Hooray! I’m blogging again—at last the huge work of migrating over 8,000 posts on this blog plus all the associated media from Typepad to WordPress.com is complete. (Big thanks to the fabulous concierge team at WordPress.com for all their friendly and highly competent help!) It’s so exciting to be revitalizing MetaGrrrl.com and the first thing I want to write about is something that has been revitalizing me over the last year and a half.
Advisory: this post is huuuge because I’m catching up on all my projects, with instructions in some cases. In future I’ll do separate posts per project.
In June 2017 I did the Basic Sewing safety and machine basics session so I could use the sewing machines at TechShop, the makerspace here in San Francisco (now known as TheShop.build). During the class (which turned out to be a 1-on-1) my instructor taught me to make a clever little flip-top bag.
I went back the next day and did more sewing, but I didn’t take notes (or haven’t unearthed them yet). I tweeted something the next day saying that I worked on two projects, but which? Probably it was this sewing tools caddy, which is super handy:
and that day I definitely worked on this Triplet Tote (made from a great online tutorial by The DIY Dreamer), because I have a picture of cutting it out.
I must have gone to Britex Fabrics beforehand and raided the remnants bin, because that’s where I got that fabulous African-print wax fabric for the sewing caddy and the lovely Japanese fabric that is the blue part of the tote. (I hadn’t learned yet to wash fabric before sewing.)
Doing creative projects was a huge emotional release for me after all the heavy work through the latter half of 2016 and the first half of 2017 as executor of my biodad’s estate and volunteer with MoveOn Text Team. I wasn’t feeling able to do much in the way of creative writing, so being able to exercise my creativity and see a project to completion was an enormous lift.
Around age 19 I knew how to sew well enough to make myself a complete set of Elizabethan clothes for working at the Northern California Renaissance Faire, but all those skills had pretty much evaporated. Given how much more patient I am now, it is for the best that I am beginning again from scratch and learning to do things right.
In June and July 2017, I visited SCRAP, a fantastic scavenger paradise of materials for projects. In their fabric area, I found a cool embroidered table runner along with some other remnants. This turned into my next project, another tote bag, this time with an interior pocket and a very pretty strap made out of a necktie off the racks at some discount store like Marshall’s or Ross Dress-for-Less. I think the table runner cost something ridiculously great like $1 while the tie may have been $10, but it was still a good deal for the nice bag that resulted.
Not sure now (in January of 2019) when I began the work on turning a cool locally-made bag with cork ends which had worn out into a new tote, but it might have been the same day I made the table runner tote bag.
My need for stress relief grew, while, unfortunately, my energy to get out of the house or do projects reduced. Like a lot of folks, 2016, 2017, and 2018 were pretty rough for me.
On August 4, 2017, I received a diagnosis of the mouth form of an autoimmune disorder, followed by diagnosis of the skin form in January 2018. Dealing with that medical stuff ate up most of my non health and wellness project energy, though in fall of 2017 I did do a massive change to our backroom, where our desks and potential guest space are. I added eight Ikea Besta cabinet columns on two walls, with a two part work table extending from one of them. That was the foundation for the lovely sewing project area I have now.
No sewing, but thinking about sewing… On June 16, 2018, I got various soft knits and other fabric remnants for about 2/3rds their regular price: 1 5/8 yards taupe cotton, 1 3/8 yards white bamboo/lycra, and something else from the bin, plus from the new bolts 1 yard of another cotton knit for $8.99. Looking back from January 2019 I was perhaps over-hasty in getting knits without knowing how to sew knits yet, but at least I was thinking about sewing and how I might be able to make more comfortable clothes for myself. I will be using these soon.
In mid November 2018 I bought myself a sewing machine; a Janome MOD-19, but didn’t unbox it until the start of December. I eyed the box all around Thanksgiving-time with anticipation tho’. 🙂
(This machine was the recommendation from Wirecutter in their “The Best Sewing Machine for Beginners” article, which pick I agreed with after some additional research.)
I also bought a used copy of the (alas out of print) book Sew Everything Workshop: The Complete Step-by-Step Beginner’s Guide by Diana Rupp. It’s a great intro and useful even if you find one where the paper patterns in the envelope in the back are missing.
My first project as the machine and I got acquainted December 2, 2018, was a pincushion. I made it out of a leftover end piece of that table runner I got at SCRAP. 🙂
I also finished up the open end of the back support of the sewing caddy I’d made back in 2017.
On December 13, 2018, I had the pleasure of another trip to Britex, this time with a shopping list derived from my readings in Sew Everything Workshop.
This is when many of the items seen above in the sewing caddy picture were purchased. I also got a bunch of fabric, some with a plan and some remnants with only the vaguest plan, and four cool graphite-colored rectangle buckles for attaching the straps of a bag. Along with a dust-resisting solution for my sewing machine cover project, I got two charcoal gray fabrics with intent to use them for a new laptop bag, (the shinier, silkier one for the lining). I also got a bright orange flannel intending to use it to pair with a bright print I found in the remnant bin to make a microwaveable heat pad for a relative (but over the holidays, after not doing the project in time for gifting, found out they already had a couple of them so I ditched that plan).
The next project was a better illustration of why I got the machine. I began reclaiming my comfort in clothing by converting a pair of “yoga pants” which have a waistband I can tolerate* but which make me feel dorky into something I’d happily wear through an airport. (*I have a rare autoimmune disorder which makes my torso very sensitive to the pressure of elastic bands and other tight constrictions.)
Waistband is great—wide and soft—and they have pockets…
… but the cuffs are gathered into a narrow band which insists on settling about three inches above my anklebone. Not elegant. The cuffs must go!
