Bias Binding

Needlework was every Thursday afternoon-
two sessions of tissue paper patterns in the sewing room,
tailors chalk, darts, and dressmakers scissors,
black treadle machines with Silko thread spinners.

Cut your skirts on the bias to give them a flare!
The teacher spoke with a flick and a stare.
Remember the seams are five eight of an inch
and your darts must taper and measure each stitch

and use bias binding to bind all your seams
because if they unravel the whole things in ruins.
This item of clothing you’ve carefully made
might not fit the pattern to which it was laid

I cut on the bias, I wanted the flare
and I bound all the seams, for the pattern I’d wear.
I wanted to fit, to live a good life,
to be a good worker, good daughter, good wife.

Then the bias flared everywhere, unquestioned, unspoken.
The seams of my life it seemed should not be broken.
Their suits were more tailored, more monied, more powered.
I treadled much faster, but dressmaking soured

Unbinding the binding was painful and slow.
I’d screwed up the pattern, didn’t know where to go.
Stitch by slow stitch, and with no apologies,
though frayed and misshapen I uncovered me…..

Unbound now and free.

Eileen Neil