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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

sew awesome

my gram is a super duper sewing goddess. she's been a seamstress since she was in her teens, and the rest of us have always been in awe of her skillz. she can look at a garment, turn it inside out, scribble a few lines on a piece of paper, and turn out an exact copy within a day or two. that's some shit, right? and halloween costumes were always stellar in our family because of her. unfortunately, none of us seem to have inherited even a fraction of her talent. bummer.

when i was in the third grade, i decided to try my hand at the sewing thing. i sat at her machine and stitched together scraps of material to get the hang of how to control it, and then moved on to cutting out squares and sewing them together to create purses. oh, yes - i was quite the handbag fanatic, even then. gram warned me every time i sat down to be careful, pay close attention to what i was doing, and be aware of the power of that machine i was so nonchalantly running. i just smiled and nodded, completely confident in my 8-year-old abilities, never imagining that anything would ever happen.

and then one day, i was working on something - probably another purse made from leftover fabric gram had used for one of her creations - and tragedy struck. my foot was on the pedal, sewing merrily along, i looked away for an instant, and the needle went straight through my finger and broke right off of the machine.

i pulled my hand back in horror, clutched at the wrist with my other hand, and ran. i hid behind a chair, flipping out in silence, but when i caught sight of my gram coming around the corner, i cracked.

"nanay! it happened, it happened!" i wailed, holding my sewing needle-impaled digit out for her to see.

with her typical calmness, she put on her glasses, inspected my injury, and sat me down while she plucked the thin piece of metal out of my finger with a pair of pliers she'd fished out of a nearby drawer. i got a band-aid on it, sat down in a corner, and pouted as she quietly replaced the needle in the machine and got back to work.

i didn't sit down at a sewing machine again for AGES.

i gave it a shot again about 15 years ago, before the teen was born. one of my friends at work had bought herself a fancy-schmancy machine and was crowing about all the fun shit she was making, and i decided it was time to try again. and for the most part, i was successful - i bought all the essentials and a handful of basic clothing patterns and turned out a few pieces that i wore once or twice. but it didn't take long for me to lose interest again, after getting frustrated over technical terms, not really knowing what i was doing, and admittedly taking on more than i could handle. it also didn't help that i wore a dress i'd made to a family gathering, and ended up having to say "no, i'm not pregnant" about half a dozen times. d-oh!

fast-forward to today. of course, amber has been a huge inspiration in lighting that sewing fire in me again, but what clinched it was that awesome kate spade LBD that the hub bought for me to wear to his client dinner over the holidays. i inspected that dress closely and realized that the thing was comprised of about five pieces of cut material, plus the lining. it was such a simple design, and yet it had cost triple digits. with the plethora of cute, modern clothing patterns so readily available nowadays, i knew it was time to jump back into the sewing world.

and now, with two comprehensive sewing lessons now under my belt, i'm ready! i'm all edumucated on my machine and all its functions, which presser foot to use for that application, the proper way to sew a button, buttonhole, and zipper, and what stitch to use for various pattern pieces. i feel much more confident about it this time, because i actually had someone who sat down with me and showed me step-by-step how to do the basics, and as i read through pattern directions, i actually understand what i need to do.

of course, i'm still me. and as i cut out the pieces for a very simple tote bag for the teen, i already managed to fuck it up by 1) not pinning the pattern to the "wrong" side of the fabric, 2) forgetting completely to cut out the little notches that would help me match up the pieces, and 3) buying the wrong type of interfacing. eff, man.
and i have no excuse - the pattern i was using was from this line:

heh. but look at my cute little pink pouch of sewing tools! most of them are crap, but my seam ripper, pincushion and measuring tape are all pink. it was worth it for those items alone.

and, goober - i even took a picture of the pattern pinned to the incorrect side of the damn fabric. i'm also quite embarrassed to admit how long it took me to pin the stupid pattern piece properly. sheesh.

oh, well. at least i managed to cut the lining correctly.

