The “Make Meaning” Coat
Fabric: 4 yards of vintage wool bought at an estate sale. Cost: $8
Pattern: Butterick 5569
Notions: 3 wooden buttons and one snap ($7.50 for the buttons).
Time to complete: 8 hours
First worn: To the theatre, January 2012
Wear again? Hell yes!
Total price: $15.50
Back in August I went to an estate sale put on by an elderly woman who was moving from a house into an assisted living facility. Not only was there a whole room of fabric for sale, but also the clothes she had made over the decades. Racks and racks of dresses from a lifetime of sewing – most of which had sat in a closet since the seventies. While I felt lucky at the chance at some of her never-used fabric, her presence there selling her things was a reminder of the impermanence of the work we do in our lives. At some point we no longer have a use for all we have done, and as we move on, so our possessions go into the hands of others.
But still and all, it was a bit of a party at the community centre, as men and women shared sewing tidbits, fabric tips and gossip with each other. And while I managed to keep myself away from the clothing, I left with several metres of vintage wools and cottons – all at two dollars a metre. So far I have made another jacket and a skirt from some of what I picked up there, but today’s challenge creation is without a doubt the finest garment from that sale yet.
The pattern called for four yards of fabric, and of course I didn’t have quite enough of one to do the job, so I used two co-ordinating prints to make up the coat. (With about one metre of each left, I’ve still got enough for a skirt!)
The Butterick pattern was one I picked up on sale last year for $2, and is probably the easiest jacket/coat pattern you could hope to do. I’m really proud of my job on this one as the inside is nicely finished (I used my false-overlock stitch to great effect), the sleeves went in without any problem, and I managed buttonholes for the first time. My buttonholes aren’t the best, but with the large wood buttons purchased at Button Button in Vancouver, I figure not many people will notice.
I first wore this coat on Sunday to see Waiting for Godot – an existential play which asks “in the absence of God, how do we find meaning?” to which some philosophers would answer “the meaning of life is what you make it”. And it seems appropriate to name my coat after that first outing. For just as the elderly woman selling her things found much meaning in her life through working with her hands to make beautiful clothing, so many of us make meaning through art and craft (and sharing that with our families and communities).
So don’t let anyone tell you that sewing isn’t important! It’s as important to making sense of the world as anything else.