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Diary of a Sailmaker’s Apprentice


March 13

My chest began to puff a bit as my seams grew straighter with every pass, but then someone asked me to turn a corner.

Suddenly, sewing took more than focus, it took strategy.

My co-worker suggested I draw dots where I wanted my stitches to go, and then try to hit those with the needle. She drew them once and the exercise seemed simple enough.

I took the pencil and attempted to plan on my own. I drew a dot, erased it. I drew another. Then I stopped, pencil poised above the fabric as I stared at the corner, nose inches from the fabric.

“You could draw the whole stitch,” she said, watching my struggle. “Connect the dots, as it were.”

We laughed, but the concept still seemed tricky for several reasons. The first was, as you approached the turn, you had to lengthen or shorten a stitch to make sure the needle stabbed precisely into the corner. Then, you had to hit that exact hole again, creating a bar stitch, as you worked your way around. I also had to accommodate for the possibility that I would not be spot on, since I am still gaining a feel for the machine. In other words, if my stitching went rogue, I had to make sure it would at least fall on the right piece of fabric.

A panic similar to one I experienced in math class crept up in the first few minutes of my new task. Luckily, the idea sunk in more quickly than writing a proof for an equation. I had it, more or less, by the fifth turn and my chest re-inflated ever so slightly.

As I left the loft that day, it was hard not to get philosophical about my new skill. I’ve changed directions a lot this year. I smiled as I remembered one of my co-workers telling us she enjoyed having more than one pair of shoes, more than one coat, a place to put her earrings. Just like me, most of the ladies there know what it’s like to rough it when you travel, live out of a car, or on a boat. We feel lucky when we have those experiences. We also feel lucky when we find a home. So, I went home, ’cause I have one. I opened up my apartment doors that lead into what my friends call the secret garden and let the sun in. I dreamed about having a cat. I dreamed about going for a run with my man. When I left ships, I knew I needed something else, but I didn’t know what it was, or if I would find it. So far, just like sewing a corner, it seemed scarier than it was, and easier to do than I thought.

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