i'd broken my own cardinal rule and went to - *gasp* - walmart to buy an iron. it was the last piece of equipment i needed before i could get going on my first project, and i have a really good iron. unfortunately, it's M.I.A. - buried deep in a bunch of boxes taken from the garage to storage only a few months ago. dang. so as much as i despise wally world, i knew their prices would be rock-bottom, and that's what i got. well, there was actually one for less than $7, but i just couldn't bring myself to buy it. it was just too basic. so i ponied up the $12 for this one.

once i'd gotten all the pieces cut out, marked, and laid out just right, i finally got down to business. and it was so nice to go through the pattern directions and understand each step. i'd been a little worried because i'd gotten confused by some of the instructions when i read them beforehand. and then i found that once i was actually sitting there with the project in my hands, they made much more sense. yay!

i sewed the darts (totally proud of me at this point), stitched the seams, trimmed them down, notched the curves, and managed to get it all together (including the lining!) without ever having to bust out that seam ripper. why is that important? well, that means i didn't fuck anything up - until i got to the very last part. i had a little trouble with sewing the webbing together to form the handle - it kept jamming and took a few tries before i realized that my thread was getting caught in the machine. once i got that fixed, it was smooth sailing - and my tote was all done!

i haven't sewed in a snap or anything to close the top of the bag yet. i'm actually thinking i might just leave it as is - it's quite big, and will work to hold a bunch of stuff. maybe a gym bag? or just a basic tote for those times when we pile into the car and take off on a road trip for the day, perhaps. i showed my creation proudly to the hub when he got home and his face lit up: "i don't have to buy you purses anymore! you can just make them! so hey, does that mean you can make clothes, too? you won't have to go shopping anymore! i'm really liking this new sewing hobby of yours. you should keep taking lessons and get really good at it!"

buttface. hmph.

so anyway, now i'm completely obsessed. now that i've successfully cleared the hurdle of my first [easy] project, i'm smitten and my fingers are itching to get started on something new. i keep thinking ahead to all the stuff i want to make and i'm so excited to see what i come up with!


  1. ouch, I cringed about your finger! The bag is so cute. I think you should leave it as is. I bought a bag from Etsy similar to that one but it has a closure and it's a pain.

  2. OMG the same thing happened to my finger about 1 year ago when I first got my machine! I love the tote you made.

  3. OMG the same thing happened to my finger about 1 year ago when I first got my machine! I love the tote you made.

  4. Love the bag (especially the inside)! Great job on the new sewing hobby, I totally need to follow your lead and start learning!

  5. Great job - the tote is adorable! I love to do dresses for my 3 year old. They are so cute and done in a day. If it isn't quick, I'm not doing it :)

  6. I sewed my finger too. Except I was in college. And my professor had to take me to the ER because the needle broke off even with the surface of my finger. Can you say EMBARRASSING!?

  7. Totally cute bag. Can we have a sewing GTG so that you and Amber can impart your sewing wisdom? Pretty please?

  8. I LOVE the bag! I wish I had the patientiene ( or time for that matter) to sit and make a bag like that for myself...I totally need one! Good Job!! :)

  9. If you're making Kate Spade dresses I'll take the polka dot one that's $395 on Nordstrom's website.

  10. love the bag!

    do i see an etsy store in your future?

  11. That bag is very cute!! My mom is a big sewer too; she made a lot of my clothes as a kid, and is a professional quilter now. I, on the other hand, suck at sewing. I did convince my mom to sew 2 of the curtains I was planning to make myself...she made me sew the 3rd one myself though. :)
    I look forward to seeing what else you make. And I might just have to pick up that tote bag pattern you used. :)

  12. I'm sorry :( I kept wondering why you took a picture of the bag inside out until I read Amber's comments . . . major failure on my part. Anyway, I think you did a really good job with the bag! (and feel free to make me a Kate Spade-look alike dress anytime)

  13. *two thumbs up* digging the bag-definitely digging it...its sew cute! Can you be my mommy?


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