The Beelzebub of Bobbinhood


Today was a beautiful, sunny day and after cleaning the kitchen windows – the better to enjoy the sun – I felt a compulsion rise up and overtake me.

Usually, if I eat something with a lot of garlic or shout “Out, out!” I can defeat the compulsion. Today, however, there was no stopping the Evil Demon of Fabric Manipulation.

I had decided to sew.

I’ve been down this road before. It never ends well. Well, once it did – surprising my wildest imagination, but I think that was because it was for a good cause.


Ain't he cute?

[Since Chef Boy ‘R Mine was going to be the cutest ring bearer in the history of rings, it was only fittin’ that I have a Mother of the Ring Bearer Dress befitting his glory.]

I tried to resist today, but The Domestic Arts Demon took over.

Lamenting the misery sure to ensue, I began the task.

So much time had passed between uses that I had to clean The Thing before I could use it. As I dusted, wiped, disinfected, I cogitated on why it is, exactly, that I have four sewing machines. I used to have five, but The Ex took one of the antique ones.

I have my great-grandmother’s treadle machine. I have the portable one my mother used to sew my first clothes (and my Barbie’s clothes). I have the one a friend of mine just before she died of breast cancer. And, finally, I have the one I bought at the flea market for me to use.

I know, I know. . .it doesn't look evil.

I had delusions I was going to master The Beast and learn, once and for all, how to sew without ending up in the emergency room, the psych ward, or in an alley sipping Mad Dog. My mother says it has a sweet stitch. I just roll my eyes at her and look for a crucifix to hang from the thread holder.

Other than the Ring Bearer dress, I have spent more time screaming at this machine than all of the computers I’ve fixed combined. (That’s a lot of ‘puters – many of them running Windows 98.)

After cleaning the Cantankerous Clothing Constructor, I got out my fabric – yards and yards of a blue I bought years ago that I intended to be a dress, but came to my senses before making the first cut. Today’s project was a simple, no frills, feather bed cover.

For those of you playing along at home, you will need:

  • Sewing (shudder) Machine
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Feather Bed (Badly stained by coffee not required.)
  • Aspirin
  • Jim Beam

Pay no attention to the coffee stains.

Luckily, the fabric was exactly the right width. It was a little too long, but I decided to deal with that problem at the end since I had no idea how I expected to fasten the thing.

The plan was simple – fold in half, sew two sides, stuff the feather bed in there, figure out later how to button it or zip it or velcro it. What could go wrong?

Well. It took me 45 minutes to thread the machine. [I have GOT to get my eyes checked.]

After that, I took the aspirin to ward off the coming concussion and splashed the liquor in my coffee to settle my nerves. Sure enough. The Damned Thing wouldn’t go. It hummed and buzzed and carried on like any good demon, but the presser foot would not advance – the needle wouldn’t move. Since I’ve never had a manual, I’m flying blind. I dial knobs around and flip switches and curse like a Marine just out of Boot Camp when finally it decided to play my silly game and let me sew.

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

I did one whole side without a problem. I gaped in astonishment. Almost always, the bobbin gets the evil vapors and tangles, breaks, snaps needles, etc. Nothing. Quietly, I said to myself, “Maybe it doesn’t know it’s me on the foot pedal.”

I started the second side. Things went amazingly well, until. . .

When I was six inches from the end, the bobbin roared curses of damnation and I spent more time sewing that last six inches than it would have taken to hand sew, but it was the principle of the thing. You know?

I took the cover and, with much grunting and groaning (king-sized feather beds are heavy), I pushed, pulled, shoved and willed it into the case.

Damn, I’m good. It looked like I had wanted it to. (I don’t have high standards when it comes to my sewing.)

I'm ready for Three Dog Nights now!

Still having no idea how to fasten the ends so I can get the cover on and off for laundering, I dragged it downstairs to drape over the back of the sofa. Since painting this room, the family room is now my favorite.

After three days without heat, I had resolved that I would never be driven from this room by cold again.  Four inches of goose down and three puppies ought to keep me warm, don’t you think?

Well. I didn’t think this plan through. (Ha! Like that’s news.) The big, bulky feather bed did not look aesthetically pleasing on the back of the sofa.

It looked right stupid.

Plan B

I folded it in half, placed it in front of the atrium door where the dogs lay, wallowed on it (oh it’s wonderful – feather beds are a treasure) and hollered for puppies. The little beasties now have the Cadillac of dog beds. They’re well pleased with their surprise.

The Cadillac of Dog Beds

And I suppose should I lose heat again, the dogs and I can drag that thing onto the sofa and all wallow together. I’ll have to remember to wash that cover often – at least until spring.

The good news? I’m just tucking the ends under. If it’s a dog bed cover now, I’m going to have to wash it twice a week – it’ll save time if I can get that sucker out of there fast.

The other good news? I bested The Beelzebub of Bobbinhood. Let’s hope I don’t develop a sense of false competence and push my luck.

Brain Wave Theory of Machines


The Brain Wave Theory of Machines is really very simple. If the user of a machine is experiencing frustration and/or active stress, any machine in contact with that person will malfunction. It is simple neurophysics – the brain runs on electricity as do most machines. When brain synapses fire signals of frustration and haste, a machine in use will mirror the former and oppose the latter.

The formula looks something like this:

Y=(A/D)(SC) 2


For the mathematically impaired:

You Banging Head Against Wall and Threatening to Move to a Mexican Beach is equal to Abject Dismay Provoked By To-Do List divided by Impending Deadline which is then multiplied by the squared sum of Hours of Sleep Deficit added to the Critical Nature of Task (expressed to two decimal points).


In real life, this is represented by yours truly needing to mail 640 fundraising letters which are already 3 days behind schedule. The printer, usually a sweetheart, is jamming on every envelope and, like a good overachiever, refusing access to the paper tray.

It’s a simple task. I should be able to feed envelopes in the printer, take them out of the hopper, stuff them with the already printed letter, and toodle on down the road to the post office after which I could cross off the most pressing thing on my task list.

During my sojourn in academia, I never quite believed the students when they arrived with increasingly bizarre stories about computers and printers the night before a paper was due or new cars that wouldn’t start the morning of a final exam.  Their obvious sincerity gave me pause, but still. . .the stories were just too over-the-top.

Then one day as I was fighting with the copy machine moments before a midterm, it all clicked and the Brain Wave Theory of Machines was postulated.

Normally, the best way to handle one of these events is to close the door on the machine and go to lunch for 4 hours, returning whistling and cheerful with a sense of having all the time in the world. This strategy will spread the cheer to the machine, but in the inverse relationship, alluded to but not expressed in correct scientific notation, encourage the machine to complete all tasks in record time.

Instead, I spent 4 hours printing 11 envelopes including time spent dismantling and reassembling the machine, two hours in tech support chat, 1 hour cursing, 20 minutes kicking the machine, and 19 minutes eating chocolate. As the day wound to a close, it found me explaining to a live-action-in-my-office-service-tech the nature of the problem.

Contrary to a typical Brain Wave Machine Event, the service tech immediately identified the problem, but, in more typical fashion, is bumfuzzled as to how to fix it.

It was my mistake. I was so stressed, I failed to apply the correct strategy to resolve and reverse the brain waves. My bad (<– an expression I despise).

Tomorrow, I will try again. [Cue Tomorrow from Annie here.]