The Art of Sewing AKA Why Do They Make The Buttonholes So Small… Ouch! I Poked Myself!

Sewing tools

Sewing tools (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Goal for 2013 number 5: Learn to sew

Ever since I can remember, I have been cheap. I don’t mean cheap as in, “Boy, that Nathan sure is thrifty. He doesn’t waste his money at all!” I mean cheap as in experiencing buyer’s remorse if I spend more than $25 on anything at all.

As one would imagine, this makes shopping for many things very difficult for me. I hate going to grocery store and watching the total creep higher and higher as they ring up my items. When I buy gas, I usually do it $25 or $30 at a time so as to not experience maddening anxiety, forcing me to drive my car off of an overpass while screaming, “If I survive, I’ll save so much money without this!”

Mostly, though, this causes great difficulties when shopping for clothing.

I will wear clothes forever. I still have a shirt that I wear from junior high. There is no sentimental reason. I see no reason to replace this shirt despite numerous stains and several holes, particularly in the armpit area.

As happens to most people, I eventually wear out my clothes. Buttons fall off, seams rip. After enough items of clothing have been destroyed, I find myself scouring the clearance section of any clothing store, debating over which $5 sweater I want to get because getting two seems to be a blatant misuse of funds.

If only there was some way to keep from having to spend money on these things, I had often thought. Then a lightbulb clicked on. Not a real lightbulb, mind you, because if it had clicked on, I probably would have flicked it off while complaining about the cost of electricity. No, a metaphoric lightbulb like in cartoons.

I could just fix the clothes I have. I could put off replacing shirts if I could just figure out a way to mend those holes.

For many years, I fixed these holes like a man: duct tape. If my shirt started to come apart at the seams, I would duct tape it. I am fairly ashamed of this, but no one would know anything was up with my clothing unless, for some inexplicable reason, I decided to wear it inside out.

Sick of this duct tape treatment, my wife took to mending my clothing. This was not fair to her, though. They weren’t her clothes. She shouldn’t have to spend hours fixing my possessions just to keep me from looking like a refugee that had been stuck on a desert island for years with a single shirt and pair of pants. That is why this last weekend, my wife mustered up all of her patience to show me how a needle and thread work.

Sewing is not considered the most masculine of activities. It ranks just above taking a bubble bath with scented candles and just below watching Katherine Heigl movies. Being the genius that I am, I began the lesson with the NCAA tournament on. College basketball would surely counteract any girliness associated with this project. If that didn’t work, I was fully prepared to belch the alphabet.

On the surface, sewing seems like the easiest thing every. You have a sharp object and a string attached to it. If you stick that sharp thing in and out of clothing, eventually the string magically causes the item you are sewing to be complete. They have been doing this for thousands of years, so it can’t be that difficult.

This is what we call “flawed thinking.”

My first project was to sew a button on a pair of pants. I have only had this pair of pants for three years, so I know I can get another 10-12 years out of them if that pesky button will stay on. My wife demonstrated button sewing, poking the needle through the hole, then through a different hole, then back up through a third hole, etc.

“I’ve got it,” I said, frustrated with the demonstration. I am no idiot. I am way smarter than a button, so this would be the easiest thing I had ever done.

She handed the pants over to me. I picked up the needle and watched the thread come out of it. After 10-15 minutes, I finally rethreaded the needle and went to work.

What was left out of the demonstration was one simple fact: the holes on a button are very small. When you are trying to jab a sharp object through them, things can get a bit hairy. Also, needles are very sharp and can hurt your finger when you miss the hole of a button.

After 17 jabs (This is not an exaggeration or a guess. I actually counted.), I finally forced the needle through the button. I felt jubilation. I had done it!

“Okay,” she said. “Now you put it through that hole.”

This time, I managed to get it through after five minutes and only poking myself once. I spent the next twenty minutes trying to get the needle through tiny holes, all the while wondering why pants aren’t made with Velcro. That would be so much easier and Velcro would never fall off. Maybe there is a business idea there…

Finally, I was done. She picked up a shirt that had begun to fall apart at the seams.

“Okay, the buttons are the easy part. Now we’ll do this.”

I was flabbergasted. There was no way the buttons were the easy part. The tiny holes in my fingers disagreed. She demonstrated a basic stitch and my turn came.

After rethreading the needle three times, I began to work. That’s when I felt it. It was like the spirit of Martha Stewart took over. I suddenly became a sewing machine. One stitch out, one stitch in, one stitch out, one stitch in. My hands moved on their own, faster and faster. I had become a seamstress…or seamster… whatever a guy would be. I was the king of sewing and nothing would slow me down.

Then the thread fell out of the needle. Again.

Maybe there is something to be said for buying clothing. Not being cheap is easier than fixing the clothing that you currently have. I think the people who live in a nudist colony may have it right. They don’t have to shop for clothing or fix the clothes they have. They live a simpler, much barer, significantly more disgusting, life.

It doesn’t really matter. I would be far too frugal to pay to live in a nudist colony. That kind of place cannot be cheap.

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13 thoughts on “The Art of Sewing AKA Why Do They Make The Buttonholes So Small… Ouch! I Poked Myself!

  1. Lol. I buy $4 singlets and am still tempted to try to mend them when they start to come apart. I’m sure it costs me more in time trying to find the sewing kit than it would to just buy a new shirt. But I can’t stand the wastefulness of throwing away an otherwise fine piece of clothing. So I have a big pile of clothes that need fixing, very few I can actually wear, no time to mend anything and I can’t bring myself to buy new ones!

    Luckily I never leave the house, so it doesn’t really matter!

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  2. What is it with men and clothes? When I met my husband he was 23, and still wearing clothes he had IN HIGH SCHOOL, rationalizing that they were still good, and who cares about style anyway?

    I have taught my sons and husband how to sew on buttons, and find watching them do it hilarious. For some reason something that is so easy for we women is so difficult for men. Is it our little girlie hands, or are you men just pretending it is difficult, hoping it will cause we women to feel sorry for you and do it for you instead?

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  3. If you ever want to try sewing yourself again, a thimble will help protect your poor fingers!! I’ve never actually tried using one before, but my fiance says it’s a real finger saver

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  4. I vowed long ago that in this household we would no longer eat and no longer wear clothes. The never ending laundry, mending and dish washing was becoming more than just a chore. It’s a shame no one listens to me….

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