Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Oh, we all knew it was coming

Tonight was, simply put, a frustrating one.

I was so excited to sew this evening that I could barely force myself to wait until "after" work (working from home makes the temptation somewhat difficult to manage). So as soon as 5 o'clock rolled around, I dashed out into the living room and started preparing to start and finish sewing my second pair of gauchos. The advantage of knowing what I was doing was remarkable and it was rewarding to see the seams line up all the way around (better cutting, pinning, or sewing? or all of the above?)...if only that was the whole story of the evening.

My first oops wasn't a big one (just happened to sew up the seam where the zipper goes)...but had I known that it was giving me a glimpse of the rest of the night...

Unfortunately I continued on to pin the yoke to the skirt with right side to wrong side...and didn't notice that little mistake until I sewed it. So, I set about ripping out the stitches (with scissors since my seam ripper seems to have grown legs) and breathed a huge sigh of relief as I pulled the last stitch free. Of course, it was at that point that I realized I had removed the wrong piece. Ahh! I decided to take some deep breaths and remember my discovery that mishaps are good and lead to humorous stories :)

I kept on trucking, ignoring that nagging voice in the back of my head telling me to stop while I was ahead (ha!), and found it easier as more went smoothly. The zipper was, again, easy and I decided to ignore the pattern on the slipstitch portion and just deal with visible stitches. Since my pieces fit together correctly and I already knew how best to do it, the conversion to gauchos was quite simple. Of course, the hem still proved to be an onerous task, but I had a game plan so it went as quickly as possible.

At this point, you may be wondering if it was really as bad as I claim. My next frustration came when my bobbin thread ran out about half way around the second leg's hem...and I didn't notice until I thought I had finished. I redid that and began the final step of cutting off the excess. It was at that point that I had the "fight the tears while throwing the project across the room and swearing off sewing" moment. In my haste to be finished, I cut through one of the pant legs. Cursed sharp scissors.

Needless to say, I'm sitting in bed writing this in an attempt to enjoy the humor of the situation and calm myself before trying to sleep, with a completed pair of a hole in one leg. But hey, the "distressed" look is trendy now, right?

Monday, April 26, 2010

And Next Comes...

....another pair of gaucho pants. This was not a conscious decision by any means, but it has been decided nonetheless.

As I wrapped up my work day I flipped and flopped on what my next project would be. A skirt? That should be remarkably quick and easy. The linen pants that convert to capris? That would continue me down that freeing path of "letting loose." A repeat of the last? At least I wouldn't forget what I did the first time before I made the second pair. I just couldn't decide. Giving myself an excuse for procrastination (one of my fortes in life), I compiled a nice, organized list of everything I would need for the remainder of my projects. I even thought to add some white broadcloth to use for a liner on the white linen skirt. Thank you white linen pants for giving me that idea! I grabbed a jacket and headed out to my new favorite store!

Now, Hancock Fabrics is my favorite store
due only to the selection and general trouble I can get myself into wandering around alone. It certainly has nothing to do with timely service, as I've never gotten out of there without having to wait at least once for around 5 minutes. I don't mind so much because it somehow always appears to be poor timing on my part, and the employees are always busy helping someone...and because I can drool over all the fun fabrics and toys while I'm waiting. Tonight had its share of waiting and then some, so, about 45 minutes later I was leaving Hancock with everything I needed (sad, it looks like I won't be back for a while), but still no idea what I wanted to make.

In another effort to stall and also because I splurged and bought some sewing sheers (30% off!!), I decided I would just cut out the pieces for everything tonight while I watched some movies. I started Three to Tango on Netflix (I find it best to watch movies that require minimal brain power while I'm sewing), grabbed the ironing board, and started ironing the first piece of fabric in my pile. It was the gorgeous brown, lightweight cotton that I bought for my second pair of gauchos. After some confusingly mismatched pieces with my first pattern, I decided I should bump "accurate cutting" a little higher on the list of I pinned the pattern to the fabric before cutting. I don't know if it was the pinning or the new scissors, but this process was exponentially better than last time. Granted, they're still a little askew - was I always bad with scissors, Mom? - but they're recognizably matching pieces this go around. Unfortunately, increasing accuracy takes a serious toll on speed.

