I run, I craft, I write, and I make your favorite clothes.

I have written books about sewing for children and adults and I'm the indie designer’s patternmaking secret weapon. I've taught video and in-person classes to anyone who would listen since 2008. I believe that sewing clothes is a radical act of self-love that increases your sense of self-worth. I'm basically your sewing fairy godmother.

the importance of hands vs. the power of fear

Pin It!

This summer, while I was away in Grand Haven with my mom and my kids, I was doing a bit of writing and a lot of thinking about what is important to me.  I am involved in a truly remarkable course, with some wonderful classmates, lead by the incomparable Sarah J Bray. (It’s called Tour de Bliss, and if you don’t see a lot here on my blog, it’s because I’m actually working instead of just writing about working, thanks to Sarah.)

Sarah asked a question in an audio note to the effect of: what was something that inspired delight?  I don’t remember the exact comment, but I remember my reaction…She made a remark about how we don’t just look at our hands and delight in having hands every day… when I realized that I do!  I am delighted and appreciative of my hands every single day.  I love that I can make anything I invent in my head. I am truly delighted in the dexterity and skill I have in my hands (especially compared to the rest of my clumsy, slightly awkward self.)  I Make Beautiful Things using these hands of mine. Child-sized hands they may be, but they are strong.

A month or so ago, I was given an industrial sewing machine by some friends of mine.  Coincidentally, another dear friend rented a studio in Ferndale (one of my favorite towns!) and said I could keep this new-to-me machine there.  I will also be teaching classes at this studio in Ferndale starting in the new year, so I am grateful to have an on-site machine.

All of this was falling into place in the last couple of weeks.  I felt charmed. My sweet Peter cleaned the machine table and motor which had been sitting in a shop, dusty and greasy for years, and helped me move it to Ferndale.  On Tuesday of last week I went to set up my new machine. I lifted the sewing head back so I could begin threading the bobbin when it fell closed onto my hand. This resulted in my having amputated the top of my middle finger on my dominant hand.

Janna arrived just in time to ride in the ambulance with me, and called J to come meet us there.  After a harrowing 7 hours in a local emergency room and multiple phone calls in search of a reputable hand surgeon I was released home. The doctors couldn’t reattach the piece I broke from my finger, even though the paramedics rescued it from the oil pan of the sewing machine.  J took me over to the studio to pick up my car keys, where we found that the building super had already cleaned up the blood from the room and my machine.   I am so grateful to have friends, loved ones, and strangers alike, all looking out for me.  

I couldn’t sleep the first couple nights after the accident.  Every time I closed my eyes, I pictured the moment I pulled my hand away from the table in horror.  Day or night, the gruesome images reappeared, every single time I closed my eyes. 

By Thursday I had had enough. I decided I wasn’t willing to let fear control any part of me, even subconsciously, and went to face my demon.   I drove over to the studio and sat in front of the machine.  I talked to it. I told it we had to be friends and that it needed to know that I am the boss of it, not the other way around.

I expected Janna later in the afternoon, so I put together a table while I waited for her.  When she arrived I asked her to help steady the machine open so I could finish threading it – right where I left off 2 days earlier.  We closed it together, gently, and I sewed some test scraps to test it out.

I went back today and sewed some more. I will not let this or anything keep me from a life of hand-making.  I simply refuse.  I discovered that I am not afraid – of anything.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Leave a Comment

Cancel reply

  • Michelle December 18, 2012, 8:04 pm

    I admire you, Karen, for facing something that would beat the best of us, and for relating your story to help others do the same. Love, light and healing to you, my friend!


  • julochka December 18, 2012, 8:54 pm

    wow! what a story! i saw your doctor-related post on FB, but had no idea! You are very brave and i think that’s awesome!! it’s really true, when you fall off the horse, you have to get right back on! i’m glad you can still sew!


  • Doris Reed December 18, 2012, 8:55 pm

    A powerful piece of writing. I think you’ve been amazing all through this,
    even able to have a bit of sense of humor amist the trauma. Sharing that you
    were afraid and have faced that fear to a such a good conclusion, is helpful to
    others….Happy for you to be able to do that. I know with your determination,
    you will succeed at all your creative endeavers. So proud of you.

