Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Learning to Sew

William and I have started our second third day of sewing his new vest. It's going well. I'm trying to impart as much as I know about selvege, fabric grain, bobbin tension, and reading patterns. Okay... Reading pattern instructions, what is the deal with those?! I refuse to credit the pattern company, to recommend it for anything but the forms, a starting point. I've known for quite some time that the instructions can be vague, obtuse, even seemingly misleading, but all these issues are far more pronounced when you are trying to guide a beginning sew-er. ugh!

So, by step four-five when the confusion was more than I could tolerate, we turned to the open school house that is YouTube. We owe a debt of gratitude to... this tutorial, especially at about 54 minutes. It is a thoroughly enlightening and helpful vest sewing tutorial. Thank you Professor Pincushion!

William has been keen on learning every step, getting the details right. I think this may be the first lined garment I've ever attempted, so I am learning, and being challenged, too. Hmmm... there seems to be a pattern here, when my sons want sewing lessons, I get to face new technical hurdles!

We moved the sewing machine out the office and onto the dining table. There is nothing nicer than having all the tools and machines at hand... the ironing board, good light, space, everything ready to go. I guess sewing lessons are more than technical points. There is a lot to learn about being prepared, being in the right frame of mind. Sewing takes patience.

William has already had a chance to add his engineering and graphics skills to the project. The pattern has slim ties that would be tied in the back... to cinch the sides in. William went to the computer and printed out a spline for two ties that will be laced, using eyelets. They look good, more substantial and stylish than the original plan.

Sew many steps! I don't want to discourage William with my attitude, but sometimes the more engineering bits of sewing really strain my brain! I was putting my seam ripper to work (again!) after assuring William that he should sew one section of the vest that should have been left open. Oh well. I had a healthy laugh at myself after saying for the umpteenth time, "This is not my favorite part..." Cutting out the tissue, pinning, deciphering the instructions, finding the straight grain line, pressing all the seams, taking out the pins, threading the bobbin... golly, what part of sewing is my favorite part?! To be honest, I love the part when I am all done! But I do enjoy sewing. I don't know why this makes any sense. And maybe it makes no sense... I am okay with this. (I hope William manages to find this worthwhile, in spite of me!)

Here are some sewing lessons I am happy to share:

Relax... maybe sewing relaxes you, but if you find your frustration increasing, if you start hurling colorful language at inanimate objects, then take a break. Walk, have a snack, start a load of laundry, rake some leaves. I've never had happy results trying to push through on a sewing project when I am confused, tired, hungry, cranky, stressed or too distracted. And it pays to remember that the sewing can wait, and it will be a happier and more successful process when I feel calm.

Take the challenge that gets you excited... sure, it helps to learn basics on fabric scraps and straight lines, but don't deny yourself the challenge of making something you are going to enjoy, something that you actually want. Napkins and patchwork are good beginning projects. A vest... well, it's not easy, but taking our time, accepting help, keeping our humor, and having our seam ripper handy, we will learn a lot, and have something good to appreciate for our effort. There's no shame in making mistakes... we just have to try again.

Today we are starting over on the side seams! The vest fits a lot bigger than that #$%^! pattern measured for, so we are going to delve into recutting the side seams. Where did I set the seam ripper?
But wait... first I will sit with the chickens, brush the goats, breath.


judy in ky said...

I had no idea there were sewing tutorials on YouTube, and for specific pattern, too. What a find! I am so happy you posted this. I wish William the best with this project!

Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...

I'm still in the middle of sewing a vest for my husband. Patterns are just starting points. So far I've made two muslins and two different patterns. Now I have to make a third set of pattern corrections and a third muslin. Fingers crossed that the third time's a charm. ;-) Tell William to transfer any corrections he makes to his paper pattern. That way it'll just be cutting out the lovely fabric and sewing for the next vest. Vests must be the hottest thing in the male fashion world right now. I keep seeing them on different TV characters ... James Spader in Blacklist and Tom Selleck in Blue Bloods come to mind. Enjoy the journey!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

There are some great tutorials on YouTube, on all sorts of subjects. This tutorial was not specific to our vest, but it was still exactly the help we needed, totally applicable. Thanks for the good wishes.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Tami you, and my mom, have some great tips and suggestions. Third muslin? I know, I know... that's how to get it done right. I am rather proud of how much better I am about doing things right, than I used to be, but I see I have a lot of room to improve!

warren said...


Ha! Did you almost write sewer? He's not a seamstress so...maybe a tailor?

Jennifer said...

Pattern company instructions aren't custom written to the pattern; they have all these standard, "canned" instructions that they just pull together -- so indeed, sometimes instructions are contradictory or just plain don't make sense (I love when a pattern for something made out of polar fleece, for example, calls for ironing seams flat, for example). It's inspiring, however, to see you and William working through it together, and I can only imagine the wonders of what he'll produce once he gets things figured out!

Janece said...

How are things coming along? I can't wait to see him model the final product! Watching you and now William... my penchant for picking up a used sewing machine has grown.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Yup. That word gets me, every time.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Do you have a pattern company favorite... one that does a better job than the rest?

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

A bit slow. We took a few days off, then pulled apart two seams for a do-over.
It's not an easy one for a beginner. Read Tami's comment for a better idea of how we should have gone about this... her sewing is first class! But, I still love sewing, even when I feel less than capable. A true amateur!