Friday, August 12, 2011

I installed a zipper

Never Done: I installed a zipper (and almost finished making a skirt)

When Karen invited me to visit her in Michiana, she sent me a long list of things we could do that I've never before done. She knew what I'd never before done because she has known me since 1977, and also because she had just recently read one of my blog posts in which I posted a long list of things I'd still never done. One of which was sew undies out of t-shirts. I have still not sewn undies out of t-shirts, but Karen brought a book called Generation T: 120 Ways to Transform a T-shirt, along with a pile of fabric, and not one but TWO sewing machines.

I brought along three pieces of fabric I wanted to make things with, as well as the two pairs of hand-made undies (made from T-shirts) I bought from Etsy. The first thing I decided to do was a skirt. I had brought a large shirt that I had picked up at Brooks and Jeannie's annual New Year's Day clothing exchange. It had been Jewel's, and as soon as I saw it, I thought the fabric would make a very cute skirt. I even asked Jewel if she would mind if I took the shirt in order to transform it, and she loved the idea. So I deconstructed it, and laid out the fabric, and realized I would need some additional contrasting fabric in order to make a skirt. Karen also wanted to make something, so we headed into town to a fabric store, where I looked for contrasting fabrics to pair with my original.

Somewhere along the way, I found a fabric called French Country, which was line-drawn roosters on a cream background. And as I built this fabric into my others, it started to grab the focus, and before I knew it, I had to admit that my original fabric no longer fit into the world dominated by French Country. On the other hand, French Country was fantastic, and so were the fabrics we were finding to go with it.

I am often surprised that there is not a mide (middah) about dettachment, as there would most certainly be in a Buddhist ethical practice. (Here's a reminder list of the mides (middot). Maybe detachment is a combination of Order, Equanimity, and Patience?)

Humility: seek wisdom from everybody
Patience: Do not aggravate a situation with wasted grief
Equanimity: Rise above events that are inconsequential
Truth: Say nothing unless you are 100% sure it is true
Decisiveness: When you have made a decision, act without hesitation
Cleanliness: Let no stain or ugliness on our self/space
Order: All actions and possessions should have a set place and time
Righteousness: What is hateful to you do not do to others
Frugality: Be careful with your money
Diligence: Always find something to do
Silence: Reflect before speaking
Calmness: Words of the wise are stated gently
Separation: Respect in sexual and intimate relationships

In any event, I was able to let go of my original fabric, and to go in a new direction. And Karen and I picked up matching thread and invisible zippers, and headed back to start sewing. I've never actually made a skirt before, and I've definitely never put in a zipper before. On the other hand, I can cut out patterns, and I can pin things together, and I can sew a nice straight line, and I have made a couple lovely garments and hand bags. But I've never sewn a skirt, and I've never installed a zipper. Karen assured me she would help, and that it would be easy.

OK, so one out of two ain't bad. There is no question that she helped. She read instructions in three places -- the skirt directions, the sewing machine directions, and the directions on the zipper itself. She looked at my skirt panels and tried to figure out how to make sense of the directions with the reality of the pattern. And when we both got confused (because installing an invisible zipper is really not easy) she grabbed another one and installed it in some scrap material so she could help some more. All the while, she was incredibly careful to leave the actual zipper installation to me, because she understands the balance between helping someone and taking over someone's project. (It also bears mentioning that she was simultaneously working on her own project, which she extremely patiently stepped away from whenever I encountered a roadblock.)

As I write about this, I'm struck with how being both an ethical teacher and student require patience, equanimity, humility, order, diligence, silence and calmness. Were there times she showed me something I already knew? Absolutely. Were there times I forgot what she had just showed me? You bet. Did I want to finish the entire skirt in one day? Absolutely. Did I also want to take a long bike ride along the shores of Lake Michigan? You bet. And so we did both (what a fabulous bike ride!) and we went for a swim in the lake, and Karen worked on her other projects while she helped me, and we stopped and made corn pudding for dinner, and by the end of the day, I had in fact installed an invisible zipper, and I had made 9/10 of a skirt. All that's left is to put on the waste-band interfacing, to adjust the side seams (because at the moment the skirt is too large for me) and to trim up the hem.

Here are two photos of the skirt in progress. First the back (can you see the zipper? Well, yes, you can a little bit there at the bottom, but I'm going to fix that part by the time I wear it.)

Then the front:

Next time you see it, hopefully I'll be wearing it.

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