Thursday, May 13, 2010

One Month Later

On the evening of April 15th I embarked upon a journey to find a hobby that would be an escape, hopefully finding some personal growth in the process. I gave myself a goal and a deadline and dove in headfirst.

Let's review:

"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!"

And where am I now?

Trips to Hancock Fabrics: 6. Okay, so I'm really bad about getting everything I need in one trip - even with a list. And if I'm honest, that store is a little like a drug to me. As soon as I walk out the door I'm dreaming of my next trip back...and hoping that there will be more than two employees working or less than 4 customers in the store.

Frantic Calls to Mom: Oh, too many to count. They did, however, get fewer and farther between as time went. The number of times I came across the problem at 11 o'clock at night probably had something to do with that.

Moments of Panic, Depression, Utter Frustration: Um, do I have to admit? I suppose for personal growth, it's best to be honest with myself. I'm going to average it out to about 12, but only because I bundled that one tragic night into one "moment".

Moments of Utter Confusion: Now that's an easy one: just one. I'd have to say the moment was constant from the day I started, but I can feel the pressure letting up and see little glints of light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps I'm starting to understand?

Broken Needles: One. I broke my first needle yesterday when my presser foot fell off (oops)...after the machine kept making some awful grinding, crunchy noise and telling me to "stop for safety", after I couldn't get the bobbin to thread correctly. Rough night, but I learned a LOT.

Finished Products: Two pairs of gaucho pants, one pair of linen pants that will convert into capris once I buy the presser foot to do button holes, and two linen skirts. Also to my name I have: one travel document organizer thing, one pair of pull on capris, and a pair of bermuda shorts (yes, those last two happened in the past two days). Nothing is perfect, but everything is wearable in public, fits well, and is a finished product that, most importantly, I am proud of.

Next on the Docket: A break. My wedding is a week from Sunday and then I'm spending a week in Belize. I'm sure I'll be contemplating my next project, but until then, go out and try something new. Who knows, you might discover part of yourself you never knew was there.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sucked In

It's funny...two weeks ago I was sewing to give myself something to write about. For the last week, I've spent so much free time sewing that I actually ran out of time and energy to write! After a moderately harassing comment left by one of my dedicated readers (yes Mom, that would be you), I decided it was past time to sit down and share the process.

To catch you up:
My linen pants/capris are finished except for the capri conversion aspect. I know exactly how I want to do it, but my seams are in desperate need of tidying, as they are 100% not ready to be shown to the public when the pant legs are rolled up.
I rescued the pair of gauchos that were the victim of my haphazard scissor skills with some fusible interfacing on the inside and a dab of fray-check on the outside. You can't even tell, unless you happen to see that white square on the inside and get curious.
Both skirts came together in a couple hours (oh how I love a skirt without a waistband!). Both ended up requiring lining. I was prepared for the white skirt since it would be a bit on the see-through side, but the black skirt's seams were surprisingly a little itchy with the fabric being so heavy. Lining is no problem, and I actually think I prefer that to turning down and sewing the top edge. I wore the white skirt (which I accidentally made ankle length rather than turns out I'm potentially worse about following directions than I ever realized) to the open ballroom dance last night and LOVED it. Daniel did more turns with me than usual - and that is saying something - because he liked the way the skirt twirled. Next weekend we're going to a 1940s style fundraiser for the Air Museum in a neighboring town (some will try to convince you that it is a suburb, but they seem to not realize that Champaign-Urbana does not quite meet the requirements for having suburbs) where there will be several live bands and dancing, so I plan to wear my other skirt there. Unfortunately, these skirts turned out to be a little warmer than I originally suspected, so they might not be making the trip to Belize with me. The white skirt will be accompanying me to Atlanta though, and will be part of my rehearsal and bachelorette party outfit...isn't it lucky?
And not on the schedule - I made myself a little travel documents organizer to bring on the honeymoon. The questionable quality of our internet service has slowed me down considerably at work, but Friday afternoon I had a plan. Since it took ~10 minutes for any page to load, I would click, draw out some plans, click again, keep drawing, etc. So by the time the "weekend" rolled around, I had a "sample" drawn out on paper and pattern pieces drawn and cut out. I wouldn't say there was a coherent plan by the time I went to sleep Friday night with my pieces of fabric cut and stacked (or by the time I started pinning Saturday), but I was excited and ready to hit the ground running on my new experiment. Well, I really wouldn't say there was a coherent plan at any point during the process. There were an expected handful of "should have thought that out better" or "changed my mind" or best, "I just made the same mistake, AGAIN" moments, but before we left for the dance, I had a completed project being squished under some boards to make the fabric stretch and fit the plastic backing a little better, but I'm quite happy with it today. If I make more, there are a handful of things I would do differently (use thinner fabric so the layering isn't so convoluted, mark out where to sew rather than eyeball it, etc), but I'm actually very proud of this trial. It also reinforced the probability that I'm better without a pattern.

