Monday, September 5, 2016

Sew It's Time to Learn Something New

Labour Day - and for the past week and a half, I've been labouring on a new skill set: sewing.

My mother purchased an old sewing machine at a church bazaar for $3 and during the summer, I decided it was finally time to learn how to sew. My mother offered me the machine to keep; we took it to a sewing machine shop for repair. The lady told me that the machine is actually worth more now than when it was originally made (between 1947-1953). It's a Singer 99K sewing machine.

I had a couple of short- and long-term projects I wanted to accomplish with sewing. The first was actually time-sensitive - not necessarily the best idea when just starting to learn a skill. I needed to make a 1920s flapper dress to wear to a themed birthday party. The party was scheduled for Saturday, September 3, 2016.

Rather than wait for my machine to return from the shop, I decided to use my last week before school started to make my dress from start to finish. This project was also important to me because, as I mentioned in this earlier blog post, I had a bad experience in Grade 7 with my first sewing project and I wanted to put that "ghost" to rest.

Like with my finger knitting project, I took copious amounts of photographs to record the process. I also tweeted my daily lessons and received a lot of encouragement from fellow Twitter users. Here's a summary of the project - complete with a twist ending!

Day 1 - Thursday, August 25, 2016

I really appreciated the presence of my brother during this first lesson. I was really worried that my mother, the expert seamstress, would go too fast. I even hedged my bets by scouting out the TDSB Continuing Education classes and mentally bookmarking the Sewing for Beginners session. However, my brother peeked in on us while we worked, gently advising my mother to go slow.

I learned about the parts of her machine and how to thread the machine. I practiced stitching on a single piece of fabric with thread that was visible, so I could get used to how it feels. I learned how to sew forwards and backwards. Then I stitched together two pieces of fabric and even did a hem to make a little pouch. I worried hemming was too advanced a skill to learn on the first day, but I did it.

Sewing selfie!
Checking out the foot & cleaning underneath

Day 2 - Friday, August 26, 2016

On the second day of sewing lessons, my mom declared that it was time to actually start working on the dress itself. I wasn't sure if I was ready, but my teacher assured me that everything would be okay. We measured a lot to ensure we were accurate. I'm a bit fearful of getting stuck with the pins (or to use an older Caribbean term, 'jukked'). Thankfully, I wasn't pricked by any pins that day.

Pinning straight isn't easy

Hemming? Already? It's only 1/4" wide!

Day 3 - Saturday August 27, 2016

I think I miscounted this day as Day 4, but this Saturday evening session involved some more pinning, cutting, and hemming. We began to attach the fringe to the dress, which was tricky because we didn't want to accidentally attach the part that's supposed to hang when stitching the top part, and it had to be straight. My daughter kindly took a few shots of me "in action".

Sewing the (wider, thank goodness!) bottom hem

Pinned the first fringe on the dress!

Day 4 - Sunday, August 28, 2016

Before I came on Sunday, I had to make a pit stop at the local Fabricland to purchase more fringe. My original cost of materials made it less pricey than the 1920s dress I bought my daughter. (It was originally for me, but "one size fits most" meant that it fit most of me, but not all [since it was too tight around the hips] but the purchased dress fit and suit my daughter much better.) Buying more fringe made it more expensive but now my confidence was growing. My mother supervised but let me pin, measure, check, and re-pin on my own. I was doing it!

Once again, I think I miscounted my sewing class days, because I claimed on Twitter that this was Day 5 but it was actually Day 4.

Day 5 - Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I skipped Monday, August 29, because on that day, we visited our friends (with newborn twins!) On Tuesday, I was excited to see how quickly the dress was progressing. Once the seam that led from under the arm to the knee was sewn, it really felt like a dress, like something that could be worn. Mom and I reviewed the final steps that were needed - attach the straps and tack in the sides near the arms so they wouldn't gap as much.

Day 6 - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

When I phoned my mother to let her know that I was on my way to work, she had a surprise: she completed the dress herself without me. 

I felt annoyed and really disappointed. I was really looking forward to making that final stitch, snipping the last threads and wearing the fruits of my labour right after removing it from the sewing machine. It was my Grade 7 shorts disaster over again, except that this time, I actually had the skills needed to make it through. It was as if I had been running a marathon and then I was grabbed and carried across the finish line when I was finally capable of completing the entire race myself. Believe it or not, I handled it in a very mature fashion - I actually told my parents how I felt about the situation without getting overly emotional. My mother said that it was only just attaching the straps, but I replied that if it was such a minor job, I would have stayed later on the previous day to finish. My father suggested that we rip out one of the straps so I could have the chance to do it independently and I considered it briefly but decided against it. I suspect that my mother herself became excited with the project and couldn't wait until I arrived that day before making the finishing touches.

The finished product!

The dress looks beautiful and I'm able now, thanks to some time and venting, to celebrate the 95% of the job that I completed on my own and not dwell on the final 5% I didn't get to do. I have some other projects I have planned (e.g. sleep pants and a project that involves following a paper pattern). Once I have my own sewing machine, I can try the projects myself (and call Mom over to my house if I get stuck).

ETA: At the birthday party gala, my outfit was selected as "most authentic" and I received a prize. Also, my dear friend and colleague had a never-used sewing machine that she kindly donated to me. My mother (who it turns out secretly coveted the old Singer 99K) will keep the now-fixed older portable machine but will "lend" it to me for the students at school. 

No comments:

Post a Comment