This Samhain, I went to a party dressed as a Sociopathic Girl Guide. (For anyone wondering, the ketchup “blood” washed out of my white necktie thing nicely, thanks.) Ahem. So, yes, Guides uniform, blood-drenched latex gloves in the pouch thing, large machete. Lord Baden Powell was spinning wildly in his grave, I’m sure. (Sorry, sir.)
Anyway. After having rummaged out my old uniform (yes, I’m a packrat; what?), it lay around the house for awhile after Hallowe’en while I was waiting for the various bits to get washed, before I would return it to the Drawer Of Banished Clothing Items That I’ll Horde But Not Throw Away. (Also trapped in that drawer? My school uniform, my Ontario Science Centre uniform, a hideous fuzzy plaid skirt that I keep around for wearing at Christmas sometimes when I’m feeling campy, etc.)
On the other side of the apartment, I have had a “Workplace Girl Guide Technology Night” badge sitting next to my monitor for… at least a year. Workplace, very big on making sure young girls realize that “not just nerds” work in the maths and sciences, does “Intro to computers” nights with the Guides. I volunteered on a few of those nights (always good fun, always ate too many snacks) and to thank us, the Girl Guides had special “badges” made up for us.
Looking at the badge, then over at my old badge sash today, I decided that I should sew this new badge onto there, as a sort of closure. A way of telling myself (and anyone who looked at my sash), that in a sense, the circle was now complete.
So I did. I got out some thread, and for the first time in well over 10 years, pretty close to 15, actually, I sewed a badge onto my sash.
As I sewed, I looked at the wrong side of the front of the sash: you can tell by the stitching which badges were sewn on by my mom (the first five), and which were done by me (every clumsily, jaggedly stitched badge thereafter). As I sewed, I remembered stitching on all those other slightly crooked, slightly sloppy badges, how unfamiliar the needle felt in my hands, how hard it was to push it through the waxy badge backing. I remember how daunted I felt when my mom thrust my sash back at me that first time saying “Hey, you’re the Girl Guide, you sew your badges on!” and how long it took me to knot the string the first time.
I know that there are many people who like thinking, when they get into their handcrafts, about others who have gone through the same motions before them. Other women who’ve embroidered, other families who have knit, wove, spun, sewn. Me? I’m not tied to the past that way. I like reading about those people, I like seeing Other Peoples’ Stuff in displays, and being able to touch it (if I’m lucky) and imagine, but when it’s a craft in my hands, the only eyes I ever see it through are my own.
So it was a really nice experience for me today, sitting in the sunshine and sewing on a badge, to finally understand a little what others feel when they knit or sew. As I watched my new stitches appearing, neat and small, next to my old uneven, crooked ones, I can remember what I felt like way back when. I can also imagine what the then-me would have said, how she would have been so impressed to know that one day she’d be able to sew freehand without panicking, and be able to tie a knot (at the beginning anyway, not so much to tie it off at the end) inside of 3 seconds. I also know that part of then-me wouldn’t be impressed, particularly. She would have cockily assumed that, of course the future me would know how to sew (duh). There is still an innate part of me that believes that (When I Grow Up) I’m going to be good at everything I enjoy doing.
I’m not intending this to sound like I’m now Totally Awesome at hand-stitching or anything. Given an honest appraisal of my skills, I’d have to say I kind of suck (especially at embroidery). However. I am capable of neat, even stitches, I’m not afraid of “screwing up” (whatever that means when there’s no cutting involved), and most importantly, I no longer merely think of hand-sewing as a crazy (or poor) person’s alternative to machine-sewing. I recognize that it’s got a value all its own, and actually look forward to it sometimes.
I feel happy knowing that I’ve got at least 4 books with details about how to get myself started on embroidering, if I ever decide to take it up “for real”, and also that both my mom and my aunt taught me “their” way of hand-hemming pants and skirts; a stitch both decorative (on the wrong side; hidden on the right side) and practical that I have actually used.
Although at the moment it’s undeniable that knitting (which I never earned the badge for? what??) takes precedence for me when it comes to needlecraft, it makes me happy to know that I’m at least a little bit rounded out, and am likely, one tiny project at a time, to become more and more well-rounded as time goes on.
So I’ll keep at it, happy in the knowledge that yes, my hands have learned things since I was 12, skills that are measurable in their products. And I wonder what I’ll think, 10 or 15 years from now, when I pick up my slightly clumsy projects from today, and look at their wrong sides, and maybe even add to them with currently un-dreamed of skill.