Thirteen Ways of Looking at A Pattern

by Erin on February 6, 2012


Among twenty boxes of patterns

The only desired thing

Is that pattern, over there, on the Internet.



I had three ideas

Like a table

On which ten patterns are hopelessly jumbled.



The pattern lies wrinkled on the floor.

It was a small part of the shambles.



An idea and a pattern 

Are one.

An idea and a pattern and two yards of Tana Lawn

Are one.



I do not know which to prefer,

The beauty of the line 

Or the beauty of the fold,

The girl in the illustration,

Or the dress made flesh.



Pins scatter themselves

With ill intent.

The lines of the pattern

Break and clash.

The plaid

Underneath it all

A matchless question.



O thin women of Vogue

Why do you imagine harem pants?

Do you not see how the full skirts

Swirl around the knees 

Of the women about you?



I know welt pockets 

And gently rolling collars;

But I know, too,

That the pattern doesn't know

What I don't know.



When the facing piece disappeared

It marked the end

Of following instructions.



At the sight of the name

"Ceil Chapman"

Even those who draft for themselves

Hit the "Buy It Now" button.



She floored the pedal

Of the machine.

Once, a fear pierced her

In that she mistook

The back bodice of 4788

For that of 8744.



The pattern is motionless.

The scissors must be snipping.



It was almost finished all day.

It was done and almost done.

The pattern did not

Fit back in the envelope.


[with apologies]

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

KC February 6, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Awesome. Just. Awesome.


What-I-Found February 6, 2012 at 9:19 pm

It’s just a facing.
One piece missing.
Is this pattern is worth saving?
Judgement call.


Kelly February 6, 2012 at 9:21 pm

Oh, well done! I have loved Stevens’ blackbirds for years, and admit I grinned hugely at “O thin women of Vogue…”


Mary February 6, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Erin, wonderful! Thanks for the creative burst I received when reading this!


Anna February 6, 2012 at 10:29 pm



StephC February 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Wow. Erin, I have been reading your blog for years and years and years. Your writing always inspires me, and I find I print off your posts sometimes and give them to my sewing students. (Plaid = Joy changed my whole concept of dressing and personal style.)

This is wonderful. This goes on my wall. Thank you.


Catherine Daze February 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm



Laura Mae February 7, 2012 at 12:52 am

Oh my goodness – I have to say I can relate to that first one. I certainly do not NEED to buy any more patterns, and yet the one just out of reach always seems to be absolute perfection! And once I have it, something else comes along . . .

Thank you for sharing this – and letting us know we are not alone in our obsession with Ceil Chapman!


Nada February 7, 2012 at 1:38 am



A Peppermint Penguin February 7, 2012 at 1:43 am

yep, Awesome is the word.


Zoe February 7, 2012 at 1:50 am



Julia February 7, 2012 at 5:03 am

Oh my goodness, this made me so happy this morning!


Cel February 7, 2012 at 6:16 am

dressmaking-poetics, Thanks!


Jennifer February 7, 2012 at 6:25 am

deep sigh of satisfaction – your art has percolated all through your being – this is a full expression of you.


barbara February 7, 2012 at 7:08 am

With hopes you’ll tackle Gerard Manley Hopkins and William Carlos Williams next. This is so wonderful!


Kevin Knudson February 7, 2012 at 7:44 am

that Stevens poem is one of my favorites. well done.

also, i seem to recall a poem in our high school literary magazine written by one Erin McKean called “With apologies to William Carlos Williams”. i remember only that it was funny (i can’t find my copy these days).


Susan Denney February 7, 2012 at 7:47 am

Wonderful! I’ll share this with my husband, the poet. Maybe it will help him understand my obsession a little better.


Heather February 7, 2012 at 8:14 am

I love it!


Becky Brown February 7, 2012 at 8:21 am

Wonderful. What fun.

The blackbirds are all jealous of this!



Krista February 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

This is brilliant!


Erin February 7, 2012 at 9:04 am

Kevin, I forgot all about that! I’m sure I have a copy somewhere, I’ll have to dig it up …


Elizabeth February 7, 2012 at 9:58 am



Abby February 7, 2012 at 10:17 am

I love this, and am putting it on the wall of my sewing room ASAP! Thank you for sharing!


Ruthanne February 7, 2012 at 1:12 pm

You, my dear, win the interwebs! That is just awesome and I am sharing.


paisleyapron February 7, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Sigh—this combination of two of my favorite things, poetry and sewing, is so satisfying. I’m sticking this in my inspiration binder that’s already full of pictures of dresses. Thanks to you.


Lucy February 7, 2012 at 7:42 pm

There are actually 14 ways of looking at a pattern if you include the poem itself. This is fantastic – I’ve never thought of patterns or sewing as being particularly poetic.

Though I do manage to come up with some very creative swear words, and combinations thereof, from time to time.


Amelia February 7, 2012 at 8:55 pm

wonderful – thank you!


Eirlys February 8, 2012 at 3:04 am

Could you redraft it all in lowercase, please, ee mckeen?

Wow! Hand will be permanently tugging my forelock all day now in veneration of your immense talent…


Caroline February 8, 2012 at 3:41 am

I LOVE this! The last two lines in particular made me laugh out loud!


the doodler February 8, 2012 at 6:53 am

This makes me unreasonably happy. 😀


Karen February 8, 2012 at 7:34 am

The one who dies with most patterns – WINS! Thanks for putting some of their charm into poetry!


Teddi February 8, 2012 at 9:08 am

I love it! Thanks for sharing it!


The Coffee Lady February 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Fantastic. I’ve been lurking for ages, but this one forced me out of hiding.


Melanie February 9, 2012 at 1:06 am

First thing to cheer me up today. Thank you!


Karen February 9, 2012 at 7:14 am

I have been reading and lurking for years but this could not pass without a comment. You win at LIFE for doing this.


Lynn February 9, 2012 at 11:07 am

Perfect! I can especially relate to the first one. I have so many untouched patterns and I keep seeing more that I want. Thank goodness they make them multi-size now.


Sneza February 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm



Valentine wishes February 10, 2012 at 3:26 am

Erin, wonderful! Thanks for the creative burst I received when reading this!


CarpeAcum February 11, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Love this.


allison February 19, 2012 at 6:48 am

I’m tickled that there are so many other folks out there who are A. sewing fans and B. get this reference! I wish we all lived near each other (or you all lived in St. Louis)!


Norma February 21, 2012 at 8:36 am

Love love love, every single line. (Good poetry always is about truth!)


Laura February 28, 2012 at 6:46 pm

So true! Only just discovered your blog, really looking forward to reading some older posts.


Monika Riney March 8, 2012 at 6:20 am

OMG! Just discovered you blog. I LOVE that you did this with Stevens!!!!!


Rachael Sarah Williams March 10, 2012 at 10:37 am

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMG! This is AWESOME! Thank you for the Wallace Stevens parody–this writer and English professor thanks you. :-)


Eirini March 29, 2012 at 3:11 am

I loved your almost-haiku’s – so creative, humorous and true!


Carol April 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm

SMilinG. Still….wait…still smiling.


macrolancer May 19, 2012 at 10:13 am



Melwyk August 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm

If you made a print of this poem I would buy it :)


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