Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


May 5, 2014

Tidbits: Sewing up the summer

CROSSVILLE — Despite the efforts of my grandmothers, great-grandmother, mother, aunts, my home ec teacher and my 4-H leader, I merit only a “satisfactory” on kitchen skills. And that's being incredibly generous. My kitchen faux pas are legendary, from burning water to a recent attempt at cookies that, when posted to Facebook, garnered a lot of questions on “Are those hamburgers?”

I've salvaged many a burnt dish by scraping off the charcoaled edges and drinking a lot of water and I have forced more than one dish down out of pure spite and a refusal to admit that my culinary adventure was really a misguided disaster.

Yet, I managed to leave my high school home ec class with my GPA unharmed.

How? Because years before I darkened the door of the home economics classroom, I was sewing.

My hand stitching was once quite good, with even little stitches fastening two pieces of fabric together. Later, I graduated to a sewing machine and patterns. Through the years I created numerous items, from swingy skirts and colorful curtains to making my junior prom dress. It was beautiful, made of a rich emerald green fabric that matched my eyes, and made to fit me perfectly. It was lined, and it was a race against the clock to get it ready in time for the big dance. We had to call in Granny to finish up the last few details, like the zipper, while my hair and makeup were being done. It's always good to have a pinch hitter on your team, and Granny was the expert. There was time to spare before my date arrived to take me to the soiree.

Zippers were always a challenge. You had to use a special foot on the machine. I could do it, but I would have to do it over and over again, ripping the seam out several times, before I could get it right.

Of course, sewing clothes from scratch isn't the best use of time and money. Fabric for clothes can sometimes be as expensive as the finished product you can buy at the store, without the added cost of thread, notions and a pattern. But sewing can help prolong the life of those clothes; from stitching up a fallen him to mending a rip or replacing a button, those old sewing lessons have come in handy many, many times. And when a friend learns I can sew, suddenly I have a basket of mending to assist with. There is always that favorite pair of pants that was banished to the back of the closet because of a lost button, and I'm happy to help make their wardrobe whole again.

Recently, I discovered Pinterest. What a terrible thing! I love the idea, but I find so many more projects than I will ever actually manage to complete and I end up with a bad case of crafting attention deficit disorder. If you have more than 10 craft projects under way at one time, then you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, keep on pinning away. You'll understand soon enough.

One such craft ADD project was a bench for my bare front porch. I kept meaning to do something with the front porch. It felt so bare and unwelcoming. I just couldn't find what I was looking for. Did I want a cute little bistro set so that I could sit out on the porch in the mornings drinking my coffee? The idea created this adorable picture in my mind, even though I don't drink coffee. Or get up early enough most days to have time to just sit out on the front porch.

I had collected some wooden pallets to make into a bench for the porch. It was a great project, re-using something that often times ends up being thrown away. I had my pallets, but I didn't have a saw. And, given my bad luck with kitchen appliances, there wasn't a line of people waiting to loan me a saw. Sure, they've be happy to saw whatever I asked, but I wanted to do it myself.

Then, while looking through things my Pinterest friends had pinned, I saw it. It was a cute bench, made with easily available materials, and no sawing required.

It was off to building supply store to gather up eight cinder blocks and three 4x4s. I loaded those on to a cart and, after running in place a minute or two, managed to get some momentum going and the cart moved. I loaded up my car and headed home.

The construction took minutes. The hardest part was carrying the blocks up the steps to the front porch. Next, I painted the blocks because grey didn't inspire visions of pleasant summer evenings on the front porch. The 4-x4s weren't very comfortable to sit on, but I found someone online needing rid of a crib mattress at a reasonable price.

That's when I was glad I had learned to sew. The new cushion would need some decorating to make it comfortable, durable and beautiful. I found the perfect fabric, with the bright colors I love, and I set to work.

There were a few hiccups, but it's done. I have a one-of-a-kind masterpiece where I can sit and watch the sun go down as the weather keeps getting better and better. I have a potted lavender plant, a citronella torch and mosquito repellent. I'm ready to relax and enjoy my little corner of the world this summer.

* * *

Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at



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