Saturday Night’s Alright for Sewing

It began, as these things do with a house tour on a blog. There I was, just clicking ‘next’, assessing the featured homeowner’s placement of furniture and art, when I came upon an image of her bedroom showcasing a bed with a fabric headboard cover.

It was not of the (pre) upholstered ilk that you might see in most furniture stores these days, but something she’d obviously made or commissioned to fit over her existing headboard.

Like an envelope. But with fabric. A very practical, potentially attractive remedy to the problem that is my IKEA headboard.

And just like that, despite an overwhelming to-do list, not to mention lack of skill, I determined to replicate this project. Somehow. Chez moi.

Fast forward to a Saturday night in November. Following an 8 hour day of cleaning the basement, driving to a birthday party that was possibly in another town, and watching Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. (I found the dvd boxed set – all three movies – for $4 at a thrift store. Score?)

Fact: Harrison Ford was a handsome devil back in the day.

Fact: Harrison Ford is not a good actor.

Fact: Raiders of the Lost Ark is not a particularly good movie.

After dispatching the boys to bed, I began what I assumed was the process for making a headboard cover.

Step 1: Select Fabric

During my 8 hour purge and tidy of the basement – which had been in a state of disaster since Christmas 2016 when we hastily assembled a ping pong table in the middle of the space without having done any preparation for installing such a monstrosity – I found a remnant of fabric in the bottom of a drawer. From IKEA, no less. (The fabric, not the drawer.)

I determined that it was adequately sized for my project by holding it, with the Gort’s assistance, in front of the headboard. There appeared to be a bit of room on either side.

Ça suffice!

Step 2: Measure and Cut Fabric

Despite having a basic understanding of arithmetic, and reasonable fine motor skills, I am not particularly adept at measuring or cutting things. I don’t know how to explain it, but something happens between trying to hold a ruler and drawing a line and then cutting along the line…..and by ‘something’ I mean an uneven mess that is inevitably too small for my purposes. No matter what I do or how hard I try.

All I’ve deduced, from previous brief, ill-timed dalliances with sewing projects (and the inevitable asking my mom to fix it that followed) is that I needed to have a piece of fabric with straight edges.

I did my best.

Step 3: Sew the Fabric. Somehow.

‘You’re doing this? Now?’ the professor inquired anxiously, as though he’d had 21 years of experience with my trying to replicate ideas seen in magazines and design blogs.

(Who could forget the hours we spent at a kitchen table trying to wrap strings of beads around styrofoam balls ?)

‘Yup,’ I replied, breezily, while trying to remember how to thread the sewing machine that hadn’t seen the light of day since….who can recall.

He nodded, tensely, and returned to the task of digging out his desk. Or, some might say, hiding.

I managed to loop the thread through all the requisite holes on my sewing machine and prepared for battle, guessing that I needed to sew a seam on either side of my not-quite-rectangle. Visualizing – anything – is not a particular strength of mine, and never is my deficit more apparent than during these sewing ‘episodes’. Still, I’d done my due diligence  – getting a straight-ish edge, remembering which side of the fabric was the ‘wrong’ side, ironing a 1-inch fold into the fabric to make sewing the seam easier.

For once in my life, I felt almost optimistic that this was going to be the fastest sewing project in the History of Nicola.

And then I started sewing.

It seemed to be going well. On the front of the fabric, there were stitches. In a semi-straight line. But when I looked at the back, it was a mess. Instead of stitches, I saw gobs of thread, obviously unhappy to be there. I knew from experience that this was a problem, unlikely to resolve itself. I needed to change something. After fiddling with the first dial I could find, I determined that the type of stitch wasn’t the problem. I found another dial on the machine. Aha! I pushed it to the right and I pushed it to the left. No matter, the mess in the back remained.

The quick and easy sewing project of my imagination was turning into a nightmare and along with it emerged my alter ego, Sewing Nicola. Also known as Crazy Nicola. She talks to herself, yells at inanimate objects. And curses. A lot.

‘Are you okay?’ a male voice muffled by piles of books and garbage inquired from the adjoining space.

Is there anything more irritating than a man asking a woman if she’s okay when she’s obviously ready to throw her sewing machine out the window?

Just when I considered driving to Wal-Mart and buying a new sewing machine, I found a third dial on my crappy machine: ‘Tension!’ I suddenly remembered. A nudge to the right, or the left – who can recall – and suddenly the stitches in the back….looked like stitches.

All I had to do was unravel the mess, re-sew the seams and I could go to bed.

If only I’d had a seam ripper.

While sitting there, alternately sticking a fat needle through loops of thread and cutting them, I thought of another seminal moment in my sewing career: the tray cloth I’d embroidered as a fifth grader, for which I’d gotten a terrible grade because of my propensity for using (banned, but so much faster) scissors instead of a (tedious) seam ripper to fix mistakes.

An hour later, with my new headboard cover in hand, I walked upstairs to determine if the thing I’d made actually fit. It did, somewhat begrudgingly.  Not unlike an envelope trying to contain a slightly-too-large card.

I summoned the professor upstairs to survey my handiwork.

‘The seam’s crooked on this side,’ he remarked, while tugging on the fabric. Perplexedly. As if the problem was one that could be fixed by pulling the fabric in a different direction.


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