February 21, 2007

How to hem a pair of pants

Alice and her mother, as it has been observed by many and verified by independent sources, are not the go-to women when your need is for something domestic. From an early age Alice learned how to hire the housekeeper (she has done a better job than her mother at keeping "help," as her mother would call it), realized that lightbulbs are best changed by those taller than she; that washing machines and laundry apparatus were best kept floors apart and not to be operated by Alice; and that her mother never applied needle and thread to cloth.

With the exception of sewing name tags (for which Alice had to demonstrate use of the sewing machine, a gift from her father, whose business was textiles and on whom Alice relied for lessons in all things domestic except cleaning, where he followed Alice's mother's need and hired out.), Alice's father taught her to sew and cook; her mother taught her to make the proverbial reservations and how to decide when clothing needed to go to the dry cleaner or the tailor/seamstress, depending on complexity.

The other day, Alice and her mother attempted a new venture: Mom had found a role of double-sided cloth-fusing tape from some long ago and far away venture of Alice's father, and Alice had velour black pants that needed to be shortened. First, where was the iron? Alice had to double check. Was it a steam iron? Check again. Now, the ironing board.

Alice purchased this full-size item several years ago, at The Croquet Player's request. He can wield his way around pressing croquet whites and dress shirts without a second thought. (He remembered to call Alice to inquire about the state of her ironing equipment, knowing full well that she was unlikely to have any on hand or to know how to use what she had.)

Perhaps he remembered her last demonstration of domestic impairment: she was at a college in the late 1980s, for a writing seminar, and her laundry had reached the breaking point, so she hauled it over to the campus laundry center.

Insert clothes, turn button to "permanent press," measure detergent and voila! Or, not so much. All of Alice's clothing that summer started as white, black, or pink. She ended the summer a study in pink. When a high school student came into the laundry to ask for advice, Alice was pulling out her new pink wardrobe. Her one suggestion? Sort your colors.

But I digress: this pair of pants that were not going to shrink to an acceptable length needed a hem. Alice's hands, still in splints, just weren't up to the task. Besides, she is middle aged and needs reading glasses to have half a chance of threading a needle. She also hasn't hemmed or sewed on a button in years, and manual dexterity is obviously not her strong suit.

Hence, the mother arrives, with cloth fusing tape. She measures the pant legs, determines a hem length. Then the fun starts: how to measure a hem. Does Alice have tailor's chalk? Try soap instead. As for measuring, they decide on three inches, and the total is marked to match the needed length.

This fusing tape requires a) a steam iron -- with water -- set on wool; a damp ironing cloth (previously known as a dishtowel), and a timer. Ten seconds per pressing. Mother lines up the cloth that comprises the part of the hem to be taken up, layers in the fusing tape, lines up the rest of the cloth, and says, "ready."

Ready is my cue to go to the microwave, hit the "1" button, announced the start time, and, ten seconds later, announce the stop/remove iron time. Repeat six times, with inspections between fusings. Finally, time to stash the ironing board away -- Alice's mother has trouble figuring out how to close it, Alice doesn't have a clue, but finally her mother hits lift-off.

We don't anticipate a repeat performance at any time in this decade. So, the next time you find yourself without a needle, and you don't want to Scotch tape, pin, or staple your hems, remember iron-on fusing tape is a no-fail option, guaranteed by the domestic incompetence of Alice and her mother. Just don't ask Alice to do it.

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Anonymous MetroDad said...

mbfvgiHonestly, I'm more impressed that your mother was able to close the ironing board. Those things seem to defy the laws of physics.

As for hemming pants? Isn't that why the good lord invented Korean dry cleaners? Always the best $10.00 spent.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Heatherg said...

People still hem pants?


9:21 AM  
Blogger sporksforall said...

Fantastic! I commented recently on a friend's new drapes and she annolucned that she had done them with that tape. No needle, no thread. Technology is lovely at times.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

Younger women who know their way around a needle and thread are few and far between. I once made a hamburger shaped pillow in home ec, but I haven't been around any of that much since.:(

5:23 PM  

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