So, we are at my parents’, swapping wood stacking services for a spot of curtain-sewing consultancy from my mother, who was delighted to pass on (among other gems) the ‘pulled thread’ technique for cutting an absolutely straight edge across a piece of material. This was something her mother taught her, and her grandmother taught her mother before her, and she was delighted to finally have a daughter interested enough to learn it from her, albeit one who has negligently failed to breed, so she will have to teach it in turn to her nieces or, indeed nephews, should the occasion arise.
And it struck me – after much measuring, and measuring again, and cutting, and pinning, and checking, and checking again before I finally got my hands on the sewing machine – just how technical and systematic properly sewing something is. Equally as technical as making something out of wood or metal, needing the same combination of know-how and knack (as I discovered when I put the bobbin in wrong and messed up the tension, or attempted to ‘feel my way’ with the scissors to cut a straight edge), except perhaps with less need for ear defenders and upper body strength. It also reminded me how much I like getting to grips with a well thought-through piece of machinery like Mum’s sewing machine with neat little features like a bobbin winder which automatically stops when it’s full – and which, at 35 years old, is still going strong, except that you have to be firm with the foot pedal at times.
I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised at my own occasional techy leanings, as I did work in IT for a dozen years, but I don’t think it’s all that unusual for women, despite what a dozen lazy pop scientific books (and half the men on Twitter when they argue that the reason women don’t go into IT in greater numbers is down to anything other than the inherent institutional bias of the IT industry) might try to claim. In Delusions of Gender, her excellent demolition of all lazy explanations of so-called inherent differences between men and women, Cordelia Fine points out that supposedly neutral tests for things like systematising (often described as an inherently male trait) include questions like ‘would you feel comfortable using a wiring diagram to wire your house’ but not questions like ‘would you feel comfortable using a knitting pattern to knit a cable sweater’ even though both require similar abilities to translate abstract instructions (indeed, women were chosen to wire up computers at Bletchley Park because they could understand complex knitting patterns) it’s just that one is something boys are culturally encouraged to learn, and the other something girls are. Plus, nobody ever burned their family in their beds by incorrectly cabling a sweater, but that’s a discussion for a different day.
Of course, once the curtains have been finished, there’s still the small matter of installing the rail in the bedroom to hang them from. This will require drilling and making sure things are level and finding the right kind of screws and rawl plugs, and all the sorts of thing I normally let the other half do because he’s so much better at them than me, plus you know, power tools are a man thing. Hmm. Perhaps I’m going to have to put those up myself as well…