ARTeries: A Little Humour

Some have asked “Is this a true story?” To which i can honestly reply “Oh God, yes”. EVERY one of these incidents is true, with the exception of the doctor :} I figure since ALL of these things *have* happened, i’m likely to die in a sewing mishap as well: i envision myself going out in a blaze of sewing machine oil and built up bobbin case lint, laying on a heaped pyre of fabric, tastefully trimmed with yards and yards of threads. My tombstone is to be trapuntoed and fringed, with the inscription free motion embroidered. Please throw Kantha roses in my grave.

Since i’ve already been sewing for  47 years, and the matriarchal side of my family is known for it’s longevity, this glorious event will happen sometime in my 90′s. Therefore i have another 43 years to hurt myself.

Keep on bleeding, Sewing Fibristos and Fibristas!

Sewing As A Sport

You know the saying “It’s all fun and games until someone loses their eye, then it’s a sport”? Well, sewing is a sport. I realized this after a recent appointment with my doctor. The nurse shook her head and clucked as she pulled my chart. She’s seen me in here enough times that she must wonder if i’m in my right mind: when she knits her pastel plant cosies (now tastefully dotted about the doctor’s reception room under various pots of anaemic looking flora), she never hurts herself. (I’d like to poke her in the eye with one of those goddamned knitty-nit sticks.)

The doctor calls me in and sighing, looks at my file. It’s thick, the pages look well thumbed. He looks at me blankly, then sighs again.

We both know the drill: “What and how?” he asks wearily. And sighs. Again.

“ left leg goes numb to the ankle when i sit at my sewing desk.”

“How often does this happen?”

“Only after i’ve been sitting for several hours.” I reply.

“Several? How many is several?”

“Eight or nine,” I mumble, looking at my lap.”Sometimes ten.”

“Ten?” He can’t understand of course how consuming it is to be creating, watching fabric flowing out behind the machine, or around your hands, all embroidered and spangled and topstitched.

“Perhaps you should get up once in awhile, change leg positions, try a new chair, even do something else.”

Now it’s my turn to look blank. “Stop? Do something else? These aren’t sewing terminologies i’m familiar with, Doctor. Are there over the counter medications or do i need a prescription?” I’m getting alarmed. I’m getting loud.  “Do i need tests? Is the treatment expensive? Is there a clinic in town?”

“Calm down, Ms Barr; you know the excitement is bad for your heart.”

This is patently not true. So i had an angina attack when the sale bin went on sale, big deal. And it has nothing to do with the fact that i directed the surgeon to redo the stitches as i found them neither aesthetically pleasing nor decoratively functional.

“Please, Ms Barr, i really think you should look into some therapy or counselling of some sort. This destructive behaviour is quite alarming.” He’s looking through my file again. “Some of these injuries…”

“I can quit anytime!” I cry desperately. “I don’t need to sew or embroider everyday! Well, okay, every second day. Sometimes i take a couple of hours off on Sunday. I slot in time to say hi to my son. The laundry gets done every 5 and a half weeks. I feed my cats. I….” I trail off miserably as he steeples his fingers under his chin. (He thinks he’s so smart.)

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“Look at your file, woman!” He sounds exasperated for some reason. “You’ve sewn holes through your fingers, you’ve sewn them together and to things, you’ve poked holes in your nose while putting on buttons, ripped out clumps of hair on the uptake lever, punctured your left breast several times with upholstery needles, you have bursitis in your shoulder from “steering’ as you put it…”

“It happens to everybody!” I protest.

But ohhhhhh no-oo-oo, phffft, he continues, “You need glasses because you squint at tiny beads, you’ve tripped yourself on thread and torn ligaments below your knee, you’ve ripped ligaments in your neck trying to catch a falling sewing machine, you nearly drowned yourself and a friend when the hose came off the washing machine during a dying experiment, you’ve ironed yourself…”

“That was purely a mistake, but ended up being a wonderful creative excercise: i simply gold foiled over the skin that got stuck to the fabric and got a lovely vest out of it.And as for the washer incident, i used it as an excuse to actually wash the floor…”  I am shocked: how could he not appreciate the genius of this?

