Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fidgety Project Day

Finally made it to the fabric store this morning, which made me as fidgety and fickle as my kids at the dinner table. I wanted to finish up the toddler pants that I started the other day, but the new fabric kept peeking out at me from my bag underneath the desk. Plus, at the recommendation of a very helpful reader, I purchased a rotary cutter as well and was pretty excited to try it out.

So, this afternoon, during the few minutes when both the kids were napping at the same time, I got out the toddler pants and started setting up my sewing machine. But I just could not say no to that bright green canvas, so I threw the pants aside and sat down to cut some fabric pieces for my canvas buckets.

I love the color of this fabric - a cheery, exuberant green. It put me in a happy mood just to sit on the floor with it for a little while. And the rotary cutter was SO MUCH fun! How amazingly easy to cut my rectangles and the lines were all straight and even. I was so enamored by the cutter and the lovely green fabric that I decided to cut an extra set of pieces for a second, larger bucket.

I would have kept at it for hours, I think. But I got interrupted...

Tonight I am back to the toddler pants and I finished stitching them together. But (aarrgh!) I forgot to buy elastic at the store today, so I still cannot get them completed. Assuming the elastic does not complicate things any, they really were so simple to make and should have been easy enough to finish in one sitting if there were not always one-year-olds climbing up bookcases right next to me. I am planning on making another few pairs for both of my boys. They will make great pants to throw into the diaper bag because they are so compact and easy to change into.

Now, back to cutting for the buckets again...Yes, this is how I am spending my New Year's Eve, with my husband doing yoga beside me. My backache is keeping me from joining him, but I do not mind too much. If our chosen activities for this end-of-the-year evening are any indication, I think they might just foretell a new year filled with simplicity and self-fulfillment.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I Can't Cut It

After the past few weeks of constant projects, it felt strange today to have nothing to work on. I could not wait to make it to the fabric store for my buckets and thought I would try to come up with something simple to work on in between. I have been curious about several blog posts that I have seen about making toddler pants out of an old t-shirt (this one, for instance, at Crafty Gemini). Since my husband got a bag of hand-me-downs for Christmas and there were a few things that did not fit him, I decided to try this out. I was working with my three-year-old next to me, who was busy with his own glue-and-scissors project. Three-year-olds with glue and scissors require a bit of adult attention, so I did not get anymore done that simply cutting the fabric. But that is a start, at least.

While I was cutting, I noticed something that I have in fact noticed many times before. I am terrible at cutting! (The picture above, by the way, came after two or three total failures. Not perfect, but I think the pants will come out okay.) I cannot seem to cut even lines, even when I am cutting straight. Somehow, even when my fabric is as smooth as possible and I am cutting on a fold, I end up with two distinct shapes. When I was working on my gifts bags, made of simple rectangles, I screwed up so much a few times that I had to rip seams out and cut a smaller bag out of the mess. How can it be that I am so bad with scissors and never knew it?

Truth be told, I mix up yellow and orange all the time and had a serious problem with right and left well into adulthood. I cannot believe they passed me through kindergarten...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A few more days of rest...

I have not sewn since Christmas Eve. There was such a rush to finish all the holiday projects in time, I feel I need a few days break before diving back in. I already have my next project picked out though. I am going to make some buckets from a pattern I bought from maya*made. I have been wanting to make these for a while and now am particularly excited, as I always am at this time of year, to have some new containers in which to store new things and organize new projects. I just need to make it to the fabric store one of these days and I will be ready to get started again.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Just in time for Christmas

I finished my fabric gift bags last night. I decided not to sew ribbons into them because I was not sure how to make it come out well and I did not have enough time to fiddle with figuring it out. In the end, though, it turned out for the best. Since I chose fabric that was festive with out being explicitly Christmasy, I planned to be able to use the bags for other occasions as well. Most of the ribbons I had purchased however were very Christmasy, so I would have limited the bags' usage to this season alone.

I printed out some simple letters on card stock for gift tags, one for each of our names. My three-year-old cannot read yet, but does know his letters, so these tags will allow him to find his own gifts and even help to pass out other people's as well.

