Friday, November 28, 2008

Notions of Sewing

I've gained quite an appreciation for all of your stitchery wizards out there. Except for a brief obsession with counted cross stitch during my tenure with 9-1-1, I'm pretty much clueless with the operations of needle and thread. I've often expressed a desire to learn how to sew. Other than Home Ec. classes in middle school (which I enjoyed), I haven't touched a sewing machine.

A couple years ago, The Oracle, sick of my overt hinting, purchased a rebuilt Singer for me for Christmas. (Rebuilt was my idea, since I didn't want to shuck out a billion dollars if it turned out that I was a sewing flop.)

My kids' Catholic school has this thing with costuming for the younger grades. Last Christmas, I was required to dress Precious Daughter as an angel for the Christmas pageant, since she wasn't one of the lucky ones who could borrow one of costumes the school had on hand from prior years. This year, for Halloween, I had to dress Precious Daughter as a saint, and she had to write a brief essay on her chosen saint's life.

For the angel and saint costumes, I pulled out the Singer and "winged" something together (no pun intended, but there nonetheless). The saint costume was a disaster, pinned together and stitched into compliance at the bus stop.

A week or so into November, after the Halloween stores were closed and long gone and too little time for eBay to rescue me, a letter comes home announcing that the second graders were to dress as either Pilgrims or Native Americans for the day before Thanksgiving. Ugh, not again!!!

Determined not to send my child to school wearing another half-assed creation, I mustered my courage and set off for the fabric store. I haven't looked at a sewing pattern since middle school, and had little clue as to what I was supposed to get. I muddled my way through the pattern books and quickly convinced Precious Daughter that she'd much rather be a Native American. The Pilgrim costume looked waaaay too complicated.

With the help of the fabric-store staff, I spent $37 on the pattern, fabric, and other essentials.

$37!!! Yikes!!! My do-it-yourself jobs cost less than half of that.

The one thing on my side is that I have a half-decent mechanical ability. My artistic side is virtually nonexistent, but I'm usually pretty good at following instructions and putting things together. It took me two days of staring at the pattern and the instructions to get a sense of what was expected. Monday night, with only two days to go, I took the plunge and started cutting. Once the kids were in bed, I fired up the sewing machine. After a few false starts, I worked until 2:00 a.m., sewing pieces together as far as I could go.

Part of my project involved this foreign stuff called "bias tape," which I'd never used before in my life. I vaguely remember seeing the stuff in my mother's sewing notions, but I had no idea what it was for, and the pattern instructions might as well have been in Greek. I had to return to the fabric store on Tuesday for a little guidance. It wasn't much, but they tried. I returned home an began my battle with bias tape.

I must ask. Why is that stuff so darned dense? I had to pin this stuff to armholes, and I couldn't drive the damned pins through the tape. I must've bent at least fifteen pins in my efforts to stick them through the fabric. My thumbs and forefingers ached from applying pressure to the pins, and I'm lucky that I didn't stab the hand holding the fabric. I would have jammed a pin clean through a finger with all the pressure I was applying.

Between the bias tape battle and all the seam pressing and the constant worry that I was botching this project beyond salvage, I was one pooped parent. Kids, the next time you grumble about wearing a home-made anything to anywhere, shut up and consider the work that went into putting it together.

Enough rambling. This is how it turned out. Not bad, huh?

That pink trim on the bolero and at the fringe was nothing short of difficult. First off, the entire edge of the bolero was covered with a strip of that hideous bias tape. Second, trying to sew a straight piece of trim on a curved item is really, really tricky. There were parts where it all crunched up despite my best efforts, and I blame the bunchiness in the bolero on that. Ah well.

In his second picture, Precious Daughter was sick of me and the camera. She'd just gotten off the school bus and I made her ditch her coat so I could photograph her. I know full well she won't put it on again, and I wanted a picture, dangit.

Mighty B. made his hat in school that day, and it cracks me up every time he puts it on. Those knobby things are two turkey drumsticks. Funny, eh?


Aimee said...

Very well done - especially for a neophyte. Speaking as someone who wore clothes I made for myself to that middle school home ec class where we learned how to make pillows, The only thing I hate more than bias tape is putting in zippers.

--V said...

Very cute.

Next time you're fighting with pins, try a thimble. You can use more pressure and not hurt yourself.

Like I know what I'm talking about. I don't sew much either. I can embroider and bead and make wire jewelry, but I'm not much of a seamstress.

Just Me said...

I had a thimble, but the damned pins kept bending in half on me.

I could understand if I were using heavily-used, dull pins, but this was only my third project using the blasted things.

I can see, with the finished product, why they use bias tape, but the stuff is just plain evil to work with.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea what bias tape is but the costume looks really good. I'm signing DDR up for sewing lessons. Maybe then she can teach us. You did a great job :-) E

Anonymous said...

stacy says:
You are totally braver then I am. I can do okay on straight lines, but I haven't followed a pattern in DECADES. I had a friend in Wyoming that would look at patterns and then just eyeball them and sew like the wind. I hated her. :)

Just Me said...

My sister told me this weekend that she sewed her wedding dress -- a WEDDING DRESS!! -- with no pattern. That blew me away.

My grandma was one of those people who rarely needed a pattern. She lived with her seamstress aunt for a time and learned how to simply look at a dress and copy it if she liked it.