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In the film Like Water for Chocolate (Como Agua Para Chocolate), based on the novel by Laura Esquivel, the main character Tita uses cooking as an outlet for her emotions. The food takes on whatever emotion she’s feeling and passes it off to her guests. When she’s sad, it causes everyone to weep with sorrow. When she’s happy, feasters are ecstatic. And when she’s feeling a bit libidinous, the feast erupts into a racous orgy. The story might have a touch of Latin American magical realism, but many people still believe that food takes on the emotions of the cook. So cook with love, they say.

Last night as I was ripping out another seam, I wondered if anyone believed sewing could do the same. Does my dress absorb my feelings when I pour so much energy into it? Does a quilt made with love cause the one snuggled under it to feel even warmer? And does a blouse made with joy cause the wearer to be more joyous?

I found myself hoping it wasn’t all true. I wasn’t having the best night. While working on my Ceylon I was congratulating myself on how fast it was going, when I went to match up some seams. They didn’t match up. I had sewn two things onto the wrong side. This meant I had to rip both seams out, cut new fabric and interfacing, iron the interfacing on, then sew. I did that (while grumbling), and 15 minutes later discovered I had made another mistake, and had to rip it out once again. More interfacing. More swearing. More sewing. And this is the dress I had just finished a “practice” of, so I wouldn’t make these mistakes!

If the dress took on all qualities of  the thoughts I was thinking, it might be best if I don’t ever wear it.

I’d like to think that fabric is forgiving, absorbing those feelings and melting them away, smoothing out the rough edges of frustration. I can’t help but like something I’ve made, even if it’s a poor imitation of a good garment. If I’m frustrated, all the angry energy makes the sewing needle go- up and down, up and down, faster and faster, until it’s eating through the fabric like Tita’s hungry feasters. And when it stops, I have a seam. The right seam this time.

I’d like to think that a quilt or a dress takes all that anger in stride, like a punching bag, or a block of wood to chop. And that when I finally wear the finished dress, the heat will have all melted away and gone somewhere else.

Until that finished dress arrives, though, I’ll be taking deep breathes. And changing my needle.

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