Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "If You Don't Have Experience Sewing"

This poem is spillover from the March 6, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] fuzzyred. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. This poem belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.  Continue with its sequel, "To See a Doll of Yourself."

"If You Don't Have Experience Sewing"

[Tuesday, May 12, 2015]

Shiv walked through the jazz club,
fastening the last few buttons
of his shirt as he went.

Buttons was lounging
against a wall and talking
with one of her neighbors --
Mrs. Nice, that was her name.

Shiv headed toward them
so he could ask Buttons about
assignments for the evening.

Then a button popped off his shirt.

"Fuck!" he said, chasing after it.
"Now what'm I supposed to do?
This is the last work shirt I got clean."

"Just pick up your button and
sew it back on," said Mrs. Nice.

"Easy for you to say," Shiv muttered,
groping under a table for his button.

"You don't know how?" said Mrs. Nice.
"Well, I could do it for you, or I could
learn you how to do it yourself."

He had seen it done before,
but couldn't remember
how the steps went.

"Really?" Shiv said.
"Why would you do that?"

"Because I love teaching,
and because sewing is
a useful life skill," she said.

"You should take the offer,"
Buttons said. "Mrs. Nice
showed me how to mend
rips, and that saved me
a ton on Jaxon's clothes."

Shiv fingered the empty spot
on his shirt front. "So I could
just fix this one, instead of
needing to buy a new shirt."

"Exactly," said Mrs. Nice.

"Go ahead and try, Shiv,"
said Buttons. "If it doesn't
work out, we can just put you
in the kitchen for tonight."

"Yeah, okay," Shiv said.
"Show me how this works."

"First you need a shirt and
a button," said Mrs. Nice.

Shiv was wearing a tank top,
so he peeled off his dress shirt
and laid it on the table along
with the wayward button.

"Next you need some thread
to match your shirt, a needle,
and scissors," Mrs. Nice went on,
taking a sewing kit from her purse.

Shiv recited the tools, counting
on his fingers behind his back.

"Take about two feet of thread,
run it through the eye of the needle,
double it, and knot the end," she said,
coaching him through the process.

Shiv had to lick the thread to make it go
through the tiny hole, but he got it.

"Good, now find where your button goes,"
Mrs. Nice said. "Push the needle through
the back of your shirt and out the same side,
a couple of times, to make an anchor."

She showed him how to make an X
with lines so the thread wouldn't pull out.

"Well done," said Mrs. Nice. "Now
push the needle all the way through
to the front side of your shirt."

It took Shiv a few tries before it
came out in the right place so
he could pull the thread through.
"I think this is right now," he said.

"It is," said Mrs. Nice. "Just drop
your button over the needle and turn it
so the holes line up with your other buttons.
Look to see if the others are sewn on
with parallel lines or crosses, too."

"Crosses," Shiv said, looking down.

"Then make the same pattern,"
said Mrs. Nice. "Bring up the thread
through one hole and down the next,
criss and cross. Leave a little slack so
your button can go through its hole.
Go through the holes four times."

Shiv followed her instructions,
and pretty soon the button
was firmly in its place.

"Now what?" he said.

"Push the needle through
the back and out the same side,
like before," said Mrs. Nice.
"Then tie it off and cut it."

Shiv knotted the thread
and trimmed it. "Done."

"Done with that button,"
said Mrs. Nice. "Check
the others to see whether
any of them are loose too."

Carefully Shiv tugged at
the other buttons. On the third
a thread snagged and unraveled,
letting the button come loose.

"Damn it!" Shiv muttered.

"It's okay, you can fix it,"
said Mrs. Nice. "Go ahead."

Shiv really didn't want
to fuck around threading
that needle again, though.

Surely there must be
an easier way to do this.

Then he got an idea.

Flicking his finger, he
loosed the sliver of metal
that he kept under the nail,
wrapping it around the thread
that still clung to his shirt.

From there it was
simple to fly the metal
and its trailing thread
through the holes.

