Tuesday, 12 April 2011

a little sewing

I love to sew, but I wouldn't claim to be very good at it. My mother let me use her machine when I was quite small, and certainly that is how I learned to thread a machine and do basic stitching. She was a very handy sewist, herself, but must have stopped sewing at some point, as I don't remember her doing any as I grew older. Like all middle-schoolers at the time, I took a semester of home economics. I made an apron. The only real skill I picked up (and still use today) is taking two or three tiny stitches to anchor my thread at the beginning and end of a piece of hand sewing.

A few years ago, full of the feeling that I wanted to sew, I finally took the plunge and bought myself a sewing machine. It was cheap and cheerful, from an ebay seller who proudly displayed photos of the amazing Japanese factory in which her machines were manufactured. It worked, and I found that I do actually enjoy sewing. I made bunting flags, some minor (albeit fairly unsuccessful) garment alterations, lots of pouch slings for my own babies and for other people's, and took a stab at small-scale patchwork quilting. What I didn't do was get any real instruction on how to make the most of my basic machine or indeed any of my other tools.

A couple of years ago I decided to invest in a better quality sewing machine, a Janome DC 3050. It's still a fairly low to middle range machine, but the difference between my inexpensive, clunky thread-grinder and this purring, whirring beauty was instantly apparent. Rather than fighting with tangled thread, intense tensions and broken needles, I was able to just sew.

And so.

I am ready to learn. I have sewed enough now to know that there are ways of doing things, and then there are better ways. I've picked up a few skills from reading through tutorials, but I would love to take a class, particularly in dressmaking and quilting. My big handwork goal for this year is to make a patchwork quilt; I'd like to make one for each of my girls, but the idea of making THREE quilts in a year is rather overwhelming. I've done some patchwork and even some basic, amateurish quilting in the past, but my perfectionist tendencies - as well as my intended material - suggest that I will be happier with the final product if I take the time to learn the 'right' way of doing things. (I plan to use the girls' outgrown baby and toddler clothes for this project, so don't want to make too many mistakes as there is so little fabric.)

As practice, I've been working on a number of little projects, each one hopefully building on my abilities. Bias binding holds a pretty impressive fear factor quotient, so I've been working on projects that use binding. I've tried using readymade bias tape and I've made some of my own. I picked this little top from the Japanese pattern book Girly Style Wardrobe (pattern B) because of the bound neckline/tie. It's so darling! (Though my own went a little wrong somewhere along the line - I cut what I thought was Eva's size, but it ended up fitting Esme! And even then, I had to let the pleat out to get it to fit across her chest.) I machine-stitched the binding to the front of the garment, then hand sewed it on the inside.
I'm quite proud of this little top - I have very little garment-making experience, and the book from which this pattern comes is written in Japanese! I have sewn from another Japanese pattern book - though that one is translated into English - so I was familiar with the way the patterns work and sew up. But still!

Next, I made round patchwork hotpads from Amanda Soule's lovely book Handmade Home.

(Special thanks to my Freecycle friend, Lorraine, who gave me another big bag of pretty fabrics, along with all sorts of other notions.) I made six of these in a row, and it was amazing how each one was better-constructed than the last. At first, I couldn't even make a circle, but the last one (the one closest to us in the above photo) was quite good! These gave me the chance to try for tiny, even stitches on the back; I love the way those tiny stitches look.

And just for fun, I made Esme a pair of summer trousers.

These came from Carefree Clothes for Girls. I added some lace around the cuffs and a little bow at the front of the waistband so Esme would know which way to put them on.

So, there you have it. My attempts to teach myself how to sew. After 36 years of pushing thread through the eyes of needles, it is only in the last couple of weeks that I have begun to think of myself as someone who sews.


  1. oooh what patience you have to sew..
    i dislike sewing so very much.. but i did have an incident with a tied cotton threaded needle, a pair of scissors , a knee cap and me when i was 4 years old! so the rather prominent scar could be the reason!
    i envy people who can sew..
    but lets just say for me..its an area best avoided! x

  2. Beautiful, it's great seeing my scraps being used soooo well, i really like them bring one next time you come,x

  3. I still want a pair of those trousers :)

    Well done you, I admire your determination to learn a new skill and do so, so succesfully x

  4. hey, you certainly can sew!...these are great...it is so satisfying seeing your creations on kids.