A beast loomed before me. Its skin was a blinding white, and its knobby spine clicked in resistance. A single fang slid from its mouth, shining and sharp. A gray paw nudged my foot, daring me to make the first move. Black ran through its main vein. I was terrified to the point of hyperventilation. My muscles were frozen while my brain couldn’t stop running. This could be the worst idea I’ve ever had, I thought to myself. You really shouldn’t do this, my shoulder-cricket whispered. But I didn’t listen. Instead, I took a deep breath and stomped on the beast’s toes.
My brand new sewing machine roared to life, and a black zigzag stitch began its race down the length of unbelievably expensive fabric. I held my breath until I felt like my lungs were going to explode. I sucked in another breath and kept my foot on the pedal. My inexperienced fingers shucked out pin after pin, hoping my lines were straight and the seam was strong. When I finished the first piece, the bones of a dress’s bodice, I sat back to admire, or possibly destroy, my handiwork.
It wasn’t that bad. My darting was even, the seams straight, and the curve of the neckline was gentle. I giggled, I’ll admit it. I was so excited. The first piece of a hopefully bombshell dress was almost done, and I hadn’t screwed anything up yet. I gleefully started in on the detail work for the bodice. Over the next week lace was hand sewn onto the deep-v of the back and along the high curve of the front. The shoulder seams took me an hour each. I kept scraps of lace nearby, just so I could have something to rip apart when I got frustrated. The meltdowns were a little more frequent than I’d like to acknowledge, but I got through them.
The bodice week flew by, and before I could blink I was attempting to attach the skirt. I hadn’t ever made a skirt, never mind the skirt for a dress. Needless to say, I had no idea how to attach it. Dozens of websites and advice from my somewhat needle-and-thread minded mother later, the dress was almost done. A swing skirt was attached to the classic ‘50s wasp-waist bodice, and lace danced up and over the back and shoulders. All that was left was the zipper. And this was no ordinary hidden zipper found in most women’s dresses. Slammed straight up and down the spine of the dress was an exposed industrial brass zipper. In the middle of all the femininity, I stitched a zipper belonging to a man’s work jacket. It was perfect, a physical representation of my best friend, who was the designated receiver of the dress. Three weeks of backaches, eyestrain, and cramping fingers meant the dress was done. I was so relieved.
I had dreamed about that stupid-yet-awesome dress. I was nervous it wasn’t going to fit or that no one would like it. I was terrified that I was going to make some irreparable mistake. Those failures wouldn’t have been so bad had this dress come from a tissue-paper pattern pulled from Wal-Mart’s fabric department. But it wasn’t; this dress was my design. It was something I had sketched on the back of a receipt while working my dead-end day job, then again in detail twenty times over on printer paper, legal pads, and a flyer for a spring break church camp. I took my friend’s measurements in such detail I could sculpt her for Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. I didn’t sleep for two weeks. But I finished it, and it’s practically flawless.
I assume my friend likes the dress. She smiled when she tried it on, and she flashed a megawatt grin when she twirled the skirt for the first time. I know others like it; on its first debut, people flocked to it, spewing positivity and adoration. I now have an inkling of what it will be like to have a cute baby. I know I like the dress. It was everything I could possibly imagine, and a little more, if I’m being honest. I had big dreams for it, but not a lot of conviction. The only other piece of clothing I had ever made was a flimsy and relatively simple four-step construction tank top for the same friend. That’s why my shoulder-cricket kept begging me to slow down and do something easy for my second project. I had no experience and I barely knew how to work my machine. But I didn’t listen, and instead plugged away on a pipe-dream. Looking back, I’m so glad I’m a terrible listener. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to ignore my conscious. Not only did I get the chance to give my best friend something totally rockin’ for her birthday, but I got to give myself something even cooler. Confidence.
What was supposed to be a great year for me, my senior year of college, had turned foul. North and South flip-flopped, a home became hell, and sisters became acquaintances. I fell down several flights of metaphorical stairs and couldn’t find the strength to pull myself back up to the top. But then came Christmas and a heavy box covered in cheap wrapping paper with my name on it. Inside, already breathing with the ideas I had stored up over the years, was a basic sewing machine. I was regaled with the story of how my grandpa had paced around Wal-Mart for three hours on Black Friday, waiting for the hour the machine went on sale. My grandma had probably wrung her hands raw, hoping I would like such an old fashioned gift. Well, Nana, you’ll be pleased to know that you gave me the best gift I’ve ever received.
The sewing machine has become so much more than a piece of crafting equipment. It’s become a source of inspiration and of relief. When I’ve had a terrible day, I look forward to sitting at my desk and humming away with needle and thread for an hour or two. Sometimes I don’t even have a design in mind. I’ll make a cell phone jacket, a slipcover for a fading vinyl, or I’ll patch holes in my dad’s old work shirts. As long as my foot is on the pedal, I’m happy. The wall next to my machine is quickly filling up with sketches, fabric swatches, and haphazardly taped pages ripped from magazines.
As for my pipe-dream, the one that started with just one dress for a friend, it has turned into something massive. As soon as the hem of that first dress was stitched and pressed, my dream transcended itself. I went from wanting to make one dress to wanting to build an empire. The sewing machine, and all the things that came with it, inspired me to create a name for myself: I decided I want to be the Brooke Davis of the real world. For those of you who don’t watch One Tree Hill, think the Bill Gates of the fashion world. This fictional high school character started a simple online dress shop at age 17, and in five short years had a multi-million dollar fashion corporation that included a self-titled magazine and a high-end men’s line. My empire, however, will not be limited to clothes. No, I’ve decided to include a clothing line (like Clothes Over Bros), a publishing house (to help bring someone elese’s ‘An Unkindness of Ravens’ to life), and a record label (Red Bedroom Records, but purple). It’ll be my three passions twisted into one messy and beautiful life. Maybe I’ll even get my own TV show out of the deal and then people can make references to it on their blogs like I just did with One Tree Hill.
It will be impossible to achieve, but I’ve got the dream and the basic skills. All that’s left is a little luck, a little faith, and a lot of hard work. For now though, until Lady Luck steps in, I’m left with the hard work. This means the thrill of hot-blooded plastic machine and the dangers of too-expensive fabric. And that’s okay, because I’m perfectly content with making a dress for a friend, a skirt for my mom, or slipcovers for my dad’s aging vinyl collection. As long as I’ve got a sharp needle and all-purpose thread, I think things are going to turn out alright for me, pipe dream or not.