About two hours later (and a little ways in to Easy Virtue - not quite what I was expecting), I finished with the pieces for the gauchos and promptly decided that was enough cutting for one evening. See how easy decision making can be sometimes? Since I had the rest of the movie ahead of me, I sat down and pinned everything together so I'm ready to hit the ground running...tomorrow? Perhaps these will be a two night project?

And just to toot my own horn a little: not only was I a good girl because I pinned the pattern before cutting, but I also marked all those symbols for zippers, what makes the center seams, and even which pieces are front and which are back! I suspect this will go much more smoothly...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Finished Product

You'll never believe it...I actually finished my project yesterday! Upon completion, my head was pounding, my eyes were tired, and my hands and wrists were on fire (hence the day late post), but I finished!

After an enlightening email from Mom Friday evening explaining her method of sewing in zippers, I sat down yesterday afternoon feeling very good about where things should have been headed. Granted, I still had to figure out how to set the machine for a basting stitch, and then actually accomplish the "simple" sewing in of the zipper, but still, I felt good. I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 1/2 hrs searching online and sifting through various Memory Craft user manuals, but never found any mention of basting or adjusting the stitch length. I suppose this is yet another thing that they assume you already know how to do. I gave up on the internet, grabbed some scraps, and decided to just play with dials and knobs that weren't marked (keeping note of where they were to start with like the good girl that I am) and see what everything was. After 10 minutes of pure terror and fighting back the tears, I learned that the little black dial inside the top of the machine adjusts the backlight for the touch screen display. I spun it (there are no markings whatsoever on this dial, so I had no way to know what the "original" setting was), got distracted by Daniel for a minute or two, and looked back to have a display that didn't work. Talk about a bad feeling! I thought I'd managed to break the sewing machine already! Luckily, after a few minutes of panicky self-pity, I pulled it together and realized that that little black dial must have been the culprit. Being right has never felt better! Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but still.
After a little more stumbling around, I came across two symbols on the touch screen that could potentially represent stitch width and stitch length...and what do you know? Right again! At this point I was feeling pretty confident and even a little cocky that this would all go wonderfully. All we have to fear is fear itself, right? Wrong. As it would turn out, I found my fear when out of 30 or so presser feet, nothing even remotely resembled any zipper foot I've ever seen (which would probably amount to 1 or 2). Of course, I was dialing Mom before the negativity could really settle in, took pictures of everything I had that I thought could possibly work, and emailed them to her. She set me straight in about 15 minutes (turns out Janome zipper feet look a bit different and I actually have one!) and I sat back down with some new found determination. Daniel, bless his heart, helped me figure out how to change the presser foot - all the confounded squeeze things and springs are lightyears beyond my old '57 Singer - I had my basting stitch ready to go, and I was off! The zipper might not be the prettiest...I sewed in a couple ripples and it has a little bit of a curl to it...but it lines up and it zips!
Once that was finished, I got to the point of the instructions that truly caused my heart to sink. Slipstitch. Are you kidding me? I have to slipstitch the bottom line of the yoke facing to the yoke? Desperately, I went back to my trusty Google hoping to find a way to do this with the machine. No dice. My hand stitching is abysmal. Partly because I've just never been good at it (I suppose a lack of patience is to blame there), and partly because tendonitis has taken its toll on whatever endurance and dexterity I had. I inched my way around the skirt, slowly but surely, and heaved a sigh of relief after I finished somewhere just under two hours later. The hand stitching wasn't quite over yet - I still had to attached the hook and eye. How hard could that be, right? I think that actually gave me more problems than the zipper! Granted, it was, again, a dexterity issue rather than sheer difficulty. But alas, the skirt was finished, it fit, everything worked correctly, and it was the lightest, most comfortable thing I'd ever worn. Perfect for trekking through the jungle in Belize! Well, almost. As I was twirling around, I remembered that skirts aren't particularly conducive to hiking...hence the plan to make this into a pair of gaucho pants. This was the part of the project that I had been simultaneously terrified and thrilled by - throwing caution to the wind and winging it. Not something I do well, but actually something I am actively trying to improve upon. So, with the skirt on inside out (you wouldn't believe how confusing a zipper is backwards!), I pinned out the "legs", took it to the machine and thinking ahead, did a preliminary basting line to try it out. It looked good, so I moved forward with new seams, cut the legs out, took in a little in the lower belly where it pooched a little since skirts don't really cut in anywhere, and TA-DA! Gaucho pants! Well, almost. I still had to do the hem, which turned out to be back wrenching standing over the ironing board measuring, pinning, pressing, measuring, pinning, pressing, measuring...well, you get the idea. At last, the pinning and pressing was finished, I ran each hem through the machine, cut off the extra material, and twirled and jumped around my living room showing off my new pants!