Shiv finished this one
a lot faster than the first.

"Well, I never," said Mrs. Nice.

"Yeah, Shiv's got a way of
figuring out the easiest way
to do anything," Buttons said.

Shiv smirked. "I don't like
wasting effort," he said.

He checked the other buttons,
but all of them seemed secure.

"Good job," said Mrs. Nice.
"Next time you need to sew on
a button, do it like that. If you can't
remember all the steps, ask me --
I'm just next door anyhow."

"Yeah, you oughta see her
making dolls and doll clothes,"
Buttons said. "She made
a ragdoll cat for Jaxon
that he just adores."

"Dolls," Shiv murmured,
remembering that he'd seen
advertisements for Mrs. Nice
and her dollmaking parties.

The pieces clicked together
in his head like Legos.

"I've seen your flyer for
the party dolls in all colors,"
Shiv said. "Could you do more?"

"Why sure," said Mrs. Nice. "Most
doll fabrics come in five-six flesh tones,
but if folks can afford to pay more, there's
a few places making a set of ten or twelve."

"I mean like crayon colors -- blue, green, red,
that sorta thing," Shiv said. "I know someone
who gathers dolls for superkids and it's hard
to find ones that look like crayon soups."

"When I was little, it was so hard to find
black dolls that my mama had to make
some for me," said Mrs. Nice. "It wasn't
easy even when I had my daughter Ronelle,
but by the time her Shaneeq came along,
there were more. Now when I shop for
Zina, they're all over the place."

"Yeah, Mrs. Dr. Finn has dolls
in all skin tones like that, but not
many crayon dolls," Shiv said.

"Everyone should have a doll
that looks like them," Mrs. Nice said.
"Nobody should have to go through
what my mama and I did, a sea of
white dolls and not a one like me.
So if it's crayon dolls wanted,
then that's what I'll make."

"Great," Shiv said. "If you
could get a gig making all
the dolls you can, would you
want it? I heard you say it's
hard to make ends meet."

"That it is, and I sure would
love to get more dollmaking work,"
said Mrs. Nice. "Substitute teaching
just doesn't bring in as much as
full-time teaching did, but I don't
want to go back to full-time work."

"Okay, let me see what I can do,"
Shiv said. "I'm pretty sure I can set up
one party, and probably a regular gig."

It's not like California was going
to run out of crayon superkids.

Shiv pulled out his smartphone
and dialed a number. "Hey," he said.
"Do you want more crayon dolls?
Cause I think I got a source."

"Yes, I'm keenly interested,"
said Mrs. Dr. Finn. "What
kind of crayon dolls?"

"I dunno," Shiv said,
baffled. "Doll dolls,
I reckon. Here."

He handed his phone
to Mrs. Nice. Let her
try to explain everything.

"Shiv's phone, Leondra Nice
speaking," she said crisply.

Shiv listened with half an ear as
the two women got to talking about
cloth and prices and what-all else.

Buttons clucked her tongue at him.
"We gotta get you better phone manners."

"What? Why? They're doing fine," he said.

"Yeah, but that was still pretty curt, just
tossing them together like that," Buttons said.
"I'm sure Dymin could help you learn how
to handle a phone better than that."

"No no no," Shiv said, waving
his hands frantically. "I already
got more deskwork than I want!
Please don't tell Dymin on me.
I was just trying to hook 'em up,
I didn't mean to fuck it up so bad."

"All right, I'll let it slide this time,"
Buttons said. "You didn't fuck it up,
Shiv, but there are ways to introduce
people smoother than you did. It's
something you might need to know
if you wanna be more than muscle."

"Wasn't my idea," Shiv muttered.

"Well, do you hate it?" Buttons said.
"Cause if you don't want a promotion,
better tell the Boss sooner than later."

Shiv shrugged. "It's okay, I guess."
He'd get a bigger piece of the action,
and that would be a good thing.

"Then you better aim to do it right,
and that includes thinking about
what new skills you might need,"
Buttons said. "It's up to you."

