Since we are all sharing our crafts to engage or connect or entertain or be inspired, I thought I would share this humorous story. Before I had children, I had time to play around with a sewing machine. I had also received plenty of free fabric from my grandmother-in-law, while cleaning up stock from her seamstress days.
I was determined to succeed, because I had just moved to Australia, and still converting all prices from $$ back to Kenya shillings, which made everything look EXTREMELY expensive. Still a villager, and therefore still frugal, I was not going to buy any off-the-peg dresses for Thousands of Kenya shillings equivalent. I would try sewing my own clothes.
Skills gained from home economics lessons, and from playing assistant seamstress to my older sister during school holidays came in handy, and, after much frustration, I produced my first dress and wore it to a wedding.
For the life of me, whenever I try to follow a pattern, my project flops. Plenty of wasted fabric, time and more frustration later, I decided to stick to designs that spring from my imagination. This creative licence to have such a wardrobe as I may please comes with a great advantage, or disadvantage: unique designs and vibrant colours that stand out in a crowd.
Many conversations at dress up occasions, such as weddings or parties for example, have erupted around my dress (or my hair). It is not that I am ultra- creative, but that there are not as many 'villagers' in my circles, making meeting one an education, or a novelty. If people are just curious, I let them. Curiosity is a prerequisite to learning, but I digress. Back to my dresses.
During a friend's wedding two years ago, I wore such self made dress that sparked conversation (it's not in the pictures). While the girls marvelled at a girl who can make her own clothes with two babies at her hem, a job of sorts and a home to keep, a friend of my husband's overheard the chatter and excitement and was quite horrified that I made my own clothes.
He later texted my husband, reproaching him for not 'taking better care of his wife'. According to him, it was a husband's job (and pride) to ensure that his wife is well dressed, including allocating enough 'wardrobe budget' in the family finances.
You know of course, about women and their clothes, accessories, make up. This man seemed to understand what women try to do: look beautiful without striving too much for it. It seemed to him that sewing my own clothes was striving. And my husband just let me strive! It made him uncomfortable.
There was a time, in the distant past, when I might have agreed with him. Agreed with a man, who viewed my creativity as my husband's neglect.
This friend proceeded to send my husband a cheque of $1,000 in Aussie dollars 'to buy clothes for his wife'. $1,000! To dress another man's wife. Perhaps some men may do that, but not in my Africa. If you try that in my village at least, well, I'd need to write an essay to explain all the likely scenarios that might follow such a gesture.
Did love to him,look like expensive clothes? Did it look like a carefree wife who did not need to strive? Did his proposing I buy boutique clothes make him superficial? He's a neat guy, perhaps that says something of his preference. But I don't know him well enough to comment.
I only know I am a villager, concerned more about the durability of my pot than the looks of it. And if it's durable, I know how to make the pot beautiful.
Perhaps that is why he misunderstood me. You see, for me, love looked like free weekends while my husband minded the children, cooked dinners and kept house, so that I could mess up with fabric, for the joy of it.
Time and freedom to sew reminds me that I am not in the village, tethered to gender roles and crushed under their weight without any help. It tells me that a hobby is not wasting time, even when it does not serve or enrich anyone else in my family. (Hand over my mouth: 'What would my mother say?')
How then, could one who did not know me, know how I wished to be loved? How I was loved?
He only reached out with what he believed love to be, and although the situation might have called for awkwardness, we were awed by his commitment to teach his friend to love. This shone through his rare generosity.
When a man has enough courage to send another man unsolicited money for his wife's 'coverings', you do not laugh at such gallantry. You do not resent his audacity. Maturity means you interpret such gestures as well meant friendly care, express sincere thanks and keep living, because friends are too valuable to flick off over how one dresses, or does not dress, his wife.
We did. And we laughed. And we felt sorry for our friend while admiring his resoluteness at the same time. We are friends, still.
And no. I did not buy a thousand-dollar dress. I bought a $6 fabric from a thrifty store for more craft, and to remember. We gave away the rest of the money, as it did not seem right to keep it, and not buy dresses.
Maybe that was one of a kind courage, although I am still looking out for any 'sympathy' from other courageous friends my husband might have ha ha:) This episode still tickles me.
You may not receive as heavy sympathy for your art as I did for mine, but craft on anyway. See life take form through your fingers. That too, is love.