With this being my first project, I feel confident in saying I learned MUCH. Here are some highlights:
- Real fabric scissors are like gold. I am painfully mourning the loss of mine all those years ago (they ran away, never to be seen or heard from again). Because I'm a little cheap, I decided to forgo the purchase of the insanely expensive sewing scissors when I was planning for this project. Instead, I used the best pair of normal scissors I could find in our house (we actually have about 10 pair of scissors because I lose them so frequently). I'm sure it was tolerable at first, but I was about to go insane by the end as I was cutting away the extra fabric from my hem. Did I simply run out of patience, or does fabric make regular scissors dull the way paper does with sewing scissors?
- Just because something has a negative stigma about it doesn't mean it's justified. I actually think the zipper went more smoothly than almost anything else! Though, it also could have been all the extra prep I got from Mom.
- Read the first step of the directions - surprisingly, there might be an important step there :)
- Don't panic. Odds are I didn't just break the only tangible thing I have left of my grandmother...I just pushed a button or turned a dial I didn't know about. Even though it may appear that I've ruined everything, I'm probably either flat out wrong or just over reacting.

So, with one project down, where do I go next? Do I make my other pair of gauchos since this is fresh in my mind, or do I try my hand at something new? If you know me, you know I'm itching for a change already! I'm cutting my pattern tomorrow night...guess we'll know then!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is that success I see in my future??

If you can believe it, there are actually pieces sewn together! even resembles a skirt!!

I sat down tonight with my Get to Know Your Newhome book only to realize that the writers clearly assumed that you already know the basics (how to thread the machine, wind your bobbin, etc) if you have a fancy-schmancy sewing machine. So, after a long bout of trial and error, I finally triumphed and had a bobbin ready to go and a machine threaded and waiting. It was an exhilarating feeling until I remembered that I would have to do more battle with that convoluted pattern. Believe it or not, I decided to let loose, throw caution to the wind, and jump into it. The way I see it, those finicky parts that need to line up and look "right" are generally covered by your shirt (if you're a semi-sloven like myself and never, ever tuck in your shirt, that is) and the rest just hangs. Does it really need to be perfect? Of course, there is a huge potential that I will live to regret this decision, but for the moment I am putting my OCD in a box, locking it, and hiding the key (trust me, it is a remarkably small feat to hide something from myself).

The sewing itself went remarkably smoothly. I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that I flew once I lowered the presser foot - the fabric fed right through, the tension was perfect (I cheated and left it where my grandma last had it), and I barely had to think. I think I might be a little in love with this machine, and I've only spent about 30 minutes with it. Now, don't get me wrong...that old behemoth Singer that I grew up on will always hold a special place in my heart...but I think it's best to admire the old fashioned beauty from a little distance and spend my sewing time enjoying a machine where I can load the bobbin without needing Daniel to hold the machine while I fish around in the case trying to get the bobbin situated, the feeder works with no problem, and I can make sense of the adjustments. There's something to be said for fewer sewing-machine-related-hissy-fits in your "escape" time...

I wrapped up the night quite unsure as to whether or not what I had assembled was 100% correct...but it looks like it could turn into a skirt at some point (of course, at that point I will take on the project of turning it into gaucho pants). I have one seam that didn't line up once I sewed the yoke to the skirt, and I'm not at all sure how I managed that. I suppose I'll be in need of long T-shirts!! At that success, I was quite content and, with a smile, decided it was a positive note on which to end.

Okay, that was a lie. I actually lost my "throw caution to the wind" resolve when I got to the zipper portion. After reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading the directions I decided I was in need of a lifeline. I grabbed the phone, started dialing Mom, and realized it was too late to call with sewing problems. Should I feel a little guilty that I was relieved?