Shiv sighed. "Yeah, I know,"
he said. "Just ... maybe later?
I got a fuck of a lot on my plate
already, I don't need no more."

"Okay," Buttons said. "I won't
pester you to do it all at once."

"Thanks," Shiv said earnestly.

Just then, Mrs. Nice returned
his phone. "We're getting together
this weekend for a dollmaking party,
and we'd like you to help," she said.

"Me?" Shiv squeaked. "What'n hell for?
I don't know anything about makin' dolls!"

"If you don't have experience sewing,
start with that, because that will inform
what you are able to design," she said,
then winked at him. "Don't worry, Shiv,
you don't have to make the dolls -- that's
my job. We'd like you to help with the kids,
since you're a soup. I'll be bringing some
of my girls, but they're ordinary like me."

"I guess ... I could maybe do that, if
the schedule works out," Shiv said slowly.

He'd gotten his babysitting certs, after all,
and it wasn't as scary as it used to be
when had no fuckin' clue what to do.

Besides, Mrs. Dr. Finn would be there
and she knew all about raising kids.

"Then we'll see you Sunday,"
Mrs. Nice said, and headed off.

"Come on, let's go straighten out
the schedule," Buttons said.

"Okay," Shiv said. He followed
her toward the office, wondering
what he'd gotten himself into.

* * *


Leondra Nice -- She has toffee skin, brown eyes, and short nappy brown hair starting to go white at the temples. She is short and wiry. She is 60 years old. Leondra never married. She is the mother of Ronelle Nice (46), grandmother of Shaneeq East (26), and great-grandmother of Zina East (4). Leondra was a teen mother who gave birth to Ronelle at 14. Currently Leondra lives in Omaha, Nebraska in the apartment building next to Blues Moon. She retired from full-time teaching when her great-granddaughter was born and has recently gone back to substitute teaching. She doesn't want to work full time anymore, but struggles to make ends meet. So instead she has taken up dollmaking for extra income. It's not a lot, but it helps.
Qualities: Master (+6) Grandmother, Expert (+4) Elementary Teacher, Expert (+4) Crafty, Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Interpersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Patient
Poor (-2) Too Much Month Left at the End of the Money

Ronelle Nice -- She has butterscotch skin, brown eyes, and shoulder-length straightened hair of dark brown. She is average height and slim. She is 46 years old. Ronelle never married. She is the daughter of Leondra Nice, mother of Shaneeq East (26), and grandmother of Zina East (4). Ronelle earned an Associate's Degree in Applied Science in Office Technology: Office Professional from the Metropolitan Community College. Shortly after graduation, she got pregnant with Shaneeq, but has managed to maintain a capable career as a secretary. Ronelle lives in Omaha, Nebraska. She always knows what's going on, which makes her popular, but she tries too hard to make people like her.
Qualities: Good (+2) Amiable, Good (+2) Gossip, Good (+2) Organized, Good (+2) Secretary, Good (+2) Voice
Poor (-2) People-Pleaser

Shaneeq East -- She has sepia skin, brown eyes, and long naturally straight hair of dark brown. She is tall and slim. She is 26 years old. Shaneeq graduated from the University of Nebraska - Omaha with a Bachelor of Multidisciplinary Studies and concentrations in Art, Black Studies, and Women's and Gender Studies. Just after graduation, she married her boyfriend Dashaud whom she had met in college, and within a year they had a daughter, Zina, now 4 years old. They live in Omaha, Nebraska. Shaneeq works at the African Culture Connection, overseeing a collection of black dolls and related representations. She gets along well with other people, but takes herself too seriously and sometimes has trouble relaxing.
Qualities: Good (+2) African Culture, Good (+2) Art, Good (+2) Gender Studies, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Interpersonal Intelligence
Poor (-2) Takes Herself Too Seriously

T-UNO allows a 30-30-30 set of three equal concentrations in the Multidisciplinary Studies major. The remaining 30 credits include a small handful of core requirements for the university and the rest electives.

