Miss GTS: The official advice columnist for Getting Things Sewn
If the writer of this blog has been somewhat elusive,
And more than a little aloof and reclusive,
It’s only because she has been on sabbatical
Attempting to superintend projects radical
To transform a house locked in 1958ness
Into an abode that is destined for greatness.
Warned her sister, “Of tobacco this dwelling does reek,
And I fear that its outlook’s no better than bleak.
I’d love to have you in the neighborhood
But this house’s call for labor would
Give pause to mighty Hercules!
So– I ask you, please,
Consider other properties!”
Auditioning condo, flat, and house
Separately and with Jack, her spouse,
Hourly checking Zillow online,
Flying down to Ohio from time to time,
Such possibilities our blogger weighed,
But naught else ever made the grade.
Meanwhile, “The Reeker” on the market stayed.
Wallpaper with a cocktail theme on the walls down to the basement rec room.
Her sister said, “I know a builder
Whom this house would not bewilder.
Should he walk through and give opinion
Whether this could be your next dominion?”
His verdict? “The Reeker” was ugly, but sound:
Improvements were “doable,” he said, but profound.
The sale was negotiated and house was won,
And that’s when the adventure was really begun.
To freshen each surface by cigarettes tainted
With gallons of primer Jack painted–and painted.
If the cigarette smell was bad in the house, it was even worse in the garage.
Then followed the guy to change locks on the doors
And men armed with sanders to finish the floors.
The chimney was swept and the radon abated,
Termites were found and then exterminated.
The furnace was checked; gas leaks eliminated;
AC was replaced, and walls were insulated.
Drained was the yard and then pruned was the tree,
Driveway resurfaced; and from AT&T,
Came service for Internet, phone, and TV.
But all this was only the warmup, you see.
For after the house was safe and sound
Came the decorating round.
Our blogger’s new haunt was the hardware store
Where she gathered and scrutinized paint chips galore.
Hypnotized, online for hours she’d browse
Millions of pictures and stories on Houzz.
She tried to continue to blog without failing,
Doing a series on Kenneth King’s Smart Tailoring,
Chronicling her jacket–while just down the hallway
The carpenter’s crowbar made bathroom walls fall away.
The upstairs bathroom, staged for sale.
The upstairs bathroom, gutted.
The upstairs bathroom, nearing completion.
But while plumbers were fighting to vanquish corrosion
She found that her focus was suffering erosion.
She had to be ready to issue decisions
And equally ready to offer revisions;
She was on alert for doorbell, phone, and text
And was constantly thinking about what to do next.
She tutored herself how to execute floor plans,
And more plans, and more plans, and more plans–and more plans!
The basement remodeled, the first bathroom followed,
And in a new welter of choices she wallowed.
And although home designers are heavily vaunted,
There wasn’t a one who could say what she wanted.
None else could define and refine her dreams
And turn them into living schemes.
The basement rec room when the house was staged for sale.
The basement remodel.
Basement: Clean and bright.
She warmed to her task; she plunged into the deep end
And, bathyscaphe-like, she started to descend
Into memories of objects and places she’d been
That expressed an essential sensation within,
Then translated the feelings to physical objects–
And dozens, and dozens–and dozens of projects!
Still a bathroom to go, and the big one–the kitchen–
Were lined up on the runway, and our blogger was itching
To do those jobs justice. But ‘twould court disaster
To think she could serve any more than one master.
So she promised her blog she’d be back, with a wink,
And turned her attention to choosing a sink
And countertops and enough appliances
To support all the major domestic sciences.
But she also imagined the feeling and mood
She wanted when they were preparing their food,
And the smell of their coffee, in dim morning light,
And the rituals of closing their kitchen each night,
And what colors and patterns ideally expressed
Generosity, civility, and happiness.
Where, and how, might I use these colors, patterns, and combinations in our house?
Meanwhile, her blog waited and silently beckoned,
For her to pick up where she’d stopped, and she reckoned
She’d start again “soon,” but–not just this second.
I watched all this, Readers, with unblinking gaze–
The heartening progress and dreaded delays.
The kitchen got done; second bathroom did, too.
The kitchen, when the house was staged for sale.
The kitchen, nearing completion, before the linoleum floor was installed.
Downstairs bathroom, staged for sale.
Downstairs bathroom, nearing completion.
The dust having settled, now I sought a clue:
I wondered if she would return to her pace
Or suffer from more than a little malaise.
So I thought I’d inquire and make my view plain,
And I walked to the door of her sewing domain.
In that doorway I stood with my arms akimbo
And simply asked, “When are you leaving this limbo?
Your mannequin, Ginger, is de-energized,
And if she had a head she’d be rolling her eyes.
Ginger the mannequin has been wearing the same outfit for months!
And readers are asking about your demise–
(I suspect that they’re angling to buy your supplies…)
And my job is saying a word to the wise,
But these last twelve long months I’ve had none to advise!”
“We’re all in the doldrums, we all seek employment–
And doing our work would restore our enjoyment.”
Emboldened, I said, “Please forgive me for prodding,”
(And I’d swear in the corner that Ginger was nodding),
“I refrain from advising without invitation,
But I’d like to help you defeat hesitation.
You’ve been in the thrall of this house long enough:
It’s time that you wrote about sewing your stuff.”
“You’re becalmed at the moment; it’s hard to get traction
When you are inactive instead of in action.
The bulk of your work on the house is now finished;
Its gravitational pull is diminished.
The blog’s pull is weak now–but starting to strengthen;
Your concentration’s beginning to lengthen.
I sense your momentum may be in the wings
If you just give your flywheel a few good, strong spins.”
At this point, dear Readers, did I descry
A glimmer return to our blogger’s eye?
“Your blog’s a UFO, that’s all,
And I should hope that you would recall
My prudent counsel to get things sewn
Is to do it yourself–but not do it alone.”
“Engage the right expert to see your way through,
And as I’ve said before, the right expert is you.
This blog’s entirely your invention–
You know your goal and your intention.”
“For months I’ve seen you lay the groundwork
For lovelier and even more profound work.
You sewed living room drapes, for heaven’s sake,
And shirts for Jack that take the cake!
Curtain rings, brackets, and finials being painted for the living room drapery project.
Testing out spacing pleats for the living room draperies.
You finally came round to fitting and altering
Without histrionics, or fainting, or faltering.
What’s more, you’ve been sewing many a muslin–
The number must be approaching a dozlen!”
“Well, that all is quite true,” said our writer, blinking,
And I believe I divined that the old girl was thinking.
“So you are getting things sewn, but not all the way,
What I tell you’s the truth, or I’ll eat my beret:
You’re a writer who sews, and you don’t fully digest
Until you’ve attempted a jokey or wry jest
And through your efforts to others explain
To inform or at least to entertain.”
“Writing’s your real game, so spring off that bench
And stitch up that lounge robe or jacket or trench,
Then proceed to report upon how it all ended,
Reaping double rewards from your efforts expended.”
I rested my case with a voice magisterial:
“Sewing bloggers,” said I, “never lack for material;
I know you’ve the house–and Italian, now, too–
But you’re never alone–we are here to help you.”
This past January Jack and I started studying Italian together at Ohio State University.
Our writer looked hopeful; I gave her a fist bump.
And if Ginger had arms she’d have given a fist pump.
She told me her old clothes were itchy and riling,
That she was impatient for new clothes and styling–
And if she had a head, I believe she’d be smiling.
The muslin of this McCall’s “Misses’ Lounging Robe” from 1951
And here is the illustration.