Conveniently, my German class meets only four afternoons a week. We get Wednesdays off. What’s a girl to do with a spare Wednesday afternoon? In my case, I pester an unsuspecting Dutch woman who guides a handful of English speakers through sewing projects. On the first day, Linda launched me on the construction of a simple bag. Luckily for my sewing prospects, I have grown out of perfectionism when it comes to my craft skillz, so I dispatched the bag and the straps all in one afternoon. Somehow Linda shepherded me all that way from two big pieces and two long, skinny pieces of purple cotton. I could never recreate what we did. At one point, I brought her a wad of fabric to ask about the next step. She coaxed it out of itself and handed me back the completely finished body of the bag.
I spent all of Week Two imperfectly attaching the straps to the bag. This entailed sewing each end of each strap sort of symmetrically onto the bag. You can understand how two hours elapsed before I completed four lopsided 2-inch squares. …I can’t either.
I tromped out of the cozy sewing shop and into the snow. On the way home, industrious as ever, I stopped at the grocery store and decided it would be a good time to stock up on staples. A Berliner should not arrive at such a decision impetuously. First, a Berlin shopper must never buy more than she can carry. She won’t be pushing her cart out to her car in the Wegmans parking lot. Second, a Berlin shopper must never buy more than she can fit into the bags she has brought with her. In Berlin, we must pay for grocery bags, so everyone stocks up once and reuses. It’s ecological and cost-effective, and impossible to get used to. I keep one bag perpetually in my coat pocket, so I’m always ready for impulsive mini-shopping sprees. But on this day, I overdid it in a big way. I loaded up on fruit, tea, milk of course, and such heavy, long term items as dishwasher salt (what is this? Who knows, but it’s necessary for my German dishwasher.) and baking ingredients.
At checkout, the grocery employee gave me her most skeptical eye. My single emergency bag wasn’t going to cut it. I decided to resort to my newly-minted sewing class bag. I had to pack both bags to the limit in order to fit everything.
And just before I hefted my handmade bag off the conveyor belt, I got to thinking. This bag, that I made, as yet untested, now held more groceries than I’d ever bought at once in Berlin. Could I depend on my lopsided straps? No backing out now. I slung the straps over my shoulder and suspended the bag in the air. It felt sturdy. Together, my bag and I made it all the way home. Aaron welcomed us home, and I think he was genuinely as delighted with the bag as he was with the ice cream contained therein.
I’m on to a new project now. A skirt (the word is “Rock” auf Deutsch). My teacher Linda suggested I try working with corduroy. I stopped at a fabric store in Hildesheim to select my color. Many of you have met my wine colored corduroy pants. My college roommate Emma had a pair which I always admired, so when I acquired my own, I inadvertently picked out the exact same shade. When I got home with my new fabric, I was dismayed to discover I’d committed the same subconscious redundancy. I guess that’s what color I think corduroy is supposed to be. This time I’m using a real pattern I picked from one of Linda’s sewing magazines. I’m pretty sure it’s going to turn out too small, so Mom, get ready for a lopsided wine-colored corduroy skirt. I’m sewing it with love.