  • Sarah J. Bray December 18, 2012, 10:17 pm

    Karen, you inspire me. You and your beautiful hands.

  • Jenny Yarbrough December 18, 2012, 10:25 pm

    Oh my goodness, Karen, I had no idea this had happened to you! I cannot believe this! I am so proud of you for getting back in front of that machine and showing it who’s boss. So very proud! You create beautiful things and you will continue to do so. I have no doubt. Hope to hear from you soon! Hugs from Nashville.


  • Michelle December 18, 2012, 11:17 pm

    Wow Karen! How traumatic for you. I’m glad you are working throug it with a positive and grateful attitude. Thanks for sharing :-)

  • Steve December 19, 2012, 2:25 am

    When the world spits in our face, some of us withdraw and cower. But some step up and proudly wipe off their face and get stronger. Making the choice to be the later person is a hard choice, and even harder to follow through with –but those who do so find that they can do just about anything. I’ve always found Karen to be the later and this is just another example of that. The famous intellectual Rocky Balboa once said, “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” Sometimes when bad things happen we feel like we’re losing, but, Karen, I think you’re winning.

  • Jodi December 19, 2012, 4:34 am

    I am honored to call such a couragous woman a friend. :)

    Blessings for you and your physical and emotional recovery.

  • Leila December 19, 2012, 2:09 pm

    Now I see what you mean about yours biting. I’m so so sorry this happened. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Annie December 19, 2012, 2:34 pm

    Love to you my brave sweet talented amazing friend.

  • Tracy December 19, 2012, 6:16 pm

    I really don’t think I would have been able to face the demon machine so quickly. You’re a rare bird, my friend. Jumping in, telling the rest of us the water isn’t that cold. We have no choice but to believe and follow you, because you look so comfortable and relaxed.

    Just like everyone else replying to your blog post, I agree that you are strong. But it’s more than just strength. You are tenacious. I can see you in your studio…..first, you probably said a few choice words. Then through the pain, in the back of your mind you were wondering when you could start sewing again. That’s how truly amazing you are.

    Now, get to sewing that new hand scarf, because if there’s one person that can make amputation fashionable it’s you. Just don’t make it too nice……(keep in mind what I said about the water).

    Sending you love and hugs across the country,

  • Bethany December 20, 2012, 5:46 pm

    Karen, I somehow missed that this had happened to you this past week! I’m sorry this happened, but know that your strength and courage will always guide you through every challenge you might have in life and you will continue to succeed in all your endeavors and inspire others no matter what! xoxo

  • Bari January 2, 2013, 6:14 pm

    Oh my gosh, Karen. So sorry to hear this. I’m also glad to hear you haven’t let it get the better of you. I hope the memory and pain subsides soon. Lots of love, Bari

  • Sister Diane January 2, 2013, 6:25 pm

    Holy Moly, Karen. I’m so sorry this happened, and yet I’m deeply inspired by the way you’re handling it. Thank you for sharing this story with us. I know this event won’t diminish the beauty of your work one tiny bit.

  • Shannon January 2, 2013, 6:55 pm

    Awwww Karen, you are so strong and brave! I had a close friend cut open her entire hand/thumb area when a ceiling lamp broke above her from her wee one throwing a toy at it. She wasn’t sure she would ever sew again and that is how she makes her living designing/selling purses and handbags. She healed, got over her fear and worked her butt off to be able to use her hand again. She’s now sewing more than ever.

    Big hugs and you take that hand out and rock it girl. Own it and keep on showing that machine who’s boss.

  • Lisa Firke January 3, 2013, 12:47 am

    Proud of you. Extra big hugs.

  • Lindsay Wilkes - The Cottage Mama January 5, 2013, 12:31 am

    I am so sorry for what happened, but what an amazing piece you have written. I admire you. I honestly don’t know that I could have done what you did so soon after it happened. I’ve never thought about my hands in that way, but wow, I won’t take them for granted. ever. again.


Previous Post:

Next Post: