Dressmaking by Phoebe Thomson

Hunched hot in bright field
Tight flanks of squat cars
Selling something:
A table laid out with their old photographs
From the war years.
Commemorative mugs,
Food for dolls,
Ragged wool.
I buy two things:
An old paper dressmaker’s pattern
And three metres of wax-batik cloth.
In my bedroom I lay out the pages of tissue,
Cut them from sheets to irregular shapes
With a border around them
Allowing a seam.
Follow lines with my scissors,
Chopping neatly around all the fiddles
Trimming difficult pieces again.
Then I pin to the cloth and repeat all the chops.
Car-boot whoosh of my scissors when pulling apart.

And we’re on to the pinning of pieces together
Pattern back in its packet and folded away
For more fabric – if this dress gets made.

Clatter of sewing machine so engaging
Invading my brain after silence of pinning
Where pin-drops were stopped with meticulous hands.
Now the rattle is noisy, the pedal electric,
The dress being made is not in my control,
Any more, this machine shouts its claim,
Wrenching fabric from hands and then spoiling the thread
That I’d looped and arranged in their circular spools.

And it’s finished, foot pressed down,
An accelerated dress
In batik from a boot-sale – washed of course–
A stiff skirt, come full circle,
Crooked seams at the back
A slight rent at the hem
But it looks like the pattern–
Post-austere, I assume with such fabric,
Such copious, colourful reams of bright cloth.

When I wear it, it fits me,
I look quite as bright as a button,
Or a waxed car
That blinds in the heat of the boot sale
I’ll go back to that place for more pattern,
More small ways to spend days brightly sewing.

And then, when the paper is perfectly
Cut and refolded,
And the fabric is chopped, and then pinned,
And then sewn and then torn,
Scissors still, pins all spilt upon ground
You will find my old dress: someone’s grandma’s
–Long dead– up for sale in a field
With an army of cars hunched around her
The packets all opened for show.
A pattern emerged in old tissue, or withering minds.