Friday, March 7, 2008

Sewn, Not Knitted

I have this lovely multi-hue sweater coat that I sewed up using a Lois Hinse pattern. The fabric really looks like it was made by hand - it’s got the rainbow of colors you’d see in a Lion brand yarn: peach, purple, brown, and orange. Except this yarn is already knitted by machine. Instead of pulling out the mean 'ole knitting needles to work up a swatch and then spend 24 months making a $200 sweater coat that ‘s finished right about the time summer begins, I went to the local fabric store (in my case, Vogue Fabrics), where I pulled out the lengthy spool of yarn fabric, trotted up to the counter, and asked for “Three yards of this, please.” That's my material for the sweater coat.

Then I laid out the pattern. Back, front, sleeves, and belt. Pin, cut. After, I fed the pieces into my sewing machine, which thankfully doesn't eat fabric for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I finish the edges of the fabric so they don’t unravel faster than a bad joke told at the dinner table.

There’s the sweater coat. Made in two days. No sweat, except for the grit on your knees from kneeling on soiled carpeting to pin the tissue pattern pieces to the fabric.

The compliments rained down faster than a late-spring storm over Chicago. First it was “Did you knit that??” You can virtually see the multiple question marks just like in a cartoon bubble and hear the awe in their voices. When I explain to them I made this sweater coat on a sewing machine, they can’t quite believe it. “Oh, I thought you knitted it,” they say. You can hear the disappointment in their voices, which I don’t understand. Is it easier to admire someone’s wearable work of art if they slaved over it for days, months and years with knitting needles than if he or she whipped it up faster than a college student can finish a term paper? I don’t understand that part - so I didn't rip this puppy back three gazillion times, or wince at the cash register when they rang up the yarn purchase. Is it less worthy of admiration because I made it for $15?

I had one friend suggest, “You should just tell them you knitted it.” But I cannot, cannot tell a lie. It’s genetically impossible. I’m too nice. I’ m a good Catholic girl. I cannot lie. I go to confession regularly. Can you picture me in the confessional: “Bless me father for I have sinned. It’s been two weeks since I last went to confession. I’m really sorry for telling people that I knitted a sweater coat when I really sewed it.” The priest would laugh at me, and tell me not to waste his time or other good Catholics’! Instead I must explain to disbelieving people (I can only imagine how the apostles must have felt trying to educate folks about Christ) that I stitched this coat. I practically have to pantomine. I demonstrate a swath of fabric with my arms outstretched and pretend to cut it with a pair of scissors. Yes, my sweater coat was cut from a huge piece of knitted fabric about the size of a scarf for the Jolly Green Giant.

Even when I explain how easy it is to make a sweater coat that appears to be made to be knitted, people look at me like it’s really hard. It’s like I’m reinventing the rocket or inventing a new language. Knitting a garment seems easier in their view, than sewing it. I think the yarn fabric is intimidating. Which is probably why I got it so cheap. It’s a little scary to look at the fabric. As I said, it's ravelly, (not Ravelry) However, you know you just tame the beastie with a row of quick stitching. Stops unraveling like a fireblock during California's dry season, most of the time. Works like a charm bracelet every time. Your fabric is practically like a sturdy woven textile then and easy to work with.

It's possible to that people can't fathom sewing a sweater coat because knitting is so popular. Nearly every mother and her daughter does it. It's all over the Internet. It's quite possibly more trendy than sewing. People getting knitting, sewing not so much, unless it's on Project Runway. Then they comprehend.

As much as I enjoy the wearing the sweater coats, I’m getting a little tired of
explaining how I made them. In the future, I'm just going to tell 'em they were made in China.

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