Saturday, March 14, 2009

Collaborative Short Story Robbed

Art Gallery Fabrics recently started a blog. To promote said blog they had a contest. To enter one had to post a comment containing the answer to the following question.

What was the most funny/weird situation that you have had at your sewing room when about to start sewing?
The two most funny answers would win.

No funny/weird situation had ever occurred in my sewing room when I was about to start sewing. That setup is just not very ripe for comedy. Reading through the first fifty or so comments confirmed my hypothesis. One consistent trend was the interruption of sewing initiation by pets, especially cats.

So I presented this conundrum to my brother via instant messaging. Over the subsequent hour or so, he and I composed the following story.

I was trying to perfect my curves following your Belle Epoque Garden quilt pattern when I heard a knock at my sewing room window. I opened the window to find three little green men who very politely explained that they crash landed in my backyard and, seeing my Bernina 440 QE through the window, knew I could help. In English punctuated with buzzes and clicks, they communicated that they travel by manipulating the Warp and Weft of the Universe (not to be confused with the Fabric of Time). But they took the wrong left at the corner by my local quilt shop, and couldn't find their way back to the wormhole (apparently, even if they're little, green, and have antennae, men still refuse to ask for directions). They begged me to sew a topological impossibility for them (Euler characteristic of pi) which, like piecing a Lone Star quilt, looks really complicated, but it's not so bad if you use Jan Krentz's strip piecing method. They said that if I sewed the topological impossibility for them, they could transport their broken spaceship home through the resulting wormhole and darn the hole in spacetime from their side.

I sat down at my Bernina 440 QE to start sewing the first set of strips for the topological impossibility together when I was struck by the idea that if I just made a few subtle tweaks I could alter the alien design so that it would not only function as a topological impossibility but would totally make the coziest, cuddliest, cutest throw pillow EVER! I knew I would have to break all the rules (quarter inch seam allowance be damned!). I would have to alter the design on the fly, right there, as I was sewing, because it was only at that moment that I would be able to keep the trick to its execution in my head. I dropped the presser foot and put my foot on the pedal. I could see it all laid out before me.

Then my cat Ripper (short for Seam Ripper) started batting the strips as they moved through the machine in his typical "one, two, THREE WITH CLAW!" pattern, taking the whole thing with the third strike. You see the pattern coming, and yet, it's always too fast to react to. Next he spied the pile of strips I had meticulously stacked in the order I had to sew them for the topological impossibility/coziest, cuddliest, cutest throw pillow ever. Thinking he could make them move like the strips I was sewing, he hopped onto the sewing table and scattered the strips everywhere.

The End

(This story is fictional. I don't own a cat.)


Sadly, we did not win. Whether this was because it was obviously fictional (which was not expressly prohibited by the rules), or because we were in the top 20 from which they ended up drawing two winners randomly, or . . . well all other possibilities involve speculating that someone somewhere could possibly not find this story HILARIOUS, I don't know.

Regardless, I enjoyed the creative process with Bob and hope we can parley it into some sort of short story writing career in the near future.

Click here to return to Gnomicon home page


David said...

Interesting: I thought the question specifically alluded to an interruption that happened when you were about to sew. But the question could also be read to ask about the wierdest _situation_ you found yourself in when about to sew. The difference is the preterit versus the imperfect, in Spanish and other romance languages: it's either what happened (preterit, interruption) or what was happening (imperfect, situation). Interestingly again, the difference doesn't matter, because in effect the question is asking how two events came together to produce an effect ("weird," "funny"). And so, in effect, the question is about how your own life is in fact one big quilt, and how it is in fact impossible to be "interrupted" while sewing, since a narration of that interruption will inevitably sew it onto or into a context, thus making a seamless (or seam-visible) whole. So that's just the question: if an interruption can be sewn back into the fabric of intelligibility (meaningful narrative), then was the interruption really an "interruption" in the first place?

And that's why the story by Sarah and Bob should have won the prize: it showed, through its rhetoric, that those situations or contexts or even interruptions are not "extra-sewing" phenomena (that is, they're not outside the sewing experience), but are rather part of the threading-together that happens whenever we try to put together two events into a story. If sewing didn't happen, S+B's story suggests, then the entire warp and weft of the universe would fall apart, and we would be left with an irreducible gap, like a wormhole but even worse, since you can't even name this "gap" since to name it would be, in some sense, to sew up the gap into a coherent narrative. S+B's sory figures this true interruption as a cat that hops onto the sewing table and scatters the strips everywhere. But again, this cat is not a true interruption (even though it tells the story of an interruption), not only because the cat is tied to the world of sewing through his name ("Seam Ripper," a sewing apparatus used to undo sewing), but also because this cat is threaded into the network of all those other cats that "interrupted" sewing in the other submissions (and in every cat-woman's tale of sewing). So the event of a cat on the table is included within the fabric of sewing.

It might seem that the only true interruption is the story itself, which presents itself as a "submission" in order to win a "prize." In other words, the story as a whole is placed within a system of exchange, which would seem to be outside the world of sewing. But again we're wrong, because sewing is always a series of exchanges, that is, the continual "submission" of the thread in exchange for the "prize" of fabric. Or something along those lines.

The point is: it's impossible to find an event that would be outside sewing, since this attempt to close off and exclude events is precisely the defining act of sewing ("to mend or enclose by joining or fastening stiches"). Even now, while trying to explain why I can't find an event that would be outside sewing, even now I sew, I am sewing, I am sewn into the very fabric I am trying to escape.

I sew, therefore I sew.

Thalia said...

I give you the Awesomeness Sewing Blog Entry Award! (You are the first and only winners!)

Because, come on. I mean, come ON. CLEARLY you should have won.

And there are a ton of "my cat got into my knitting" stories as well. Makes me feel fortunate that with yarn lying around here, the dogs don't really care about batting it around and destroying/eating it.

They save that kind of effort for carpet and structural damage.