Lillian Lee – wannabee writer, single mother and handicapped budget maker
There are some hard times out there. Hard times call for adjustments and budgeting especially when you’re a single mom with a very limited income. When you’re also young or at least believe yourself in that category still, you have to be creative to keep up with fashion and with the people around.
The problem comes when you’ve never really learnt how to budget what you have and how to do everything you could to make ends meet.
I thought hard and came up with a solution: I will start making my own clothes. In a way or another, I will manage to save money and to keep up with the changes in the world around me.
First try: a beautiful yellow dress with huge leaves splattered all over the place. I saw the fabric in a store nearby and I had an interesting model in my mind: it was simple and sassy. No big deal, I thought and I made the calculations and saw that I would actually save quite a lot of money by buying the fabric and sew the dress myself.
I measured myself and then I measured the fabric, not once but at least three times to be sure. I cut through the fabric with the model in mind and then I started sewing the pieces together. It was hard work, requiring a lot of patience and that is something that I don’t have in high supply in stock. However, I persevered.
After days of painstakingly sewing with care so no one could see the dress was handmade, I finished it and I was in terrible awe. It looked as great as I thought it would. Then, the disappointment hit: it didn’t fit me.
I tried to put it on but it was a lost battle. It seemed that the measurements were somehow skewed.
For a moment there, I thought to cut it and make a skirt out of it. I could have used parts of the fabric from the top to insert panels in the skirt.
I couldn’t do it. The dress was too fluid and too elegant to be messed with. With a sigh of regret, I offered it to my sister who is about thirty pounds lighter than I. The dress looked perfect on her, and not only the color or the pattern but also the model.
So, that was strike one. My budget was more burdened and I was in the red.
Then I thought I’d try something else. Knitting seemed harmless and I had control over the size. The only setback was the fact that I had never learnt how to knit. When it came to that, it looked like I had two left hands.
That didn’t stop me. I borrowed a book from the library. It spelled everything out and also offered ideas. I chose something not very difficult but not very simple either. I was looking for class as well, not only for economy.
It took me a few days to learn how to start. If I were to be honest, I should say that it took me about two weeks. Then I started knitting following the model in the book.
I was thinking of knitting a blouse that would work in spring and in autumn as well, but that could be worn also in summer if I had a chance to go to the mountains. Fat chance that but I always thought it was better to dream and hope than to let yourself drown in melancholy.
I worked hard for a few more weeks. The progress was steady even though quite minimal. Finally I got to the sleeves part. That sank me.
I tried everything in my power, I counted and I checked the book again. By now, I had already had to borrow it twice. Nothing worked. I knitted and then, I started all over again a few times. In the end, I decided to ask for help so I went to an aunt and asked her how to do the sleeves.
She lectured for about an hour and half. My eyes grew glassy and my mind went numb. I couldn’t follow the lecture that was embellished with all sorts of advice on housework matters. I hoped at least that she’d start working on the sleeves and then, with my analytical mind – who am I kidding? I don’t really have an analytical mind - I could replicate what she did. However, she didn’t. She only lectured.
I left her house with a terrible headache and with an unsolved problem.
Nevertheless, I decided not to throw the towel yet. I went home and took out my little black book and started going through all the people I knew. I was sure I could find at least one who would be able to help me.
After another hour, I had to give up. There was no one there. None of my friends would have had the time or inclination to knit.
The next step was to take the phone and call one of my close friends to complain about the impossibility of finding a way to be well dressed and preserve my miser budget as well. I told her about my try to knit the blouse and my inability to pass over the sleeves. And then she stunned me. She told me her husband was a genius when it came to knitting and that he would be happy to help me.
I don’t really know how happy he was, but I ran immediately to their house, not to lose my chance of finishing at least that blouse.
Indeed, he was a genius at knitting. However, he was far away from a genius when it came to explaining. In the end, exhausted and exasperated, he gave up showing me and he knitted the sleeves himself. He had speed and accuracy. I couldn’t even see the moves. Everything was blurry.
I was very grateful. The only thing to do now was to sew the entire thing up and I would have had a blouse. He asked me though not to come back with any knitting projects and that brought an end to my knitting adventure.
So, I went back to analyzing the budget to see what I could do to save and still feel like I had everything I wanted.
After a few more days of creating columns and trying to reason with the figures that didn’t want to cooperate with me at all, I realized that there was only one way if I wanted to be in the budget: to say good bye to some of the things. No more new clothes at the beginning of the season, not that I had ever bought more than one or two, but anyway; no more going out every Saturday evening, because I had to choose between that and my son’s hockey practice, and no more second coffees during my work program. I had to live with one.
I had to hand the victory to the gloomy budget and to skulk away defeated. Nevertheless, I will come up with something that would help me enjoy life in a way or another.