Resurrection of a Skill Twenty Years Deceased…

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 | Crafting

…in which I talk about relearning to sew.

It’s not that the concept of sewing had become foreign to me. I still had all practical knowledge of  hand-stitching, and even the operation of a sewing machine. It’s more that the finer points of sewing, what makes it a craft and not a utility, had been lost to time. Over this past week, however, I have relearned and retrained myself in the art of joining fabrics.

Getting ready to start the sewing
Let the stitching, begin.

About a quarter of a century ago, I took a Home Economics class, in which we learned to cook, sew, and perform other household tasks –  though, nowhere in the class did we discuss the economics of the home, a lesson I could greatly appreciate these days. Admittedly, the things that we “sewed” and “cooked” were not of much use, nor much of a challenge, even to a young teen as I myself was. I was kind of an odd boy out in the class, though. When all the other boys made a plush basketball or football, I made a plush seal – and I finished with such efficiency, that I made a second one just to fill time before we moved on to cooking lollipops. The projects were simple and the patterns were printed directly on the fabric, but still, the concepts were sound and as a testament to my dedication, both seals survive to this day. I’m sure the same cannot be said about those footballs.

Over the years since, I have had a background confidence in my ability to manipulate a sewing machine, and even went so far as to request and receive one for Christmas several years back. Sadly, it has sat generally unused in our guest bedroom for the majority of the time that we’ve owned it. Sure, we’ve pulled it out from time to time for quick repair projects, or hemming clothes, but for the most part, it has been disused. This year, however, come Halloween time, I decide I was going to forgo thrift store shopping or even cheaply made, overly expensive costumes and just make my own. Admittedly, I first thought I could save a few dollars for doing so, but in the long run, it’s probably cost me about the same as it does every year. What I do know, though, is that I have a quality, durable garment that I’ll be able to hold on to and save for years to come.

So, when I decided to start sewing, I found a pattern at a craft store that was as close to what I’d been wanting to put together as possible. It’s not exactly what I was going for, but it was close enough and looked simple enough to construct. A good starter project for those rusty skills. Having never worked from an actual cut-out pattern before, I took a couple days to go over the contents of the package and figure out exactly what I was dealing with. I also needed to figure out how to read the sizing chart and determine if there was a way to make it “extra tall” rather than simply “large” or “extra large.” I finally felt pretty confident in my reading of the pattern and headed to the store to get some fabric. We lucked out and found some crazy cheap fabrics that looked really good together. Between sales and coupons, we felt like we were doing pretty good.

Next came the most unnerving part of the whole process: laying out the pattern and making the first cut. It took no less than my entire dining room floor and the better part of four hours to lay out the pattern. The cutting was painfully stressful because I knew if I made any mistakes, I’d ruin the fabric. Even still, I had a penchant for cutting crooked, choppy lines, and an addiction to cutting straight across pattern notches. I think I needed sharper scissors to cut more smoothly, and being off the floor would have likely helped as well. As for the notches, I finally came up with a trick to keep from doing that – when pinning the pattern to the fabric, I would put a pin crosswise across the cut line wherever there was a notch so that I physically could not keep cutting through the notch. Over the afternoon and into the evening, I managed to get the whole pattern cut out and organized for production.

Over next two weeks, I managed to assemble all of the pieces with a modicum of help from the internet. Several sites and videos later and I really felt like I had a handle on all the new terms I had to deal with like “basting” and “selvage.” There were a couple of grand mistakes along the way, but nothing irreparable. I even managed to stray from the instructions to, in my opinion, improve the final product. I’m looking forward to the plethora for Halloween parties we have coming up just so I can show it off.

Wish me luck, though, because as a part of this same project, I’m making my first foray into Sculpey. We’ll see how that comes out later this week.

Update:

So, I completely forgot to mention this yesterday because I was in a hurry to finish typing, but my own costume was not the only project that I tackled recently. High on success on my own costume, I volunteered to sew an accessory for Heather’s costume as well. This time, however, I did not have a pattern, just a vague idea of what she wanted and a bunch of suggestions online for how to construct it. Yes, if I’d researched enough, I probably could have found a pattern, but I was confident that it was unnecessary. After a couple of days of psyching myself up, I finally sat down to make some measurements and cut some fabric. Going completely on inspiration, though, ended up working out pretty nice. I managed to turn out the entire garment in an afternoon with effectively no planning what-so-ever. All in all, I’m still pretty confident with my abilities, even if everything doesn’t look “manufactured.” The costume pieces I’ve made both have spots that “should not be looked at,” but overall, they’re completely successful in my eye.

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