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9 Things I Wish I’d Known

Kraken lovers, as I type this I’m aged 44. I occasionally feel 18 and more often than not feel 74 but for the purposes of the file held against me by anti-terrorist forces I’m 44. And it struck me this afternoon, as I merrily whip stitched a commissioned storage tub, that if I could ever get my flux capacitor to work I’d go back in time to explain to my younger self a few things about my sewing life. Feel free to cup your ear and listen in…

Janesy, even though Mr O’Leary, your maths teacher, is an eraser throwing, discouraging, shouty, impatient, child-hating arsehole it might be worth getting more than a U for your O’level. It turns out you’ll need geometry, Pi, fractions and any number of mental mathematics to so much as sew brooch that tells mansplainers where to shove their sexism.

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Don’t listen to your mates when they wonder why you sew instead of hanging about outside the Spar. They’re talking uneducated bollocks fuelled by Diamond White and a cadged cigarette that’s just been passed around 13 girls. Besides, do they have a wonkily, yet proudly, constructed pillow cover on their beds? No. No they don’t.

Don’t go thinking that sewing is boring because one day boring will save your mental bacon. In fact one day, approximately a year after thinking you’ve beaten PND, you’ll go barking mad again. Suddenly, staring at a teeny piece of fabric with only a needle and thread to occupy your hands will be infinitely more exciting, fun, interesting and hopeful than being curled up under a duvet while counting out fistfuls of paracetamol.

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You know how enraged you get at sexism, even at the age of 14? Well sewing will help free you of it. No really, it will. Instead of wandering about in C&A wondering how you’ll get your early-developed D-cups into teeny t-shirts approved by a male-dominated society, you can make your own t-shirts, thus avoiding patriarchal demands. It might not sound like much now but in 20 years time you can wear whatever the frig you want rather than wear what The Times Style section tells you is de rigeur.

Oh, and while on the subject of sexism, don’t forget that as well as campaigning you can sew your rage too. You know those oven gloves you’ve been made to sew in Domestic Science? The ones with the lilac gingham? Dump the shit out of them.  Go buy a fabric that’s red, steal white embroidery thread from the needlework cupboard and chain stitch the words “Fuck the patriarchy” on it. OK, so you’ll get hauled to the headmaster’s office but hey! A girl’s gotta start somewhere.

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Everyone is soooo into Rubik’s Cubes and Ra-Ra skirts, right? And you being into sewing is soooo uncool you may as well beat Basil Brush to death with a Sindy doll? Well believe it or not, in ten years Rubik’s Cubes and Ra-Ra skirts will be the nation’s greatest source of embarrassment while your ability to create a welt pocket while bindlfolded will wow family and strangers until the day to croak.

Yeah, yeah, Nanna drives you nuts with her harping and Gran plies you with Babycham, making you fall asleep on her sofa, but one day they’ll be gone and sewing will be what reminds you of them. That button box you play with in Gran’s? You’ll think of her every time you forge a buttonhole. And Nanna showing you how to thread a machine? Well, you’ll think of her every time you load a bobbin.  It sounds so booooring now (I mean, old people? What’s THAT about?) but when you’re 44 it’ll mean something. Believe me. It will.

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See that Olga Korbut annual you love, the one that shows all of her moves? Oh, and A Woman of Substance, the novel by Barbara Taylor Bradford? Well both will make you wish you could be a gymnast and a novelist . They’ll make you forget that you already have a skill. Remember Korbut and Taylor can’t sew. Make them wish they are you instead.

And finally, I know you don’t want to pause right now. There are books to cram in, school days to shriek though, friends to barge about with and boys to chase. Soon there’ll be A’levels then booze and spliffs and degrees and raves and Pete Tong and career ladders. But one day you’ll want to take a breath and when you do you know what there’ll be? There’ll be sewing. There’ll always be sewing. Really, Janesy, it’s your friend and whether you believe it or not now it’s your friend for life.

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