While it might be too early to celebrate a first success and I'm clearly a bigger chicken than I initially would have believed, I can't help but be proud that I conquered the sewing machine!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Test Time

Since Daniel was in the studios tonight, I decided to take advantage of the quiet (or lack of an audience, I should say) and pulled out my first pattern. Gaucho pants. Well, it's actually a pattern for a simple a-line skirt that I'm going to modify into gaucho pants. I know, I know. Winging my first project probably isn't the best idea, but oh well. This seemed much less frightening than the real patterns I was finding!

So, I spread out the fabric and unfolded sheet after sheet of the pattern...and felt the panic rising. Which pattern was I doing? A...B...C...D...E...what's the difference between them? They all looked the same! After close examination, I decided it must have been C. Not that that helped all too much. As I tried to make sense of the directions for laying out the patterns to cut the fabric I came to the realization that this all somehow got much more difficult than I ever remember it being. Wrong side of the pattern here, right side there, this one is on the wrong side of the fabric AND the right side? Thank goodness Mom answered the phone! After listening to my nonsensical description of what I was looking at, she walked me through what I was supposed to do and why (always a big help in getting me to understand directions - do I focus too much on the big picture?), and I started cutting. Of course, after I finished, I noticed that I actually cut off part of the pattern for D and E, but I'm hoping that I'm short enough that those 4 extra inches would have been unnecessary anyway. Fingers are crossed there, otherwise I suppose there is more modifying in my future.

At this point, I have all 10 pieces cut, the skirt pieces pinned, the outside of the yoke portion pinned, and have no idea what to do from here. Logically it would seem that actually sewing would be the next step, but I think embracing the mystery that is the sewing machine is actually next in line. Once mastered, I'll be calling Mom again to have her explain this zipper nonsense!

Should I be panicking about the fact that I have no honeymoon clothes if this turns out to be a bust???

Saturday, April 17, 2010

First Stop - Fabric Store!

As I embark on this ill-conceived project, a trip to the fabric store doesn't really have a choice but to top the to-do list. So today, I grabbed my purse and my fiance (he loves me for this, of course) and ventured out to Hancock Fabrics. As a side note, I really would like to thank Hancock for their 50% linen fabrics and $1 pattern sales! At least I won't have wasted too much money when this all comes crashing down on me. I scooped up two yards each of five different linens (huge advantage of being child sized - you don't need nearly as much fabric!) that I can't wait to use and, after much digging, 10 patterns! Clearly, I got a little carried away with the patterns, but I was careful to make sure they were all "very easy" or "easy" - Mom should be proud. As it would turn out, the pattern options of today are far better than those of yester years when I would dig through them with Mom. Something else I learned: if you don't want to spend a significant portion of your Saturday afternoon talking to strangers in the fabric store, you need to avoid eye contact.

Am I crazy? Can I really do this? These patterns...look like real clothes...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Long Awaited Beginning

I never had any desire to work in the corporate world; I always figured I’d hate it. Turns out I was right…

I grew up immersed in the arts – music primarily, but I had a finger in the visual as well as “crafty” arts. I guess you could say I’m a right-brained person whose left brain pokes in all the time with some OCD and anal retentive qualities. Searching for an outlet, I found myself contemplating sewing, figuring it would be a nice blend of the two for me.

Since follow through is difficult for me, I drew inspiration from the movie Julie & Julia and decided to give myself a goal and a deadline and write a blog! Of course, I’m not expecting quite the outcome she had (though I must say I wouldn’t mind!), just giving myself an escape from the daily grind of corporate life.

The Goal: Some cool, comfortable summer clothes – two pairs of gaucho pants, one pair of linen pants that convert to capris, an a-line skirt, and a trumpet skirt

The Deadline: May 18th (yikes, just over a month!), so they’re ready for my honeymoon in Belize!!

The Equipment: My grandma’s crazy, scary, computerized sewing machine that I don’t actually know how to I smell a problem already?

In My Corner: Mom. I grew up sewing with her, but it’s all somehow much more frightening when she’s over 500 miles away. I hope she’s ready for all the desperate phone calls that are sure to come!