October 30, 2022

What a Series of Failed Sewing Lessons with my Grandmother Taught Me about Life.


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My late Nana tried to teach me to sew and knit when I was a child, but finger knitting was about my level.

I couldn’t grasp the steps and got wriggly before I got good enough to know them by heart. Sadly, I’m not sure I could restitch a button these days, far less still hem pants and given that I am quite short in stature that says quite a bit.

If I ever did sew, however, I fancy it’d be a life size patchwork quilt to embody my lived experience—the challenges, the triumphs, the tragedies, and all the life in between.

The quilt would be a constant reminder that with perseverance and patience, anything can be pieced back together. Some things even reinvented into something particularly special. I’ve become proficient in piecing things back together, one after the other, hence the desire for the patchwork quilt. From relationships to days and moods and episodic relapses, it’s amazing what tatters put back together can create. By gathering mere leftovers, visualising the bigger picture, and longing to craft something better for tomorrow, so much is possible.

My patchwork quilt would be colourful, tactile, comforting, and creative. It would be soothing and cathartic to create but also bring comfort and feel worn—especially cosy once complete.

The bright bits of my quilt would signify the marked highs and the lows. Some bits would be scrunchy, others rough and gathered, yet all perfectly imperfect. I would ultimately like to gift my blanket to someone who needed it more than me, whilst on their own recovery journey. Not as a road map or way out, but rather as a comforting nod to the fact that such a difficult path had been successfully navigated before and inspired creation of something beautiful in the sometimes messy process.

I imagine the quilt would have a scent. From my younger years, a faint odour of exuberance. Perhaps from my 20s a few tears and drops of Moscato. Then from my mid-30s a smell akin to fresh flowers—the scent of a new spring of hope.

I realise now the importance of learning to sew—to persevere with patience. It’s a lesson in piecing things back together and in reusing and recycling for economic and environmental reasons. It’s a lesson my Nana hoped to hand down through the generations.

I watched my Nana craft beautiful things with her hands. She knitted scarves, baked delights, helped us make collages, and made pinecones into magical Christmas decorations. And, of course, she sewed. While some of these practical skills were lost on me, I thought I had failed to learn.

I didn’t realise the magnitude of the lesson she was teaching, until the theory sunk in later in life.

With patience and perseverance, most things are salvageable.

Mere scraps may even transcend into something marvelous, like a comforting patchwork quilt.

I didn’t think I could sew; however, I’ve come to believe that nearly everyone can.

It need not be a button, a hem, a patchwork quilt, or something even more elaborate, but it may be something every bit as practical. It may even be a part of their life—rebuilt stitch by stitch, piecing the bits back together. Even if one’s own life never becomes threadbare and requires stitching back together, at some point, we are bound to know someone else whose does. Imagine giving them a lesson in sewing. Encouraging them to persevere and put their own pieces back together, with a vision of crafting something far greater than they had to begin with.

Originally, I thought I had failed sewing lessons at my Nana’s place because although we’d spend hours sitting in her kitchen in Beechworth in front of the fire with her trying to teach me, I couldn’t seem to retain it. Clearly, though, the theory was not lost on me. At some level, it resonated and resurfaced when I needed it most. She taught me there is no need to replace, or waste, but to instead reuse and recycle; with patience and perseverance, we could put things back together. Then by looking at things with a vision, something truly beautiful may be created from those mere scraps.

My grandmother’s simple but profound sewing lessons were one of the greatest gifts and legacies she could ever have bestowed on me. Even though I never nailed the practical foundations, one day life itself required me to piece it back together and turn tattered scraps into something new and profound—just like a patchwork quilt.

Who knows where I’d be without such invaluable lessons? But, I daresay, still in pieces.


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