My sewing machine is mocking me

Visions of homemade pencilcases ... Chrissie Swan.
Visions of homemade pencilcases ... Chrissie Swan. 

I once met the amazing Pip Lincolne from Melbourne. She is a master craftslady, has written three crafty books and drinks cups of tea behind the counter of her shop full of cute bespoke bits and pieces. She has sparkly blue eyes and a black bob, wears cardigans and has a son called Remy. She's one of those people you meet and within a few minutes you think, "I would not mind at all if I wake up tomorrow and I AM Pip Lincolne."

This was my reaction when I did a television segment with her in which we made cushions out of old shirts and greeting cards out of op-shop copies of Golden Books. After being in her orbit for just a few short minutes, I had tantalising visions of me making little pencil cases at home in my craft room with a cat on my lap and Carole King on my iPod. I would wear a wooden owl brooch and eat home-made plum cake and drink Lady Grey tea from a polka-dot cup. I would be the Queen of Pencil Cases! I'd have a pencil case for every occasion!

All I needed, Pip said, was a sewing machine. Which reminded me, I did have a crack at sewing once when I was in my early 20s and literally sewed through my finger. Twice. I had to unpick the stitch out of my index finger with a Quick Unpick.

Visions of homemade pencilcases - Chrissie Swan.
Visions of homemade pencilcases - Chrissie Swan. Photo: Julian Kingma

In primary school I was a dab hand at finger knitting. Who needs needles when you have fingers? I made several holey, skinny sheaths of wool using only my index fingers. Their purpose is still a great mystery to me.

My grandmother was amazing at crochet. She was a woman possessed, really. She'd spend the lion's share of her pension on hand towels, face washers and tea towels from Best & Less and proceed to trim each of them with crochet. Every time I'd visit her she'd make me sit in front of her chair as she plucked each work of art from a bag, laid it across her lap, and met my gaze expectantly, waiting for a unique reaction for each one. I ran out of adjectives after the 113th facecloth.

When she passed away she left me her timber cribbage board in the shape of Australia and all her crochet patterns. She must have picked me as a fellow craftslady. So, inspired by Gran and Pip Lincolne and those "Here's How To" pages in the paper, I decided I really needed a sewing machine.

I rallied my sisters and best friend and begged for a Husqvarna for my birthday. Thrilled at the suggestion (apparently I'm hard to buy for and, strangely, none of them had thought of a sewing machine as a possible gift ... wonder why?), they dutifully purchased it and wrapped it up, and I clapped when they presented it to me over strawberry melbas and coffee.

I'd had it for a whole week and hadn't opened the box. Then a month passed. Then a couple of months. Then I had another birthday. Then I had another baby. Then I did my kitchen. Then I started a new job. Life was certainly busy, but every so often I'd make sure to find a few moments to indulge in a pang of guilt and mourn the loss of my crafty dream.

I now realise it's not going to happen. I'm just not that person. I don't like Lady Grey. I prefer Joni Mitchell to Carole King. I don't have a craft room. Or a cat who likes to sit. Sadly, the sewing machine is staying in its box. It's going to be two years in November. I might even put it on eBay.

Maybe I could exchange it for a pasta machine! I'm sure they do that sort of thing on Gumtree. I have this vision of making all my own pasta ... from scratch. I can see it as clear as day! I'll spend whole weekends scooping big handfuls of semolina out of a fabric sack and wiping my floury hands on my red checked apron ... a village dog will be milling around my glazed terracotta floor collecting scraps and I'll clap my hands and say "Prego!" as I crack fresh eggs with one hand.

Or maybe I'll just go to the local and buy a packet of spaghetti. And a pencil case.

Chrissie Swan is the co-host of Mix 101.1's breakfast show in Melbourne and 3pm Pick-Up nationally; Twitter @chrissieswan.

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