When I was in my stroppy teenager phase, I gave up lots of things. I thought I had good reasons at the time; I quit violin because I found my teacher restrictive and unimaginative. I quit the Guides because they wouldn’t let me stay. I quit dancing because I’d ruined my knee. And I quit sewing because…I just did. I made one maxi skirt when I was 15, and then I just basked in the compliments for the next umpteen years and never made anything else. Because why would I want to make clothes when I could be out drinking Bacardi breezers and gatecrashing church group sleepovers?
And whilst I was busily giving up things, it didn’t really cross my mind that I might regret doing so later on. Partly because I was also taking up things along the way; violin was replaced by guitar, dancing was replaced by drama classes, Guides was replaced by loitering, and clothes-making was replaced by trawling Camden market. But now, more than ten years later, I find myself in a slightly odd place.
Because I have just spent my entire weekend attempting to re-learn my dressmaking skills. Which were, if I’m perfectly honest, not really many steps above rudimentary in the first place. I sat there and I sorted out my patterns, and I carefully cut my material, and I pinned things in place and tacked seams and threaded up my machine and zig-zagged edges. And the whole time I had incredibly strong flashbacks to Year 9 textiles, where I spent an entire term making a skirt which I never, ever wore. Ever. Even once. Because it was rubbish.
It was actually like I had somehow managed to fall through a time vortex and wake up in 1998. Except that instead of accidentally pinning my pattern pieces to my school skirt, I was pinning them to my bedsheets. And rather than having a small Scottish woman telling me off for accidentally making her machine eat my sewing, I had a rather large Bristolian sat in the corner ignoring everything I did. But the feeling was exactly the same – the enthusiasm/nervousness/fear of really wanting to see how the thing has turned out but also worrying that you’re wasting your time making something so hideous that it will just sit in your cupboard and be ignored forever more.
And I didn’t exactly wish that I’d never stopped sewing, or playing violin, or any of those other things. I have done other stuff in the past 14 years which was probably equally good. Like forming a bad band. Or “customising” all my clothes with pinking shears and ribbons. And going to uni. Twice. But it was still very odd to suddenly find myself doing something at the exact skill level that I had more than half my life ago.
I am still not sure how Operation Make Some Clothes is going to end up. So far I haven’t accidentally talked my machine into devouring my skirt, but that’s only a matter of time. And I’ve probably put some seams in the wrong place, but I assume I can fix that at some point. So for now I’ll just hope that I am a bit better than I was at 13, and that I won’t find myself just giving this up again. Because that really would be stupid.