ONE quiet, comfortable evening I was reading Dickens's ``A Tale of Two Cities,'' engrossed in the story but telling myself that I should be cutting out and sewing the outfit for my choral ensemble performance. Just as the crowd was storming the Bastille, the phone rang. It was our choir director, calling to tell me that publicity pictures would be taken at the rehearsal tomorrow night, and would I please wear a white long-sleeved blouse. With an inward sigh I hung up, put Dickens aside, and began preparations for sewing the outfit. Sewing has always been a fascinating mystery to me. I relish the challenge and excitement of finding out exactly what it is that I am creating, regardless of the illustration on the pattern envelope. After all, one does not expect to find a carnation inside a tin of evaporated milk, or fried chicken inside a can of shortening. Similarly, I have proved time and again that the illustrations on pattern envelopes are unrelated to the finished products created from their contents. The brevity of most pattern instructions, coupled with the paucity of supplemental information contained in them, has forced me to develop advanced problem-solving techniques:
What should I do with the long sleeve that ended up attached to the back of the garment? Should I stuff it with cotton, and perhaps sew a little stuffed felt hand to it? In that case, what will I do with my left arm? I can just leave a gap in the center front seam, which has now become the side seam, put a ruffle around it, and no one will be the wiser.
As I cut out the fabric, I idly wondered if I was really making the alleged skirt-and-blouse pictured on the patterncovers, or some unusual cape-and-turban combination. To compound the challenge, my sewing machine was old and cantankerous and not kindly disposed toward bobbin-winding human beings. I have sewn long seams on that machine, only to find, upon turning them over, that the machine had distributed untidy clumps of tangled bobbin thread all along their reverse sides. Events of this sort usually signaled an impending thread tangle, which occurred once every half hour, and required an additional 10 minutes of labor to sort out.
In between breakdowns it was easy to become lost in musings. . . .
This ensemble was really the first step to an exciting future. Our fledgling group -- which I heard about just in time to audition for -- would become sought-after. We were going to sing an ambitious repertoire of Renaissance works, madrigals, and avant-garde pieces. As a member of this renowned group of singers, I might begin my own chamber choir someday. . . .
The thread snapped, snapping my train of thought along with it. I paused in my musings only long enough to locate a small screwdriver. . . .
As renowned persons are often asked to do, I would be asked to endorse a particular product or service. Yes, hardware products are definitely something I would endorse, I thought to myself, using my screwdriver to coax recalcitrant thread ends out of the bobbin case. The money would be useful in lieu of a grant. . . .
I started the machine again -- good, an entire seam without a tangle. . . .
The ad would be a full-page spread consisting of a picture of about a dozen choir members engaged in various stages of garment construction. The hub of activity would be me, seated at an ancient sewing machine, the likes of which can be bought at garage and moving sales nowadays for under $15. The caption would read:
``Yes,'' says the world's foremost choir director and ensemble singer, ``I know the challenge of trying to sew an entire ensemble outfit on an antique sewing machine immediately before a performance. That's why I use my STRETTO brand screwdriver and hammer to chisel the bobbin off of my machine's bobbin winder, or to fasten loosened screws that jiggle out as my machine sews. STRETTO brand hardware tools have given my choir an edge they can use.''
As I mused, the bobbin thread tangled again.