Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tension at the Seams

I cringed as a sunbeam cut through the roughly-hewn piece of cloth I held in front of me. "Do you think this might be a little see-though?" I asked my daughter, hoping she couldn't see me behind the cloth sheath.

She could, right down to my frown of disappointment.

And, just like that, I discovered another way I’d like to imitate Jesus. According to the Gospel of John, (19:23, to be exact) he wore clothes without seams.

While my fascination with this fact may not speak to some of the more crucial ways I need to emulate Christ, it was this detail upon which I found myself fixated as I struggled with my efforts toward eleven eleven list item #1, finish sewing the New York Capri pants.

I’d like to report that the hours of cutting, sewing, and pinning resulted in a happy, stylish conclusion. I’d like to post a photo of the finished product, or better yet, of me looking sharp modeling the finished product, but really, all I have to offer is a sad tale punctuated by events like the shattering of my glass button jar across the tile floor, and an emergency trip to the fabric store when the sunny conditions of my working environment revealed the transparent nature of the smooth, flowing fabric and I realized that some type of liner would need to be fashioned.

Now, common sense will tell you that if I’m struggling with implementing the basic pattern, the skills required to improvise a liner are way off my map. Furthermore, a liner for a smooth, slick garment must be cut from fabric that mirrors those qualities in order to retain the free-flowing characteristics of the piece.

Sewing pieces of slippery material together is even harder than cutting slippery material, which, I can assure you, is no job for a stay-within-the lines perfectionist.

Further complicating my attempts at the harmonious fusing of fabric was the fact that I was coming unglued by events unfolding outside the perimeter of frayed threads in which I’d been hemmed.

Seems that a new editor with whom I’d been excited to work found my request for payment for assigned work to be “weird.” (This is not the Antiques Roadshow series, referenced earlier, but, rather, even more promising work that apparently will not transpire.)

Pondering what led to this unsettling turn, I realized that my difficulty with seams extends way beyond the ten pieces of fabric with which I was wrestling. I don’t know how—or if—school fits into my life. The penny-pinching turbulence at the newspaper is evidently worse than I realized (I’ve been called weird before, but it’s usually for something like organizing the wares of store shelves into ROY G BIV order while I shop, but never for collecting a paycheck). I don’t know where to focus my future writing efforts.

It should really come as no surprise that seams are troublesome. Why else would we use the phrase “seamless” in admiration of work strangely free of flaws? Seams are where things come together, the intersection of incongruous elements, and are, therefore, inherently challenging.

If seams were simple, we wouldn’t talk about things “coming apart" at them, and “popping a seam” wouldn’t be viewed as a problem. Sewing kits wouldn’t come stocked with forked tools known as “seam rippers.”

Seams aren’t simple because they represent transitions, and if you’ve written as much as a high school essay, you know how elusive it can be to craft a smooth shift.

Seams are the creaky joints where the frayed edges of our lives converge. We jockey, we pin; tentatively at first, testing to see how the fit squares with the pattern we’re aiming to craft from the bits and pieces with which we have to work. Opportunities, ambitions, longings and hopes—these are the elements we must reconcile with the resources available: our skills, time, and tools. It’s arduous work, and success is never guaranteed.

Today, I need to spend some time contemplating my patterns—-the one printed on newsprint to guide me through the transitions of trousers, and the other to write upon my heart as I seek to become more Seamless.


Catherine Wannabe said...

This writing is the finest piece of craftsmanship I've seen in a long while! I'm almost ready to pay for it!

running_with_letters said...

As one of the faithful few who actually seek out my prose, you have already paid your dues...I am glad you enjoyed it. I think it is the day's singular accomplishment!


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