Fortunately, I have a seam ripper. 🙂
More skill practice: I made a paper pattern and used it to cut out the new cuff pieces.
I added a band of the shiny graphite-gray fabric (originally planned for a new laptop bag) which makes them just a little dressier, while actually also making them more comfortable. Slept in this on a red-eye flight in a lay-down seat and they were great. Success!
It took me hours to do this very simple project and there are definitely errors, but I learned so much! Very proud of myself for letting go of perfectionism and for making something I really needed.
I followed this guide to lengthening pants. In the course of this project I learned these new (or completely forgotten) skills:
- “Stitch the ditch”
- Pressing as guidelines for later pinning and stitching.
And re-acquired these skills:
- Making a paper pattern piece
- Taking something from idea to plan to measured to pattern pieced to cut to pressed to completely sewn in one session (with a dinner break).
- Going slower when it gets challenging
My “oops” moments included not cutting TWO fabric pieces for the cuff as I have TWO legs and letting the combo of knit fabric and slippery silky synthetic take over when I was going too fast stitching the ditch on the first leg and having to seam rip about 3 inches. (If it was a fancier garment and higher than the ankle it would have been necessary to seam rip the whole piece as it is a bit twisted compared to the other. I may re-do with a longer, better sewn cuff at some point.)
Still, not bad for sewing knit and slippery fabric when I don’t know how to work with either!
That was a luxurious day of getting to work on my own projects, so I also began making a sewing machine cover, following the instructions in Sew Everything Workshop. It was another success and another source of learning.
This one went together very well. I slowed down. 😀
Still need to learn how to wrap bias tape for a more finished look around openings. I cut separate pieces and stitched them down and the gaps show.
It came together in three stages on different days:
- Marking it up to cut using tailor’s chalk directly on the wipeable side of the fabric, cutting the pieces, creating and finishing the handle opening, and then assembling the body pieces onto the top.
- Cutting the cord slot and pinning the bottom seam. (Double folded seam style, folded over and then over again, so when you stitch you leave a clean edge on the interior.)
- Sewing round to finish the bottom edge (which I did on January 8, 2019, after the bustle of the holidays and travel).
Making this was so fun, I want to work more with BPA-free PUL (polyurethane laminate) fabrics. I had no problems with the sewing machine feeding this even though I wasn’t using a special foot, I guess because I was going slow. I’ve got a bit left so I’m thinking of making some little zippered pouches.
I was definitely hooked at this point. Went back to Britex on December 20, 2018, where I bought an “ironing ham” (used for ironing curved things like sleeve cuffs), zippers I could use for making pouches of various sorts, cotton cording for lacing for other small projects, polyester fiberfill, and more remnants. (I looked at thin, cheap quilt batting, but then didn’t find the kind I needed so I skipped it.)
We traveled to London over the holiday time and I made a special trip to Shaukat Fabrics, which I knew from Erin McKean’s Dress A Day blog (which I’ve been re-reading) as a great source of less expensive Liberty fabrics.
I bought 5 meters of a Liberty cotton poplin and 3 meters of a Liberty lawn I plan to use for garments for me once my skills permit me working with something that’s £18 a meter. I also bought 28 remnant pieces (mostly about 8-10″ strips around 45-55″ wide), about a third of which were gifts for my mother. For a few I found two pieces. These are all amazing fabrics and will be really fun to use, even in small amounts.
On January 8, 2019, it was a pure joy to have things so well set up that I could just turn on the lights and the machine and start sewing when the mood struck. This is when I finished the sewing machine cover. Only took about half an hour. I turned off the machine, covered it up, turned off the worklights, and went on with my day. Glorious!
My next projects were organizing my sewing materials and making a toy for my nephew Charlie, beg pardon, Space Commander Charles G.
Along with having a good sewing day, I ordered some pieces from Ikea (storage boxes for fabric, an organizer for notions, extra shelves to make the cupboards work better) and threw in two cheap duvet covers that were on sale at a price making them a great price for printed cotton fabric. One of those is a fun fabric I’ll be using for my first clothing project (see below). Ironically, the fabric storage boxes have been lost by FedEx twice between Ikea and my house, but the rest is turning out fine.
On January 18, 2018, I gave myself the treat of a visit to a new-to-me fabric store, Fabric Outlet, on Mission Street. Very friendly staff and I was such a happy Dinah puttering around and finding things. I got fabric and buttons for a present I’m planning to make (shhh, for now), fabric and twill ribbon to make myself a new apron that’s proportioned correctly for me (no more apron-side-boob!), a flamingo pink satin remnant that will be perfect for the belt for my next project (below), some linen and twill that may work to make coasters, fusible interfacing (a proper, non-remnant sized piece this time), thin batting, and a few interesting remnants.
On January 20, 2018, I began thinking through a more complex project, my first complete pieces of clothing: a set of lounge pants and a matching kimono jacket for an upcoming trip to very warm weather. (I’m sure these will also come in handy this summer, whenever we get one. It was never entirely predictable in San Francisco even before climate change.)
I washed the fabric, and while that was going I figured out the best of my current pairs of lounge pants to use as the basis for a pattern.
A quick and rather silly project was my diversion on January 22, 2019, when we had to cancel our usual D&D game and I had bonus time. I used a faaabulous girl’s t-shirt I found on clearance to make a pool tote.
I’m still working hard on learning the basics. Figuring out what the different kinds of seams are (plus using more professional-looking techniques for the one I’ve been using most, the double fold hem).
And I’m really happy!