“You treat this as a sport! One does not get “sewing elbow”, or have an “old embroidery knee injury”, or torn muscles from beading too hard!” He’s starting to froth at the mouth and the nurse has stuck her head in the door, alarmed at the noise and fury. She comes in and pats him on the shoulder, grandmotherly, and glares primly at me.

“Sewing is not a sport! It should be treated as a genteel hobby for young ladies, brides to be and retired matrons. It is not an athletic meet or an Olympic Personal Best!” Now he’s very red. “Ms Barr, i suggest you find help elsewhere. I cannot treat someone who does not want to be helped, who continually resists any attempt at therapy or intervention and who will not accept any personal responsibility!” He manages to spit all this out through extremely clenched teeth.

I leave in a huff (a blue one i cross-stitched teeny little skulls on and trimmed with a turquoise passementerie braid). Perhaps i’ll try acupuncture: i understand they use needles. Besides, i know when people are incompetent. But as a farewell gesture, i believe i’ll send him a nice artquilt i did last week. The blood spray on it from my seam-rippered thumb is quite spectacular and it will liven up the reception room with all those dull little knitted whatsits.


Arlee Barr is a Canadian artist, working primarily with textiles. She describes herself as “curious, eccentric and just a little opinionated“.  Surrealist in thought, Fauvist at heart, Arlee likes the eclectic, explorative and absurd. Sprinkled around the interwebs, she can be found hanging around her fantastic blog.

View Comments (20)
  • Love it! It is like a page out of my life — do you have dustbunnies the size of small children? Because I do! I’m scared to vacuum them now, someone might call child protective services or PETA and I’ll get arrested!

    My husband is is an artist and sits at his drafting table for 14 hours a day and had a lot of the same injuries and ailments and so you know what he did? Adjusted his schedule? HECK NO! He has a seat cushion that has extra buttly support (designed for people who sit in wheelchairs 24/7/365), has a lumbar thingamajig, and learned some stretches from a physical therapist to strengthen his wrists and forearms so he doesn’t get carpal tunnel. Prior to this stuff, he’d always have pins-and-needles in his arms and legs. Now? Now I just never see him – only his head poking out above his desk. He doesn’t slow down or stop because of discomfort – he only stops to eat.

  • This is perfect! Sewing is dangerous people! I nearly lost an eye while sewing a beaded gown once… but that’s all part of the fun, right?!

    Sharing this with the world as we speak!!

  • *love* 🙂

    I often give the “I can stop anytime!” speech. I have also noticed that the more time that passes in-between projects, the grumpier I get. BUT I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM.

  • You mean i’m not so alone as i thought? Oh good! I declare you all chartered members of the Sisters and Brothers of the Bleeding Needle 🙂

  • ROFL! I totally relate, after having visited the Emergency Department with a sewing machine needle embedded in my thumb – gee my machine made a terrible noise – I was really worried that I had broken it. Thankfully both thumb and machine made a full recovery. Thanks for the laugh.

  • This is very cute. I can relate to some of the things that have happened.
    Stitching is VERY addictive, but we could be addicted to sooooo much worse.
    Janie Hanes

  • Oh Arlee I can relate to most of those injuries sewing is not a safe hobby. A few years ago I had to have a broken needle removed from my knee as I knelt on it while searching for the broken piece in the carpet.

  • LOL !!!
    Some years ago, my sister went to see the family doctor because of a bad case of tenosynovitis.

    He: What have you been doing all day?
    She: Crochet!
    He: I’ll never understand women. They always do extreme sports like knitting or crochet, then show up here with bad strain injuries. How can a sane person do that to themselves?

  • I think I’m already a member of the Sisterhood (and brothers) when I took my hand xrays to the doctor I also took some work to show him why I hurt so much (just telling him I do embroidery didn’t seem to have the same impact)

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