Sunday, July 11, 2010

A New(ish) Angle on Pragmatic Idealism

We have posted about various things on Pragmatic Idealists, including academia, health care, politics, sports, and life in general. One thing is almost constant, though: we often try to tie things back to the challenge of living your ideals to the best of your ability in a complicated, difficult, weird world. This is so hard, right?

In that vein, I'm re-introducing a bit of domesticity to our blog, to pick up on Mike3550's fabulous fall recipe. The point of this is to reflect further on two emerging goals in the PragId world: 1) sourcing great things locally, and sharing them with others, and 2) making do, or doing without. This means more Baltimore Avenue shopping and less CVS. More cooking stuff that is already in our house and less buying lots of crazy ingredients that will go bad because we will only use some of them, once (this happens all the time with cilantro). More baking goodies with our own flour and sugar instead of running to the gas station to grab oreos (and let's save the why-are-you-eating-any-of-this-crap-anyway-piglet discussion for another day, shall we?).

And so...

Drum roll please...

I am learning how to sew.

"Um, what, you have never sewn anything in your life," my entire family probably thinks if they even read this which I don't think they do. "When you were little, fooling around on the sewing machine, you maybe stitched one row with intense supervision, probably cried and gave up and definitely got yelled at for leaving the sewing machine light on."

Well, yes, that may be true. But, I can't join any sports teams right now, and sports are what I love, and in fact I can't really make regular commitments at all for both travel and medical reasons. So, possibly in conjunction with some tutoring or a sewing class, I am determined to pick up a hobby that, while possibly frustrating, will be great. First, I will be in complete control of my progress. Even if I am traveling for five days in a row, I can come home and sew all I want. Also, and more importantly, if I get really great at this, I will be able to do all kinds of useful things. Oh, your skirt needs a hem? Done and done. Someone needs a last-minute birthday present? I got your sachet right here. Curtains? Bring me the fabric, knave.

I feel that this project is worth discussing on this blog because it reflects the effort to live the ideals, the emerging goals, that I stated above. Still, it is important to realize that this will take time, and I will not be immediately starting to sew my entire family's clothes and hemming my neighbors' pants. In fact, I may never get there - maybe some curtains, some hems, some gifts, some Halloween costumes may be the extent of my abilities. That is where the pragmatic - in the sense of "realistic" - comes in. No, we will not be able to source produce only from the farmer's market; sometimes the dairy farmer is out of skim and sometimes I need a damn potato in April, okay? No, we will not always be able to eat delicious homemade meals, sometimes we get home late and are starving and failed to plan and need to have take-out, so sue us. And, of course, learning to sew adequately takes time, planning and discipline, which sometimes I do not have in abundance. I just have to try.

So I am going to be realistic. I will still use a tailor. I will try not to subject my husband to shirts that belong on Regretsy.

But I will do my best to live my ideals, in part by trying to learn to sew things on my own, and thus hopefully help my family make do, and share the fruits of my labor with others.

Here is a pictorial of my first practice effort:

This is the fabric we bought from Maxie's Daughter, a very homey, locally-owned fabric store in South Philly. Close up it looks like a shower curtain you might have bought for your college dorm in the 2000's. But the fabric seemed easy to work with and a good weight, and the colors are vibrant.

I decided I would make a little stuffed bear. I folded some of the fabric and drew a bear (freehand, obvi) on the "back" of the fabric, and cut it out. I sewed a drawn, freehand letter "W" on it. (Maybe my next few bears will spell out "I-N-N-E-R." Or "T-F.") I started stitching the two bears together, stitching the very curvy parts together by hand.

Photography fail, but this is when I had almost finished stitching the outline, partially by hand, and partially with my new sewing machine. I left a hole for the stuffing.

Then I stuffed that sucker to within an inch of his/her life, with shredded paper, class all the way here at the PragId household.

This would definitely be a Regretsy bear if I were actually selling it, but I plan to give it away to someone who should feel free to rip it to shreds, chew on it, etc. Still, I refuse to be super hard on myself as this was the maiden voyage of the S.S. PragId Sewing Shop.

So, this was fun! Frustrating at times, but rewarding to see my little bear complete. More to come, hopefully, ideally.


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