Tag Archives: enabling

Confessions of a (sewing) pusher

Kathleen of Little Hunting Creek is right. I feel like a pusher.

Recently, my Stylish Sister-in-Law finished her first ever sewing project.

So Stylish!

Ok, I maybe helped a bit.

By, y’know, casually mentioning making this, or that, every time I’ve seen her since we moved back. And possibly by shoving my phone (with pattern-tracking app) in her face at every opportunity. You know how fun it is to dig through your patterns, virtually or otherwise? Well, it’s even more fun to do it with someone else. (Or two someones… I’m working on my other SIL, too, but she works full-time so it’s a slower process) Anyway, finally a week or two ago she cracked, and went through my entire pattern catalogue and presented me with the list of her choices.

Most of them were lovely sundressy things that, while they might or might not have been good beginner’s projects, are just heartache waiting to happen, as we perch here on the cusp of the Canadian winter.* I didn’t want her first project to languish unworn in a closet for six to ten months. So we negotiated, and she opted for the tunic version of New Look 6789.

This pattern, humorously, is the same pattern I helped my friend Trish make last summer. Which, I might add, I still haven’t made up for myself. /pout. Stylish has expressed interest in making up the skirt and maybe even the pants, as well… but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Stylish already had fabric, salvaged from a long-abandoned “old fashioned dress” project a family friend had apparently started for Stylish long and long ago, which has languished, half-draped and loosely basted, in a bag in Stylish’s storage. I’ve never draped anything, so I don’t want to comment on the quality or lack thereof, except that it’s pretty clear that it wasn’t anywhere near done.

Anyway, Stylish acquiesced to my tracing neuroses and traced the pattern all on her own. I took a back measurement to confirm my hunch that some waist-shortening would be in order, but otherwise had her trace a straight size twelve. We’re much the same size, but very different in shape, so I didn’t want to jump the gun on a bunch of alterations.

And then, I made her iron her sadly-crumpled fabric, quite possibly the first time she’s ironed anything in her life. She did it quite well, and may even have enjoyed herself.

The sewing itself was a joint effort, particularly since I elected to have her follow the pattern instructions and begin with the front princess seam. Was your first seam of all time a princess seam? Yeah, mine neither. I did the bust part and then let her do the rest of it (other than the zipper). The serger is at my MIL’s, so I made her finish the seam allowances with a triple-step zig-zag. I feel pretty mean for doing that; I don’t think I finished a seam in the first fifteen years I ever sewed. But it’s a pretty ravelly fabric. She’s most satisfyingly particular and precise in her sewing. It makes me pretty jealous, frankly.

So Stylish.

And, voila! Not perfection; it could use a little more shaping in the back, I think. (But then that might also cause more ripples and necessitate that swayback adjustment and stuff.) And the band gapes a bit and we should’ve placed the straps a little closer together for her narrow shoulders. But still pretty smart for a first try, I do think. I am grinning ear to ear every time I see her in it. And it’s not too hard to throw a sweater over, either, since it’s, um, not exactly sleeveless season here anymore.

And she wore it out to her birthday dinner tonight, so I’m pretty sure that counts as a win.

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Who enables the enabler?

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So I’m not sure if this counts as enabling or enablement. But the other day, after a month and a half of subtle (and not so subtle) hints being dropped on both sides, my Stylish sister-in-law finally pulled out my mother-in-law’s old sewing machine, a Janome Memory Craft 6000 (c. 1986) for us to play with.

Now, as background here, my mother-in-law has assured us for years that, while her machine was the pinnacle of its breed back when it was new, it no longer worked well. In particular, the bobbin thread tangles. And a year or two ago, when we were visiting home, Stylish and I had poked gingerly at it (rather like poking a tiger in a cage, I think), and gotten absolutely nowhere. It’s a computerized machine with a drop-in bobbin and a sideways-lying spool for the thread—completely beyond my experience.

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Well, whatever dark stars were in ascendance before, apparently the other day the planets were in conjunction in the constellation Janome, because the machine worked. Initially, (after painfully perusing the manual to make sure we had it threaded just right), I was just happy it was forming stitches, but the feed dogs (although moving) didn’t seem to be feeding the fabric. We pushed the buttons for a few more different settings, read some arcane incantations from the manual, and all of a sudden they started working. (And yes, there is a feed-dog-dropping mechanism but it wasn’t engaged and we didn’t start messing with it until after they’d started working)

The first few decorative stitches I tried were less than perfect, but the more of a workout we gave the machine, the better it behaved, and by the time I had finished stitching out series of letters and kitschy little penguins and alligators over pretty much every scrap of cloth Stylish could locate around her house (it turns out normal people don’t just have stuff like that lying around), it was humming along happily, even when I mashed five or six layers of denim under the foot to see what it would do.

Now, there are people who love modern computerized machines for their wide range of functions. And there are people who love vintage machines for their sturdy reliability (I’ve long considered myself one of the latter). But I don’t know that there’s anyone who loves elderly computerized machines. (As with 80s patterns, I’m not sure it’s quite appropriate to apply the term “vintage” just yet.) That being said, Stylish and I had an almost unseemly amount of fun. Or rather, I had a ton of fun and she sat and looked on in bemused wonder (I’m going with wonder. Horror might have been a possibility). We swapped out feet (it has a wide array, all of which live in their own neat little slots in the top of the machine, almost none of which I recognized), played with the disgusting variety of programmed stitches, and I even managed to program it to make a keyhole buttonhole. And while I know there may well be no hope for it when the circuits do decide to finally go, they haven’t gone yet, so why not enjoy it while it lasts? I should mention, there was nary a hint of bobbin-tangling either.