Art Requirements: (30 hours, must include 9 hours upper level from UNO)
30 hours from the Department of Art and Art History (ART)
Black Studies Requirements: (30 hours, must include 9 hours upper level from UNO)
30 hours from the Department of Black Studies (BLST)
Women’s and Gender Studies Requirements: (30 hours, must include 9 hours upper level from UNO)

Code Title Credits
Additional 21 hours (15 of which must be upper level) to be selected from approved Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST) courses.

(10 art classes)
This is an introductory course that explores the painting, sculpture and decorative arts of five cultures: Mesoamerican, Native American, Asian, European and African. Typical of art history introductory courses, it surveys several cultures and time periods. Students explore reasons for making art and its relationship to the religion, politics and everyday life of the cultures. This course also explores the influence of these various cultures on contemporary American art. Lab fee required.
Distribution: Global Diversity General Education course and Humanities and Fine Arts General Education course

ART 1110 FOUNDATION: 3D DESIGN (3 credits)
This course is an introduction to the technical and conceptual aspects of three dimensional design, focusing on drawing and sculpture problems. Students will develop an understanding of 3-D design components and principles, learn handmade and shop oriented technologies, and explore analytical and conceptual drawing. They will also address critical skills and the cultural analysis of art practice.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): Lab fee required.

ART 1210 FOUNDATION: 2-D DESIGN (3 credits)
This course is an introduction to the elements and principles of design utilizing a variety of 2-D media and formats. These will be investigated through compositional strategies, studio techniques, gestalt understanding, critical thinking and concepts of contemporary methodologies in art making. Lab fee required.

ART 3210 COLOR THEORY (3 credits)
Instruction in the study of color through directed classroom assignments.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): ART 1110 and ART 1210

This course begins the exploration of the 3-dimensional artistic form which can be constructed using a variety of materials including clay, plaster, wood, steel and new media. Lab fee required..
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): ART 1220

ART 3350 SOFT SCULPTURE (3 credits)
This course builds on the fundamentals of sculpture to include foam and textile media. Students learn to work with foam rubber, fabric, yarn, felt, and other fibers. They may create wall hangings, quilts, clothes, dolls, stuffed animals, masks, mannequins, padded furniture, or other soft sculptures. Lab fee required.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): ART 3310

ART 3330 ART IN PUBLIC PLACES (3 credits)
The goal of this course is to introduce students to the concepts and practice related to displaying artwork in public places. Following a thorough examination of the history of public art, the course will focus on the various visual languages and iconography appropriate for public venues. The course emphasizes building original artwork using both traditional and digital technologies, displaying work in public spaces, artist responsibilities and related professional practice.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): ART 1110

ART 3710 EGYPTIAN ART (3 credits)
This course will examine ancient Egyptian culture through its art and architecture. Lab fee required.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): For Fine Arts majors, completion of Art 2050 & Art 2060 (prereq orcoreq), plus junior standing. For non-majors, junior standing and permission of the instructor are required. Not open to non-degree graduate students.

The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction of women through the art and culture of the ancient Mediterranean and western Middle Ages.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): For Fine Arts majors, completion of ART 2050 & ART 2060 (prereq or coreq), plus junior standing. For non-majors, junior standing and permission of the instructor are required. Not open to non-degree graduate students.

This course provides an introduction to topics of gender and sexuality in modern art, from 1860 to the present.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): For Fine Arts majors, completion of ART 2050 & ART 2060 (prereq or coreq), plus junior standing. For non-majors, junior standing and permission of the instructor are required.

(10 Black Studies classes)
BLST 1000 provides students with an overview of African culture and history and the black Diaspora. A key component of this course is to interrogate the meanings and dimensions of slavery and colonialism, and their continuing political, social and cultural implications. Approaches essentially include historical examination of African and African American societies and cultures from pre-colonial and slavery periods to the present.
Distribution: Social Science General Education course and U.S. Diversity General Education course

Investigates the development of the civilization of ancient Egypt and its influences on the cultural development of other African and Mediterranean states, including ancient Greece. Emphasis is on religion/philosophy, archaeology, art and history. (Cross-listed with HIST 1050)

Examines the evolution of the social, economic, and political status of the black woman in this society, with special emphasis on her struggle for freedom and equality. (Cross-listed with WGST 1950)
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): BLST 1000.