The gift bags were incredibly simple to make, especially because I did not add any kind of closure. They are just basic bags with a hem across the top. I was having one problem though as I was making them...and I think this is something I have seen when making other things as well. Every time I finished a machine stitch and pulled the fabric out, I noticed that the thread at the very end of the under-side was pulled out a bit. What am I supposed to do about this? Do I just cut it off? Is there a way to keep this from happening?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How Sewing Makes Me Grateful

I put on my trench coat the other day and suddenly realized how incredibly complex it must have been to make. I bought it a long time ago, about 5 years I think, and it is still in really incredible condition. That is nice, of course. Mostly, though, I noticed how many seams there were, how many different pieces of fabric came together to make that one single item of clothing that keeps me warm and dry on a regular basis.

I may have understood the human rights issues at stake in the fight against sweatshops and such. However, before I started sewing I never understood the true and immense value of this work, which is something so complex that I cannot even begin to fathom creating this jacket myself. I know it is worth well over the amount that I paid for it.

I wanted to take this moment to thank those people out there whose labor goes into clothing me. You have my awe and my gratitude.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Seeking Online Fabric Stores

I am asking for a gift certificate to an online fabric store for one of my Christmas presents this year, but do not really know my way around these. If anyone out there is reading this and has suggestions for your favorite store, I would love to hear it.

As soon as little heads hit their pillows tonight, I am going to start right in on some fabric gift bags. I think I am going to sew ribbons into the top too. Should be an easy little project, even for the likes of me!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Finished in One Day!

I cannot believe I actually finished Evan's belt in one day. I am not sure how long it took me total - I worked in a few short sessions between kids' naps and other things - but I am done and cleaned up already and it is barely ten o'clock.

The belt was really quick to make, but I do not know if that means it was simple. I had a hard time working with something so small - it is only three-quarters of an inch wide - and I could not get the stitches as close to edge of the belt as I would have liked. I am not sure how to line my stitches up if my seam allowance is so small and I cannot seem to get a straight, even seam. Even so, I was able to stitch close enough to the edge that the fabric edges are tightly folded inside.

The hardest part was the end of the belt where I looped the d-rings on. The fabric was so thick that it was hard to hold tightly and I could not get a good grip on it to stay even. I pulled it out a few times and then just settled for less than perfect. It might look better if the stitches went all the way around the edges, but I am not sure how to do that. As is, I had to end my seam away from the edge of the fabric and it almost looks accidental that there are stitches there at all. Not the prettiest work, but it will hold.

I think I am going to try another belt like this for myself at some point. Maybe I can improve on this one with a wider piece of fabric so I can get better control over it.

In any case, I think my little guy will go crazy for this belt, even if it is not perfect.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trip to the Fabric Store

Took a trip to the fabric store today and I am starting to feel a little less intimidated and out of place there. I picked up some really cute fabric that I am hoping to use to make fabric gift bags for Christmas - the birds on the branches is my favorite.

I can see how one could go bankrupt just buying fabric...Not that these were expensive - they were all on a really good sale.

I also picked up a few buckles to get ideas for a belt for my three-year-old son. He is so skinny and he spends half his life hitching his pants up. The belt will help with I think he will just dig the idea of wearing one. I think I am going to try to make it out of a pair my husband's old khakis. I wanted a clasp belt like I remember having as a kid, but I just cannot find a clasp buckle small enough, so I think I am just going to use the D-rings.

I am planning on starting tomorrow...

Threading the Needle

As a woman in my mid-thirties with two small children (one and three years), it sometimes seems that I have all the answers. What is that, Mommy? How does this work, Mommy? Can I have something to eat, Mommy? I can answer those questions just fine. Add to that more education that one person should really have and I might just call myself a know-it-all.

That is what is so refreshing about learning something truly new. I am humbled by the simple things that I just do not know about sewing.

For instance, what is the deal with the multiple ways to thread a needle? When do I single thread and when do I double thread? (Yes, this question kind of makes me feel like a dummy.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Slippery Slipstitch

My last sewing project required me to do a slipstitch after stuffing the bowling pins and ball. I had no idea what this was and searched a few different websites, as well as the overly brief description of the stitch in my sewing book.

