It must be an addiction. I am drawn to sewing no matter how much it squanders my time because, the truth is, I never finish projects. My checkered sewing past began in my seventh-grade home economics class, where I was assigned to make a wraparound skirt. Once, caught up in my sewing, I didn't hear the teacher call the class together for a demonstration. When her voice finally penetrated the noise of my sewing machine, I looked up to see the entire class gathered around the teacher's machine, me the only one still bent over my skirt. Mortified, I never did finish.
Another time I bought a sew-it-yourself manger scene. Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, camels, sheep and a manger all ready to be cut out, sewn and stuffed for Christmas. The cloth sat in my sewing basket for 10 years. By the time I looked at it again, I had converted to Judaism and could not use it.
During college I took a continuing-education sewing class. I bought corduroy to make a skirt. I finished half of it, and eventually donated the rest of the material to the Salvation Army.
After I married, I signed up for a quilting class. Thinking "how hard can it be?" I bought piles of bright-colored fabric and plunged in. After the third class, I quit. I gave the material to a friend who not only loved the idea of quilting but actually did so.
I have an extensive collection of fabric bought at yard sales. A piece of embroidery I paid 10 cents for that I plan to make into a pillow. A swath of sky blue stretchy material to make my daughter a puppet theater. Forest green velvet for more pillows. They are all waiting in plastic containers next to an unfinished rocking chair I plan to refinish and paint for a friend.
My latest endeavor is a slipcover class. I have old furniture that I paid a song for and I want it recovered. I called around for prices to slipcover the two armchairs, and for the prices I was quoted I could have taken a trip to Europe. Then it struck me, "How hard can it be?"
I plunge into my slipcover class, regaling my husband with tales of how much money we will save if I make the slipcovers myself. My class is held at a recreation center, and the teacher is a tall southern woman named Delores. Quickly her hands drape the material on my chair and she mumbles, "See, we're gonna . . . do this, and then . . . measure . . . mark . . . look . . . leave some pull . . . now you do it."
I need clear, verbal instructions on how to make the slipcover, like a 5-year-old being told by her kindergarten teacher how to make her letters. "You want me to take this material and drape it over the front of my chair. Then I should take this chalk and mark where I will cut it. I need to leave enough material for it to pull easily. Is this enough?" I ask, showing her.
"Uh-huh, that'd be fine," she says and turns to the next student. I can see this is a much more self-directed activity than I had hoped.
Nevertheless, I miraculously finish the first chair cover. It looks fabulous, but honesty requires me to admit that my teacher did 50 percent of it. Okay, 60 percent. The class ends before I can get the second chair cover done. The material I bought is draped over the chair, and it stares reproachfully at me every time I enter the living room. When guests visit, I explain that I am in the process of finishing it. My husband tells me my story is not credible anymore.
Perhaps something is wrong with me. Maybe I lack that gene required to complete sewing projects. Yet, even as the red slipcover remains unfinished, I am planning my next venture; working with my daughter to make her own quilt.
After all, how hard can it be?