Analysis of historical, social, and institutional and comparative elements of family life in the United States with particular emphasis on social science theory.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): BLST 1000.

Focusing primarily on urban areas, this course will analyze the roles of municipal, state, and federal governments in African American communities. Various political, educational, economic, cultural and social aspects of those communities will be analyzed. Data from specific examples of such communities throughout the U.S. will be examined, and their strategies for engaging the larger social-environmental contexts will be explored.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): Junior or senior standing or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Social Science General Education course and U.S. Diversity General Education course

This course focuses on the black experience in the Americas outside of the U.S. Four major geographical areas are studied: Canada, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. Black life is considered with regard to historical background and geographical factors, and in comparison to white and Native American experience. An effort is made to trace common themes by using the cross-cultural approach. (Cross-listed with BLST 8655)
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): Junior or permission of instructor.

BLST 3920 BLACK AESTHETICS (3 credits)
This is a critical study of the theories of artistic beauty and their application in the poetic, fictional and dramatic works of Afro-Americans from the 18th century to the present. Special attention will be paid to the role of the black artist in American society.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): BLST 1260 or permission of instructor.

BLST 3930 BLACK FOLK ART (3 credits) (T-American)
This course presents different types of folk art in the black community such as quilts, dolls, and wood carvings.

Students will explore portrayals of black people in arts and entertainment, comparing and contrasting portrayals of other races. Media include fiction, poetry, painting, dolls, quilts, television, movies, advertising, music, and more.

This is an undergraduate/graduate course that provides students with definitional and experiential knowledge about the origin of racial concepts, theories, and practices, definitions of ethnicity and identity, and the communicative relationship between race, ethnicity, and identity. (Cross-listed with BLST 8586, CMST 4580, CMST 8586)
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): CMST 4530 or Junior standing or instructor permission; minimum cumulative GPA of 2.25.
Distribution: U.S. Diversity General Education course

(10 Women's and Gender Studies Classes)
A survey course which explores social science perspectives on women, men, and gender, including the biological contribution to human behavior and the impact of science as an institution. Examines challenges to traditional definitions of women's place and movements for change. Includes historical and multicultural materials.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): ENGL 1150.
Distribution: U.S. Diversity General Education course and Social Science General Education course

An introduction to women's and gender studies in the humanities (literature, art, dance, music, theatre, philosophy). Explores both historical and contemporary images of women in these fields; discusses the context in which these images developed. Introduces the basic concepts and terminology of women's and gender studies.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): ENGL 1150.
Distribution: U.S. Diversity General Education course and Humanities and Fine Arts General Education course

This course studies scholarship on and the practices of gender and leadership for junior-level undergraduate students. It is a service-learning course.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): WGST 2010 or WGST 2020, junior standing or permission.

WGST 3100 LGBT POLITICS (3 credits)
This course introduces students to the political struggle for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) equal rights in the United States using a model of political empowerment, which may be applied for all minority or identity groups and social movements, generating operationalized measures of progress toward the loci of political power. (Cross-listed with PSCI 8105, PSCI 3100, WGST 8105)
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): PSCI 1100 is recommended.
Distribution: U.S. Diversity General Education course

The course will acquaint students with (1) the images of the feminine in the earliest strata of human culture, (2) the symbols of the feminine in the myths of the primary religious traditions of the world, and (3) the role of feminine image-making within contemporary religious consciousness. (Cross-listed with RELI 3250).
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): Junior, or three hours in Religion, or permission.