Here are some of the websites I looked at:

Threads: How to Do a Slipstitch

Hand Sewing Stitches: How to Sew a Slipstitch

Monkey See: Sewing - The Slipstitch

Wow, it looks easy when they do it! My fingers just do not seem to move like theirs do, but I am sure this will come with time.

My seams turned out okay (not beautiful but they will hold) and the slipstitch was do-able for a very beginner. A few things that still do not make sense to me...
  • How do you end the stitch?
  • Even though I tried hard not to pull the thread to tight, my seams still ended up puckered. 
  • And on a few of the pins, I had obviously not done my machine sewing correctly because there was more fabric on the one side of the seam than on the other. How do I account for this? Or would I have to pull the whole thing apart to fix it?
  • Even my seams that were less on the puckered side did not sit as flat as the machine sewn ones. Was this just from me pulling at the fabric to sew it? Will it flatten over time?
The most entertaining part of the process was that I was apparently concentrating so hard on the seam that I overshot myself repeatedly. I kept throwing the needle out of my hand when I was pulling the stitch tight. It would fly out of my hand to the length of the thread and the pop back against my hand, finally dangling down toward the floor. It had me giggling at myself the whole time!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Finished my Second Project!

Hooray! I finished my second project yesterday. It is a bowling game set that I made for my nephew for a Christmas gift. I have to admit that I am awfully proud of my work.

It really came out much better than I had anticipated. The pins stand up well with the addition of a small moong bean bag sewn into the bottom of each. And the seams look relatively clean. I love the fabrics and I am even thinking of making a second set of these for my own little ones.

The hand stitches are definitely the messiest part of the project, but I guess that is to be expected since they rely much more on my dexterity than those created by the machine. They came out rather puckered despite my best effort not to pull the thread too tight. And the thread popped through to the outside of the fabric a few times. But even the hand stitches were better than I had expected and the most important thing is that they will keep the pins closed and the stuffing inside.

I think the brown pin came out the best on the bottom...but what is the deal with the top? It is all crooked and uneven. Well, room for improvement, I guess...

By the way, I bought the pattern for this bowling set from Birdiful Stitches and the fabric came from StitchStashDiva, both on Etsy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why I am Here

I decided to learn to sew about a month ago. I have always wanted to learn - I have been talking about it now and again for probably the last twenty years. I even played around with a few projects in college without really taking the learning process seriously. Now, I am serious. I really want to learn to sew.

I have most of the tools on hand...the sewing machine that my husband bought last year when he wanted to learn how to sew, some fabric purchased for various projects, a variety of thread. I even bought myself a book about learning to sew, although it seems to be written for someone with a lot more previous knowledge than I have.

As for said previous knowledge, well that would be...almost nothing. I can thread a needle and move it back and forth between two pieces of cloth, though the results look a little like Dr. Frankenstein's monster. I can sew a button back on, though probably not correctly and definitely not with any staying power. But when I was a teacher, I saw how the students with a desire to learn really did make progress, even if they lacked a strong foundation or natural ability.

So, I am starting this blog to create an external motivator, to put myself under some pressure to keep learning. In the last month since I started sewing, I have managed to figure out how to thread the sewing machine and use it for basic stitches. I am learning how to cut fabric based on a very simple pattern. And my current project - a bowling game for my one and a half year old nephew - requires me to learn a slipstitch. My practice runs with this have been truly pathetic...but it looks so easy when I watch the videos on YouTube, so I am sure it will come.

So far, threading the sewing machine correctly has been my biggest challenge. I have now done it about five or six times and each time, I make some huge mistake that leads to disastrous consequences. Once, I simply put the spool on backwards, which caused a surprising amount of damage for so small a mistake. The next time, I missed the slit in the bobbin thread cover and ended up with total mayhem on my fabric. This last time, I threaded everything correctly. I really did...and then I forgot to put the presser foot back down before starting to sew and ended up with the fabric pulled right down into the bobbin cover. Oh my!