Have you met my sister yet? No? Well, allow me to introduce you.
Lara and I are twins, and we’re the oldest of seven children. Though we’re fraternal twins, we look very similar to each other. As a result, we’ve been asked the most cliché-d of questions about our twin-ness for most of our lives: can you read each other’s minds? Do you feel each other’s pain? Do you trade places all the time? Are you really close? Most people now know better than to ask a grown woman whether or not she shares a telepathic relationship with her twin or to encourage us to play pranks on people (to be fair, though, I did pretend to be Lara once, when I was visiting a school she was teaching at, and it was pretty funny), but people still frequently ask me about the closeness of my relationship with Lara. I understand why they ask, and I see why they assume that we would be close. I’ve grown up listening to people romanticize being a twin and lament not having a permanent, biological best friend of their own. In truth, I still occasionally find myself blown away by the fact that there actually is one person in this world who’s known me even longer than my parents have.
If I’m being honest, there were many years when Lara and I just didn’t get along. We didn’t really develop a closeness until we both left home and were able to create separate lives without being under the shadow of the other one. When we were growing up, our Mother was reluctant to let us be autonomous if it meant that one of us might be excluded or feel left out. If only one of us was invited to a birthday party, neither could go. Until high school, we were enrolled in the same extracurricular activities, regardless of whether or not we both shared an interest in the activity. When it came time to make a decision about university, my Mother was adamant that we both attend, despite the fact that I was enthusiastic about the idea and Lara was more cautious, wanting to take some time off before diving in. What’s worse, most people, even some of our friends, referred to us as “the twins” instead of by our individual names, which infuriated me to no end. It still bothers me when well meaning but clearly oblivious older relatives call us “the twins” or “the girls” at family functions (you can’t learn my name after 30 years!?, I often think to myself sarcastically, knowing that the problem is not that they can’t remember our names but that they still don’t know who is who), but I suppose everyone has to pick their battles.
In any case, thank goodness for adulthood. After Lara moved out of my Mom’s house and I left for Toronto a few years later, it became obvious that the only thing preventing us from developing a close friendship when we were young was the expectation that our twin sibling relationship should be somehow different and better than other sibling relationships. Now, we’re very close friends, and I think it was distance, in the end, that made our closeness possible. As adults forging ahead with separate lives in different cities, it was easy for us to develop individual identities and to pursue our own interests without worrying about how we compared to each other. Over the years, Lara and I have discovered that we actually share many of the same interests: we both love to cook, we’re both keenly interested in being healthy, we’re both passionate teachers, and, more recently, we’ve discovered that we share a love of making things.
For the last year or so, Lara has been sewing her own clothing. She is seriously, amazingly good at it, too. I’ve spent many hours gazing wistfully at her blog, alternating between imagining what I could do with a sewing machine and hatching a plan to get her to make me some custom fit clothing. One day, I proposed a trade: I would knit her a sweater and she would make me a dress. She agreed, reluctantly, and told me that I’d have to wait until she could take my measurements. Sure, I responded, no rush. Whenever the timing is right.
Then, one day, she sent me a text message. It was a picture of a sewing machine, with the note: “Surprise! Merry Christmas/happy birthday! :)”
Jesus Christ, I though, has she bought herself another sewing machine?
“No, you ding dong,” she wrote, “I bought this for you!”
That’s right. My wonderful and exceedingly generous sister bought me a sewing machine!! A great machine, by all accounts, and one I definitely couldn’t afford to buy for myself.
At the moment, I’m feeling more than a little intimidated at the thought of getting started. My apartment feels way, way too small for me to work in without making Keith crazy. Aside from the sewing machine, I don’t have any other equipment I might need to make anything. But, I’m slowly building up courage. I’m feeling inspired by my recent discovery of The Great British Sewing Bee, which makes sewing look fun and somewhat less intimidating, and I’ve signed up for this online class, on Lara’s recommendation. Slowly and surely, I’m getting my affairs in order, and I know it won’t be long before I have a closet full of clothes that I made. How exciting is that !?
So, a request: Are there any experienced sewists willing to share tips and tricks for getting started? What additional equipment do I need? What easy, foolproof project should I start with? What resources (books, blogs, videos) would you recommend to someone like me? How easy or challenging is it to work in a compact space?
P.S. Lara, you can expect your sweater sometime in the next few months!