So, I've actually finished everything (plus some) a week and a half before my deadline - I bet Mom is dumbfounded. Now I'm just trying to figure out my next project and goal (yes, they're quite necessary). I considered making more of those travel things and seeing if they'll sell. Would you buy one? I'm also toying with the idea of getting some stretch knit fabric to make the pull on, wide leg pants since I have the pattern already. Sounds comfy, right? Perfect for a plane, I'd say...

Sunday, May 2, 2010


As you can see, I treated myself to a much needed break from sewing/blogging. I needed to clear my mindset and get my positive sewing thoughts flowing again...and I can confidently say that I managed that. Of course, throwing a legal marriage ceremony in the mix definitely helped to keep me preoccupied (wife for 2 1/2 days now)!

I sat down today with the plan to start and complete my next project before leaving for dance and I managed to discover that I am, evidently, much more successful sans pattern. Today's project was the linen pants that convert into capris. I dragged out my store bought linen pants, traced all the "pieces" onto my fabric accounting for the extra necessary for seams, etc (keep in mind that the pants remained assembled, so this actually was quite a feat), and started cutting. I did fold my fabric over so I cut both front pieces at the same time and both back pieces at the same time, as well as the pockets. The pants have a button fly and a drawstring top, and I was admittedly momentarily stumped trying to workout the assembly so the fly would line up correctly, with extra fabric to reinforce where the buttons and button holes go. After some playing around and examining multiple different pair of pants, the light bulb lit up and I was unstoppable. There were a couple things that didn't go as planned (mainly because I got ahead of myself), but nothing that was truly a problem. For example, I had planned to sew the front pockets on to the two front pieces before assembling anything else so that they would be sewn into the side seams and the seam with the waistband...but I ended up forgetting the pockets until after I clearly had PANTS. Not a big deal though, I just sewed them on like that.

Everything was so smooth, effortless even. Maybe it's just because I was in a good mood, but I learned that I thoroughly enjoy working with linen. Not because it doesn't stretch and change shape on you, but that is nice. It has nothing to do with the fact that it isn't slippery, though I certainly don't mind that. The reason I absolutely love working with linen is actually one of the reasons most people are annoyed wearing it. It wrinkles so easily. It's kind of handy when you can crease the fabric with your fingers instead of trying to hold things in place (when you're too lazy to pin first) while pressing the fabric with the iron. That by itself made the patchwork type pockets and hem go exponentially more quickly. LOVE IT.

So there I am with pants that very nearly look like a finished product (I've been putting off adding the "capri" aspect until I can talk to Mom about making my seams in my pant legs look finished on the inside so they look nice when the pants are rolled), and I pull out some scrap fabric to unravel the mysteries of the button hole...all by myself. Well, that was the plan at least. I set the stitch to one of the button hole options (who knew there were like 5 options?!), and notice that the machine would like for me to use presser foot R. No problem, I think to myself. Grandma had a gallon Ziplock bag with presser foot upon presser foot. I unceremoniously upend the bag onto the floor and start sifting through...false excitement each time I glance at one of the two F presser feet, then the growing, sinking feeling of my fast-paced project coming to a screeching halt. No R anywhere to be found. Fully aware that I have made it so far relying solely upon myself, I reluctantly dial Mom for help, hoping that she'll tell me that the special presser foot is handy but not necessary. No luck there. Since it doesn't look like this is something I can just run out to the store and pick up, we did some quick brainstorming on how to fake it with the zigzag I have a zigzag presser foot? No time to look through to dance class!

So, I didn't quite achieve my goal today, but I was close! At one o'clock in the afternoon I sat down to being my impromptu linen pants/capris, and at quarter past seven I had a sharp looking pair of pants, only missing buttons and drawstring. All in all, I call myself redeemed.