It’s fall here-really fall. It’s like a switch went off in the sky and all of a sudden our dark nights begin at 5:30 instead of 7. Our mornings are dark until 8. The temps are in the mid 40’s and leaves are scattered all over the ground. Rain causes the trees to shed like a dog loosing its winter coat. It’s beautiful and ominous all at the same time. For people living in warmer climates fall is wonderful. For Chicagoans fall is the bell toll for winter’s advance.
I’ve come to loathe winter in Chicago
In the suburbs winters weren’t so awful. I had an attached garage and my scenery was lovely from the windows of my little brick ranch home. Parking was abundant and my laundry area was heated. I could tolerate winter from the cozy confines of my home and neighborhood.
Here in Chicago, every approaching winter brings new ideas about how to cope. Last year we updated some curtains to add indoor florals, it helped but not enough. This year we’ve added a live in young adult and bigger, comfier couch. We rearranged the living room so my desk is in the front window, overlooking the street. And we added more curtains to the bedroom to brighten the walls.
Chicago winters are not for the faint of heart. You’ve got to be determined if you’re going to triumph over the cold. There is a woman in her 80’s who attends my water aerobic class. She walks everywhere, even in winter. I saw her on the way to class one dreary day, offered her a ride out of the wind and cold and she refused me! As I parked in a lot that was 100 steps from the front door of my gym, (griping the whole time I walked to the door), I marveled at the fact that she wouldn’t cave to the offer of a warm car ride.
She’s really skinny too
As I’ve been recovering from knee surgery I’ve had some sewing projects to do. They’ve helped me persevere in the recovery process. Deadlines kept me up and going. I’ve added a wedding veil, gifts, additional embellishments to costumes and some personal sewing to my agenda. This will be my 2nd wedding veil in a year…
I’m getting a reputation
Sewing has been one of my hobbies since I was 16. My mom bought me a Montgomery Ward sewing machine for a high school graduation gift. I used it for years until I splurged and bought a Pfaff in 1984. I’m in love with that machine. I still use it for remote sewing. My Juki Christmas gift from last year is my new love…
When the girls were young I made dresses, dresses, dresses. Some I’ve saved because they have heirloom level details. Sewing was better than therapy (though not less expensive). I can picture how pattern pieces fit together in my head (it challenges my brain). I’m super picky about how things are cut out (caters to that OCD gene). Over the years I developed some short cut skills (an outlet for creativity). I’m a nut for pulling pins as I sew, I’ve broken too many needles by trying to sew over them (gives rise to my know-it-all personality bent).
After the girls were school age, sewing took a back seat. It seemed like I could buy ready made clothing more economically. Crafts had taken over fabric stores. Buying fabric wasn’t as affordable or even available. Quilting became a religious experience. I’m so pragmatic that the idea of spending money on fabric, that wasn’t going to be worn, seemed preposterous. My expensive, sturdy, workhorse sewing machine went into storage.
Fast forward 20 years. Little did I know that sewing would become such a big part of my Chicago identity. I’ve met more seamstresses, both amateur and professional, than I’ve known in decades. Sewing has connected me to a cross section of our church community that I might never know otherwise. I’ve sewn for actors of every age, made set installations, done personal alterations (once people know you can sew…) and now the brides are coming.
I picked up a pile of baby and toddler patterns last week…
My fabric store options are legend. Vogue has its own discount store. There is a warehouse in Pilsen that I’ve mastered driving to, and our JoAnn’s is so large that it’s frequented by suburbanites daily.
The Pilsen warehouse is it’s own experience. Owned by a Jewish family, they close on Saturdays to observe the Sabbath. It’s a full city block in size, 3 stories high, warped and squeaky floors, piles of discontinued fabrics and walls of silk, fur, leather and trims. The manager calls out yardage prices when tags are missing and they give discounts to churches.
Vogue is north of us in Evanston. All one level but 4 distinct warehouse size rooms. The remnant section is organized by type and color, (my organized heart skips a beat). An entire room of fabric for home decor. The garment fabrics are amazing! Silks, suiting, wools, sweater fabrics…endless possibilities. They even have a formal gown section. There is a large Indian population that frequents the store so the window displays consist of formal sari’s in rich fabrics and amazing colors.
For a hobby seamstress like me, this is as close to heaven as I get!
The relationships that I’ve made because of this skill are rich. Sewing has taken me across the spectrum of race, age and gender in our church. I feel like I’ve been gifted with a piece of eternity. Our pastor continually says that the mix of cultures in our church is what heaven will be like. Sewing has provided me with that experience.
My brides are Phillipino and Puerto Rican. I have honorary African American grandchildren. Our actors are Latino, Black, White, Asian, adults, teens and even children at times. And the women that work on our costume team are primarily Spanish speaking. Several are single moms.
A skill that I’ve spent decades honing has been an avenue of connection that’s brought me immeasurable joy and fulfillment.
So while our fall weather screams that winter is coming, and my knee is plugging along, I get to sew! My hope is that it eases some of my dread of the cold. But mostly I count on it giving me those connections that will keep my mind focused on why we are here in Chicago…
That unimaginable life
Rich with the beauty of heaven on earth, a providential gift to enjoy and cherish.