got the Necchi  I was sick of Singer. There was a sale downtown Berkeley at the go-to fabric store; they advertised for a month: bring in your old machine & get a huge discount at the same time, & the model was a particularly robust—good for making costumes & the like. Heavy material & zig-zag.

I had a used Singer, which I bought from a sewing machine repair guy who in turn gave me the death knell on my original Singer, which (this still pisses me off) having broken a gear of some sort—easy fix I thought—I had taken to an absolute bastard dick -head, who said he'd have it back to me in a couple weeks.   

That was the Singer I got for a wedding present back in 1970. My future mother-in-law wanted to give me a set of dishes & flatware, but I asked for a sewing machine, pretty please. My father-in-law-to-be (who of course knew diddly-shit about sewing) got two Singers for a sweet deal (that was so typical of him), one for me & one for his only daughter. Problem was they were not great models, probably why they were on sale (no reverse? Something like that) & never really (for me anyway) scratched that feature itch.    But I used the dickens out of it nonetheless. 

After a month, I walked by dickhead’s shop after hours, looked in the window & my Singer was still sitting up on the shelf untouched. I called him next day & he said he hadn't ordered the part yet, & I said I was coming over to retrieve my machine, never mind. And by the time I bloody fucking walked over there, he had gotten it down, disassembled it, & handed it back to me.  All the frikkin’ parts rolling around in a cardboard box. Guy was a complete fraud—went out of business shortly thereafter; so much for supporting local businesses.

You can't do that to a sewing machine! Wreaks havoc on the factory settings, defaults & so forth.

Hence the death-knell. 

O as a person trained in the girly arts, I used to quail when machines went on the fritz.

Where are the men? They have things like oil & screw drivers & they scratch their heads & all is made right again. I count myself half-lucky that I now at a safe distance from 'girl' can figure out how come the bobbin case is not turning.

I’ve figured out the orientation of the shuttle race, popped in a fresh needle size 11 & there’s no ancient fuzz in the nether crannies; the Necchi,  she is happy.

It’s turning cold these days; the workroom has an awfully cozy corner chair in the sun.

Sometimes ya just gotta rip stuff out & start over.

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Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades.
She writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles,
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©2015 Claudine Jones
©2015 Publication Scene4 Magazine




December 2015

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