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Measure Twice, Cut Once

by Melissa Au 6 days ago in advice

Lessons in Sewing and Life

the author did not measure twice before cutting :/

I grew up with what can be best described as early nineteenth century ideals. I learnt how to cook and clean early on and went through all the expectations one might find at a finishing school of yesteryear--I learnt to walk with books on my head, the proper mannerisms of how one should eat and act, and of course, how to sew and embroider.

I have fond memories of a young me making clothes for my dolls (by hand, thank you very much! Sewing machines weren't invented till the mid nineteenth century anyways!) I would cut spare fabrics apart and built an exquisite room under my loft bed so that my dolls could live in the ultimate medieval life of luxury with hand made rugs and 'tapestries' I had hand embroidered. At one point, I unwound a snapped violin string to use the exterior as a silvery embroidery thread that shimmered daintily in the fairy lights under my bed. I resorted to colouring kite string with markers when I couldn't find embroidery thread the colour that I desired.

But none of that held a candle to how much I loved sewing. I excitedly awaited a new pair of ballet slippers that would bring with it so much stitching. The operation was delicate. One had to trim the ribbons and elastics to the right length with a special pair of scissors to make sure that the elastics and ribbons didn't fray immediately. Another pair of scissors for cutting the special, ballet pink thread. I secretly looked forward to rips and tears in my clothes, looking for opportunities to try out new sewing styles and skills as my limited pile of scraps slowly dwindled to a handful.

Unfortunately, all that careful upbringing couldn't undo the nature of my personality, which I must say was and is very rash. Very unladylike. In my continual need to rush, I had a habit of eyeing things before cutting them. If I was lucky, I would maybe measure it once. If I was really, really feeling the pressure I might even mark the seam with sewing chalk. But I rarely felt that kind of pressure.

My poor mother could only stand and watch in abject horror as I gleefully cut yet another piece of fabric up without measuring properly, rendering all the fabric practically useless. She tried to drill it in my head (Melissa, you must measure twice before you cut! And if you cut, make it bigger because you can always make it smaller, but you can't add more to it! But it is better to just measure twice first!) of the importance of preparation before sewing, but as young girls are prone to do, I did not listen.

Until, years later, I decided to take on a quarantine project. I decided to turn a pair of overalls into a cute little overall skirt. And in my defence, I did measure! But alas, only once, and with a very dodgy method of marking down my cut. Add in a few uneven snips that lead to an inch long double hemming and suddenly, I had an overall skirt that I could never wear anywhere decently, lest I dare bendover and show everyone everything. Ah. That is why my mother, in her infinite wisdom, told me to measure twice and cut once. To stop a disaster like this from happening. To stop me from taking a good few hours to hem something (yes, still by hand) only to realise that it is too short to be worn ever.

Fortunately for me, I did take one other piece of advice to heart. It is vastly overhemmed and with that extra inch I may get back, I might even be able to wear it semi-decently at some point!

Melissa Au
Melissa Au
Read next: 'Chocolate Kisses'
Melissa Au

hold my hand and we can jump straight into the cold unloving sea

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