setback and opportunity

veru1_8_19.jpg

It took me awhile to finally accept it, but my sewing machine was abandoning me. There was no getting the tension right, stitches were loose or tangled or skipped. I fussed with the tension, changed needles, cleaned the machine. Nothing I did changed anything, in fact, it was getting worse. It got bad enough that I finally realized that the stitches, or the lack of them, simply were completely unacceptable.

This machine is like my right arm. I think in sync with it. We have stitched miles together for years and years. I can’t bear to let it go.

A few years ago, I found one on eBay and bought it as a backup for precisely such a moment. I broke that baby out.

All was well for a little while. Just a little while. Soon, however, it became clear there would be no zig zag stitches. Then, there came an odd noise. Finally, there was a growl and the needle just snapped during straight-and-level stitching. The replacement needle simply slammed into the bobbin. It was done.

It would appear that these machines are just getting old enough, and well-used enough, that they’re ready to retire.

This is a pretty troubling development for me. I need to sew. My old machine knows how I think. I knew what to expect from it, how to work with it. It’s got little pencil marks on it that only the two of us understand.

I thought about taking the machine in for repair, but I have serious doubts that any repair would last long, as old as my machine is.

It would appear that now I am going to have to learn a new machine.

I am trying to digest this. It’s uncomfortable. I also realize that I can’t stew too long, because one day – and I’m sure it won’t be long – I will have need of my machine.

Change. It’s just hard.

Nevertheless, after all these years, I suppose a new machine could be an opportunity. I will have to learn all about my new friend. After a tentative, unbearable glance at new machines, online, it appears likely that it will have tons more stitches than my old machine – so much to explore, right? It might even thread itself. Huh. And, of course, if I take the plunge and invest in a new machine, I will certainly want to justify it by putting it to plenty of use, right?

Change, after all, is a given in life. Sometimes we invite it, and other times, it is foisted upon us. Either way, best to buck up, practice smiling, be curious, and wade in.

I believe it was Einstein who said,

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

Still, I’m not quite past my grief just yet. I’m going to open up my backup machine and have a look at the innards. Maybe, just maybe, there’s something fixable in there.

circles

veru11_8_18bI made my first penny rug about 2006. This was a piece of black wool felt cut into a circle, maybe 8 inches in diameter. On to it, I blanket-stitched smaller circles in a variety of colors, in a circle. The blanket-stitching was purposely very visible in black thread atop the bright colors.

This penny rug was the first of many, many penny rugs I made. They are called rugs, but they are usually decorative table mats or wallhangings. Each one was entirely hand-cut and hand-stitched, all by my own design. They were all very colorful, and often created in a family of colors – say, blues or browns.

I was inspired to make the first penny rug after a trip to Indiana, during which I toured a historic home. It contained many original furnishings. Among them was an actual small floor rug, created penny-style, very faded and worn. I had never seen one before, and I have never seen another quite like it. I could not get it out of my mind.

I came home and did a little research, discovering that penny rugs were a Civil War era phenomenon. Old wool clothing and blankets were repurposed to create the rugs. The penny part came in supposedly as pennies were sometimes inserted to weight the rug. I’m not buying that part of the story. If you’re repurposing your old wool clothing, you’re pinching those pennies, too. Besides, wool lays down all by itself just fine.

A more likely explanation is that pennies could have been used to trace the smallest circles.

I’m not sure I buy any of the explanations I’ve read. No matter. For whatever reason, I became driven to make these things (and still struggle with the urge, complicated now by my vegan views!)

veru11_8_18aThrough the years, as I labored over these creations, I’ve given much thought to their design and materials. It’s all very simple stuff, really. Mostly solid colors and circles. Mostly carefully chosen, repurposed textiles. That’s pretty much what you’re working with most of the time.

But the more I worked on these things, the more symbolic they became to me. In later years, I titled them. I gave much thought to what the circles represented, how they related to each other, and the space around them. I carefully considered textures, stitches, colors, and the repurposed history of the textiles.

In the end, it became obvious to me that they comprised a metaphor for individuals and communities, a subject very dear to me. Each circle was like a person, and there it was fixed in place in a community of other circles – a panoply of colors that worked whether they were randomly placed or carefully selected by tone. Together, they all danced.

And then within the array of circles, that original circle was overlaid by two or three other, smaller circles, a small unit of its own, a tribe or a family, if you will, within the larger community – creating its own history.

I suppose it seems silly to imbue this much meaning onto my lowly craft, but, it is, in fact, there when I look at, or make one of my creations. There are always deeper significant nuances to each particular work, as well.

The very lone circle itself – it is both finite and infinite, isn’t it? Like each of us.