Students will explore the history of women with superpowers, beginning with Whammy Lass. Units cover cape politics, ethics, dress mode, gender distribution of superpowers, gender-related superpowers, and more. Half the grade relies on a final paper about a superpowered woman of the student's choice.

This course provides a survey of literature on communication about, by, and between women and men in society, personal relationships, and organizations. Students develop an understanding of how cultural meanings of gender both shape and are shaped by communication. (Cross-listed with CMST 3750).
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): Junior standing; minimum cumulative GPA of 2.25. Not open to non-degree graduate students.
Distribution: U.S. Diversity General Education course

This course studies scholarship on race, gender, and leadership with a specific focus on African and African descended women¿s roles in liberation movements in the U.S. and worldwide. Especial focus will be on the use of their personal narratives to analyze the wide range of ideas in the conception and execution of leadership. (Cross-listed with BLST 4120)
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): Junior standing or permission of instructor.

This course will cover theories, philosophies, movements, and concepts related to social change as a process and outcome. It is a service-learning course.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): WGST 2010 or 2020. Junior standing or permission.

WGST 4010 SENIOR SEMINAR (3 credits)
This course provides a capstone experience in women's studies. It serves as the third writing course, and is required for women's studies majors. It is open to seniors who have completed five courses in women's studies, including WGST 2010 and WGST 2020, with a 'C' or better; others may enroll with permission.
Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): Senior standing, completion of five women's studies courses, including WGST 2010 and WGST 2020, with a grade of 'C' or better; or permission.

In T-Omaha, the African Culture Connection spans African, African-American, and Afro-Caribbean branches. It began with music and dance, then expanded to include storytelling, art, and other topics. Each employee oversees a different area of interest.

Zina East -- She has toffee skin, brown eyes, and short nappy black hair. She is the great-granddaughter of Leondra Nice, granddaughter of Ronelle Nice, daughter of Dashaud and Shaneeq East. They live in Omaha, Nebraska. Zina is 4 years old. She loves toy tractors, trucks, and other machines. She also likes dolls, the color pink, and other typical girl interests -- and she doesn't see any conflict between the two sides. She needs to be moving and doing things, though, and doesn't do well sitting quietly indoors.
Qualities: Good (+2) Gender Balance, Good (+2) Mechanical Intelligence
Poor (-2) Sitting Still

* * *

"If you don't have experience sewing, start with that, because that will inform what you are able to design."
-- Tim Gunn

Life skills include basic mending such as sewing on a button. They are much more common in T-America than here, but some people like Shiv still fall through the cracks.

Dollmaking parties offer a fun way to customize toys. Bring tools, hair, and fabric then let people choose combinations.

Phone skills include business tips. Learn how to improve your skills or train employees in better phone skills. Shiv's in media res phone calls are hilarious, but he would benefit from more education in this regard. That's going to be about as much fun as trying to bathe an alley cat, though.

Doll faces and hair come in ethnic variations.

Some African dolls come in albino or vitiligo versions.

These crayon ragdolls have blue, pink, or white skin. See them dressed and undressed.

This set of crayon ragdolls have colored skin (blue, violet, teal, green, orchid, butter, orange) and yarn hair. These dolls can be made as empty skins (allowing a choice of filler) or blank bodies and then assembled onsite in custom combinations. Chose eye and lip color, and expression, if painting on a face. Choose hair color and length, then sew on a wig. Choose clothing such as a dress, overalls, or top and bottom. Choices of hair and clothing can suggest any gender or none. Assembly is quick; it often takes longer for the recipient to choose options than to assemble the doll as requested.

Patchwork ragdolls can be made from any combination of colors. See one with brown hair and one with black hair.

This is a Native American faceless doll, a style used by several tribes.

Ragdoll blank bodies are easy to find in 5 basic skin tones (deep, pale, fair, dark, medium). They can be decorated however desired.

Here are some ragdoll cats in gray and green, white, blue, and red.

Ragdoll horses come in white with cream mane, black with turquoise streaks in mane, and gray with coral and turquoise streaks in mane.
Tags: crafts, cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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