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I thanked the sewing gods, repeatedly, for the small miracle that my mother-in-law actually kept the manuals to this machine (unlike for my, formerly her, serger) because we would’ve been flailing helplessly without them. For example, they revealed that to engage the manual control of the stitch length and width dials, you have to push them down like a button, first, lighting up a light, and then you can adjust as you see fit. Otherwise, it’s pre-programed, baby.

Also, it always finishes with the needle in the “needle up” position. And then there’s a button to hit right on the harp arm if you want the needle down (say to pivot around a corner). I had heard of these things, but always scoffed at their usefulness. Especially since my hand automatically goes out to adjust the handwheel to make sure the needle’s in the right place, regardless. But, if you were lacking such reflexes, I can see how it would be kinda awesome. One of those things you could get used to. I am thinking I had better not sew too much with this machine…

Our first “project” (once I had finished messing around with fancy stitches) was to sew little covers for Stylish’s two little Christmas-themed couch pillows, so she doesn’t have to look at Frosty and Santa in July. I stitched the first one while Stylish watched, and then made her do the second one (although I stitched them both shut, which involved the zipper foot and a fair bit of swearing.)

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In fact, we were sufficiently pleased with ourselves that by the time we had to go actually do grown-up responsible things, we set ourselves to clearing out the lone under-utilized space in Stylish’s (not large) house, unearthing her Papa’s old treadle* for a sewing table, and setting up a teeny little sewing space. It’s not fully functional yet—she has an ironing board (I think left by the previous homeowner) but no iron—but it’s something. And she spent a good chunk of the evening sorting through all the patterns on my phone app, and making a list of her favourites.

I’m still not sure if I’m spreading the sewing bug or just getting suckered into Sewing For Others, but I had a lot of fun, Stylish had at least a little fun, and I’m not sure but I think the Memory Craft had fun, too.

*Papa was, in fact, Stylish and Osiris’s great-grandfather, who lived to be 94 and used the treadle, a handsome old Singer, for stitching harness and various other manly things. It probably deserves its own post, so I won’t talk too much about it here.

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Enabling

Me and my mommy.

Those of you who’ve been paying attention have probably heard a thing or two about my mom. She’s the owner of the Grand Old Dame, a reformed serial crafter, and was courteous enough to answer my nosy questions in a sewing interview. She’s also sorta the reason I started this blog, if only because last year at this time I was calling her up about once a week to yammer (for an hour or two) about my revamped sewing hobby, and, I was pretty sure, boring her silly. Also the long distance bills were racking up, but that’s beside the point…

Anyway, sometime (back in the fall? I really don’t know) she “discovered” my blog, and I gather has been enjoying it since (not to mention pimping it to her friends… thank you mom 😉 … thank you any of Mom’s friends who are reading… 😉 ). And the sewing phone-calls have gradually picked back up, laced with a liberal dose of style/fit/age/lifestyle angst (I’ll blame most of that on seasonal depression, though). Most of the conversations went something like this:

Mom: I love what you made.

MMM day 8... I'll just sneak this in here.

Me: Me, too! Except this and this and this.

Mom: Well, it doesn’t show in the photos. I don’t know, I just can’t find anything I want to wear. I go to the mall and nothing fits, and if it does fit it looks like it was made for a teenager or an old lady.

Me: Well, mom, you do have that kick-ass sewing machine…

Mom: yes, but I don’t have any time/money/energy for another hobby! Everything takes too much work! I want to go live under a bridge in Edinburgh!

Me: Well, you probably do need to simplify your life a bit… But I think running away to Edinburgh is probably a bit extreme. Ireland might be better… at least you could probably get your citizenship there*.

Mom: And you got such a good fit on that other thing you made…

Well, you get the idea.

And so it went, aside from occasional worries about my mother’s sanity.

And then, yesterday, I get a call from her. She sounds chipper. Excited. Upbeat.

Mom: Guess what I did?

Me: What did you do, mom? (oh god she bought plane tickets to Edinburgh…)

Mom: I downloaded and printed out the Burdastyle Franzi vest and Ellen pants, and I bought some wool blend fabric to make them up, and I ordered five patterns from Jalie, including the jeans!

Me: (swallow… gulp… sit down… let the shock wear off…) Wow, that’s awesome! You’re really going for it?

Mom: Yup, I am. Now tell me how to do a full bust adjustment!

Yup, apparently I have lured my mother back into the wild world of sewing (and the somewhat-new-to-her world of advanced fitting… hopefully she survives!). She’s still claiming she won’t become a sewing blogger, but with any luck she’ll let me showcase a project or two—and with a little more luck, the wonderfully helpful online sewing world, and maybe a helpful book or two, will help to get her past her old fitting issues. (I get my long legs, short torso, and rectangular shape from her, except that on her it’s even more exaggerated, plus she kept all the boobage in the family for herself. On the bright side, she doesn’t have my swayback).

Knittopia

In other enabling news, my Fabricland seems to be doing their spring cleaning, and there was a cornucopia of lovely (or at least, tolerable) knits in the clearance section, for no more than $3/m. Including this ivory sweatshirt knit on the left (typically $25/m or up!!! it’s stained, but I’m pretty sure whatever I can’t get out I can work around.) The three pieces on the right are also knit in the round, which is the best way to get knits in my opinion. And look at all those colours! Bright, soft, springlike… I know, you’re saying, am I reading the right blog? There’s even patterned pieces. Well, stripes. Stripes are almost a pattern. And either the solid blue or the solid coral would be perfect for knocking off Steph’s Anthropologie knockoff (apparently I have no creativity of my own at all these days…)

There’s plenty more enabling going on out there in internetland, but I think this enough for once post, don’t you? Oh, and if anyone has any advice for my mom on getting back into sewing, fitting, or the wonderful world of online sewing resources, do share! 🙂

*my mother, like approximate half of Canada, had an Irish grandfather, which is apparently good enough.

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