Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sewing lessons

While I was in PA, my MIL and I had an impromptu sewing lesson and project.  Originally I had asked her for help picking a pattern to get ready for a class for which I had registered in mid-October, but we turned it into a mostly-complete apron.  Over the course of 24h we managed to get to the store, buy materials, and she taught me the basics needed to work on the project.  I ironed, cut, sewed, and stitched.  I still have some finishing touches to complete, but it’s 90% done.  I appreciated getting one-on-one instruction from her on something I hadn’t touched in over 20 years, not since jr. high.  I wouldn’t be going into class “cold.”

I went over to Fabricville on Sunday for supplies. I wanted to start from scratch on a different pattern, so I found one of the apron patterns we couldn’t find in PA.  One of the issues we had on the PA apron was that the material wasn’t wide enough to fit the pattern and I wanted to make sure I avoided that problem this time.  I sought some help making sure I had the right width of material, but the clerk wasn’t very helpful with a newbie.  She showed me the rows and rows of cottons and left me to decide: fine, I take a long time deciding anyway.  They didn’t have a clearly distinguished “sale table” so I ended up getting something that wasn’t the most expensive but wasn’t as cheap as I should have gotten for a beginner project.  When I said that I wanted to make sure I had enough width, thinking of how we were a bit short on the first apron, she steamrolled over me and said it was fine… well, ok, but an explanation of why it would be fine might have been nice.  Still being new, it didn’t occur to me that I could fold the material the other way and make it wider and just change what I was measuring against.  Ironically, my instructor later said that clerk was the best person to ask for help in the store. Uh, yeah, I think I’ll be avoiding her “help” in future visits.

[Aside: I'm not a fan of how Fabricville posts their pricing, and they pretty much push their loyalty card to the point where you feel like you're being ripped off if you don't get it. Fabricville is the only game in town anymore now that Wal-Mart is out of the fabric business.  I will have to spend more time at Mardens in Calais next time I want cheaper fabric.]

I washed and ironed my material and headed over to the school last night. I discovered my material was indeed not wide enough (GRRR!) and the instructor said, “no problem, we’ll just fold it this way instead, and not measure against the selvedge.”  Ok, why didn’t I think of that?  Guess that’s why I’m in a class, to learn.  What she didn’t tell me, and that my MIL did and made me do, was that I should have re-ironed my material and ironed the pattern.  I didn’t see until later that the instructor had set up an iron and it was ready to go, so I proceeded without re-ironing.  That was a mistake, but lesson learned.  I have some horribly crooked lines that I blame solely on lack of ironing.  I knew better; my fault.  I won’t make that mistake again (even though I hate to iron).

I managed to pin all of my pattern pieces, cut everything out, and start sewing the edge of the tie.  Given my crooked cut, that wasn’t as easy as my PA apron.  The pattern calls for bias tape, so I need to decide whether I want to proceed with learning to use that, or just do a regular hem.  Bias tape was one of the few things my MIL and I didn’t tackle.  Fabricville clerk wasn’t helpful with that either. I questioningly said the pattern called for it but I didn’t think I needed it?  She pretty much just gave me a blank half-smile as though she wasn't listening.  I may proceed with the bias tape just to get some practice with it.

I felt much better during my first class by knowing some basics already, and I think her tips and suggestions are very valuable.  I expected to hear the same tips from the instructor last night, who likely does know them, but given the unstructured environment of the class, did not pass them on.  Though an apron is "not important," I think I should treat it as such as a beginner in order to gain the skills for the future.  I am also a perfectionist, so I should have listened to my instincts about ironing at the beginning, and noticed there was an iron ready.  My MIL showed me how to measure against the edges for the non-fold items, and the instructor didn't focus on that being important, but I agree with my MIL on that one, plus I like to be exact (perhaps to a fault).  I was embarrassed to get out my measuring tape and to be exact, but maybe I should just do things the way I want to do them.  As I was pinning, I remembered my MIL's advice regarding notches, and to pin so that I wouldn't cut off the notches. I was happy to not screw that part up as it's apparently a common mistake.

My MIL had me use pinking shears because of how cotton frays at the edges.  She explained that pinking would stop that and make it much easier to work with.  When I went to purchase the shears at Fabricville, the clerk tried to talk me out of it due to the price ($40 seemed unreasonable, but it was the day before class and I couldn't source them online) and she said I didn't need them for that project.  I would need them if I was sewing PJs and the seams blah blah blah.  At that point I already decided I didn't like her advice and went ahead and splurged on the shears.  I was very glad I did when cutting last night.  They may have been expensive, but were so much more easy on my hand than the pair I used in PA.  My instructor commented that I was using them and it was a good idea, so I didn't have to finish the edges later.  Score another point for the MIL School of Sewing.  :)

I want to give a big thank you to my MIL for taking the time and effort to give me lessons during my PA vacation. Hopefully when she reads this post, she can see that I've kept [most of] her advice and will slap my own wrist regarding the ironing. The pinking shears I bought were Mundial, I think that was the brand she suggested?

So week 1 of 6 is done.  I'm not sure how much time I will have to work on the project at home, given the new cat adoption, book club book I need to finish, Zumba, Halloween decorating, laundry, general house cleaning, knitting, and doing something with my photo project. For someone who used to do nothing but sit on the couch and watch TV or read, I now have a lot more hobbies than I have time for.  Not sure if that is a good or bad thing, but at least no one can call me a couch potato.


John said...

The two nice old ladies who seem to run the fabric portion of Marden's will likely be a lot more helpful, too.

Liza said...

Hurrah: I'm so glad that you are taking the class and doing so well. I tend to "over instruct," but it sounds like your instructor tends to "under instruct," so between the two of us, you should be able to move to the next level at the end of this class.

Thanks for all the nice compliments, but always remember that YOU did the work!!

liz said...

I am more proud of my PA apron that my class apron as far as finished results are going, but at least I'm also learning what not to do. I still need to finish the end of the sewing on the PA apron, only I have barely had a free night to attack it.