Blue Belt Karateka, White Belt Seamstress

Karate Tailor

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.


I may have learned a lot of cool karate moves, but my sewing skills really need some work.

Between my own impatience and my wife having more important things to do, I decided I best start learning to sew patches on my karate uniforms myself. I did a little bit of sewing back in junior high when I was stuck in home ec (I was told industrial arts/shop didn’t fit in my schedule), but I don’t remember a thing. So I did what any other fine upstanding young tech geek would do and I asked Google.

Google pointed me to this WikiHow article. Nice. Is there anything the Internet can’t tell you how to do?

It can’t teach you how to sew, apparently.

The article is a good guide, but that doesn’t mean your fingers work the right way. Tying a knot in clear thread is a lot harder than it looks, and is even harder when you get frustrated with the posted method and decide to outsmart the thread. I tried using a double knot, but all that did was give my wife a good laugh. When she calmed down, she showed me how to do it right.

The stitching itself wasn’t so bad. At least, not on my 6-ounce cotton student gi. My brand new, 14-ounce cotton Tokaido Arashi was another story. In pushing the needle through an overlapped seam and a patch, I discovered even the eye of the needle will punch through human flesh.

That’s when I decided to make a more concerted effort to puzzle out the use of the thimble.

This was especially useful when I sewed on my last patch (my brand spanking new Assistant Instructor patch) on Sunday. The manufacturers, in their infinite wisdom, put a plastic coating on the back of the patch, presumably to keep it from coming apart. This also makes the patch stiffer, and thus harder to push a needle through.

Stitch stitch stitch OW! Stitch stitch stitch OW! Stitch stitch stitch OW! Stich stitch… You get the idea. I thought a thicker needle might help, but the holes don’t close so easily in the 14-ounce cotton, so the knot popped through. Back to the smaller needle, and I don’t skewer myself on the eye again.

I made it, though. And by some miracle, I didn’t get one bloodstain on the gi. If I get voted into the school’s SWAT Team after attending some Black Belt Club workouts, I’ll get another patch.

I can’t decide if I’m looking forward to it or dreading it.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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