The Woman Who Mistook Sewing For Her Strength

Robot pants!

(the post formerly known as “The Woman Who Mistook Her Strength as Sewing”–ack!)

I’ve been sewing, and I have to admit, I’m not a natural seamstress, nor a well behaved one. A couple of nights ago, I scared Mbot with the sound I made every time I revved up the old Singer and the thread, instead of zooming through the fabric to do its sewy thing, popped back out through the hole of the needle instead, because I hadn’t pulled it through far enough to keep this from happening. I had to stop, rethread the needle (read: consider putting on my reading glasses, which I don’t need except to read the labels on children’s medicine bottles, not put them on because it adds an extra step, and push the camelesque thread through the hole of the needle, which seemed to grow smaller each time this happened.)

But. I like to make cute things I can’t buy. I like to make them for others. I like to discover great fabrics in strange places and modify patterns. But the design process does way more for me than the actual real work at the machine.

But the design process forces me to confront one of my mental weaknesses: while I can sculpt a decent (depending I am sure on who you ask) human or animal in wax or clay, if I’m faced with an  interfacing with undulating edges and pants with an undulating top edge, that I have to put together a certain way in order to turn the final product inside out and upside down and have it be right–my mind fails to make the necessary leaps for me. I mean, really fails. I have to actually think hard about it, hold the pieces up to one another, go through the motions of turning them as if already sewn together, and then write it down–still not entirely sure that it will actually be right in the end–because I will forget. It’s like the part of my brain that should be standing by ready to visualize piecing 2D shapes into semi-complex 3D forms with a 3/8″ selvage was left in the gene pool when I hopped out (along with the extra three inches I really could use between the hip and ankle). I am sure Coco Chanel and Linda McCartney never had this problem.

And so, to make myself feel better, along with having a glass of wine, I told myself that my brain is wizzled like a dried shiitake in that particular module, other parts of it are firing in fun (if not entirely useful) ways. For example, mild synesthesia runs in my family. Her Wikiness describes it thus: “a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” Many writers, musicians, and artists have it–some of the famous ones have (or had, in the case of the dead ones). A few weeks ago, a young musician on NPR’s “From the Top” (one of my favorite radio programs ever), described how she experiences each musical note as a bright color. Some people do drugs to get this way; some people are born this way. But as I mentioned in the beginning, mine’s not exactly an acid trip. It’s mild.

Both my sister and I assign colors to numbers (mine didn’t match up with hers), and I recall being annoyed as a child that seven was gray, since it was my favorite number, and green was my favorite color. But there was no helping it: seven was the color of a thundercloud. Not even a pretty shade of gray. A medium, flat, not-particulary-blue variety. As far as seven goes, there are not, in fact, fifty shades of gray.

It was much later that I realized not everyone shared my strong feelings about odd and even numbers, either. And it was only very recently that I learned this particular form of synesthesia has a name: “ordinal linguistic personification.” Even numbers–even the word “even,” clanged in my ears–they were harsh, ungiving, metallic. Odd numbers–even the word “odd,” on the other hand–were soft, benign, giving. They were comfortable numbers. Even writing this,  I feel it is an obvious statement and that it’s foolish of me to call attention to it when everybody already knows.

Although seven was my only strong color association, the others had distinct feels, shapes, and personalities. I still wonder if these are based on the sound of the name of the number as it is spoken, or its shape on the page. I think both, nearly perhaps weighted a few points to the side of the sound in my ear.

I don’t like three. It’s a showoff. It’s important and it knows it. Three and five are not “normal” odd numbers. They are too strong, harsh, bold. They are even numbers masquerading as odd, or odd numbers dressed up as even–the drag queens of the number world. The odd numbers that act lkie odd numbers are one, seven, nine, eleven–none of the teens–twenty one, twenty-seven–not, for some reason, twenty-nine (too brassy), etc. Ten is full of itself and overly confident, sharp and black. Eleven is soft. It is waltzing. Twelve is hard, solid. You can’t push twelve around. Thirteen is brash but feminine. Fourteen is boring. I would not want to marry fourteen. I would not even date fourteen.

Anyway. You get the idea.

And so, although I am mentally wrestling with my current sewing project, at least the numbers on my fabric ruler keep me company. I don’t think this makes me crazy–at least not in a bad way. And besides, according to Oliver Sacks (neurologist and author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, among other great readable nonfiction reads), who writes about all sorts of neurological phenomena, there are five million shades of normal. Or five million shades of crazy. Depending how you see it.

robot pants, from the front.

4 thoughts on “The Woman Who Mistook Sewing For Her Strength

  1. Well I for one think your synesthesia sounds rather interesting and am a tiny bit jealous of all the associations you have with numbers.

    As for the pants, they are cute! How can you go wrong with a robot motif?

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