Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In Response to the Poll....

I have learned to change the needle on my sewing machine! Thanks to those of you who voted, I will have a new poll up soon. I decided not to do pockets yet...I got to eager to make my jean skirt and wanted to dive right into it! But, I think that will definitely be a future project. I want to make a pocket separately first, then work it into a garment. But I found the task of changing my needle extremely easy. I had all these tools set out to help me, along with my sewing machine manual, and was ready for a difficult challenge. However, once I looked closely at how it is done, I finished in about 2 minutes. All I had to do was unscrew a little knob keeping the needle tightly in place and pull the needle out. That needle with the red end is my original all purpose needle. Once this was out, I switched it with my new denim needle, tightened the screw back into place and I was ready to go! I got very excited to sew my denim skirt, which I've half finished already and it has a super cute ruffle on the bottom, and shorter than my last few projects. I came up with the pattern myself, but based on my own measurements, and I'm excited to see how it comes out. Unfortunately, I ran out of my heavy-duty denim thread and I have to go back to the fabric store and get some more.

And here is my denim needle safely in my machine and ready to go!

After this, I tried to alter some pants that I have and learned that not only do women's trousers not have the ability to be let out at the waist, but those stupid little sliding fasteners do NOT want to be moved! I opened up the seam and tried to pry these clamps open with pliers and I was extremely unsuccessful. If anyone knows how to take these out, please let me know! My altering was not effective because of these stupid little buggers. Well, that's about it for now...I have to get some more thread and then finish my skirt...hopefully tonight...and then I will post it. :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Busy Organizing and Cooking

Today I took another day off from sewing, though it wasn't a completely craft-unrelated day. I cleaned my whole apartment, top to bottom, and did 4 loads of laundry (must remember to get some more Downy at the store soon). In that process, I realized that I have my sewing supplies all over the living room in various craft store bags. In an attempt to keep my sewing from taking over the house, I cleared out an old drawer tower from my closet (that wasn't getting a whole lot of use anyway) and brought it in as my crafting tower! All my little bits and bobs fit in the top drawer, and I put the buttons, lace and patterns in baggies to keep them together. Then I put the fabric in the remaining drawers (though two things of fleece didn't fit). It feels good to have everything cleaned and organized. I tend to clean with my emotions...when I am feeling a little stressed, things get messy and crazy, and then I have this cathartic cleaning spree and I feel put back together again, physically and emotionally. Well, it was just the right thing for me today. Tomorrow, I think I will be ready to tackle my new sewing project...a ruffly skirt...maybe with pockets. *eek* Oh, I also had to post the dinner I made tonight, because I very rarely cook, and I was proud of my domesticity. I made baked rotini, corn on the cob, steak and zuccini. Yum! In a few I'm going to make a healthy banana bread with strawberry yogurt and Splena. Crossing my fingers it turns out delicious!

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I really need to shift my sleep schedule by about...2-3 hours. I can't sleep at night, then I sleep in in the morning. I've been on this schedule ever since I hurt my back in January and no matter how early I wake myself up or how much I do during the day, I can't get to sleep at night. I guess that just goes to show you how exhausting it really is chasing toddlers around all day.

Besides the not sleeping part, I miss the socialization of working. 5 days a week I had a room full of toddlers and two co-teachers to socialize with, and then of course the rest of the building during lunch breaks, playground, computer work time. And the parents. I talked to so many people at my job that I didn't realize how much I would miss it when it was gone. I don't know if it was the 4 months of "I can't go anywhere because I can't get out of bed/can't sit that long" that I kept telling everyone, or asking that they come over to my house so I would have a comfortable place to lay on the couch, but since I've been able to be up and moving and social again, I feel like my social life is just plain gone. Without the hustle and bustle of work, my life feels dull and boring and repetitive. Sewing has helped a bit, but I still feel that need to talk to people. I feel like I post more on facebook than I have in a long time, simply because I'm bored and I want to talk to people. I've become one of those people who posts everything on facebook, hoping that it might spark a conversation with someone. But of course, I think people are starting to tune me out instead. I do that when someone posts too often. It's understandable.

It's just hard when your life seems to have shrunk to such a small little space in the world, with so few people in it. I've tried to be strong and positive about everything that has happened this year, but I feel like I've been limited. Back in high school, when I injured my back, I knew I would not be able to dance anymore. Those funny hopes to become a dancer turned into a love of watching others dance, and yearning to move like that, feel that excitement again. I found something I loved just as much: teaching. And this year, I feel like I'm 18 all over again, my life turning a corner and limiting me again. No more toddlers, no more infants, no more young preschool. No more lifting. No more caregiving. Which of course is something I came to really love about teaching toddlers, that relationship you build as a caregiver that you don't get with teaching first grade.

And then there's first grade...and kindergarten, and second grade. I'm finding that my spirits are diminishing slowly, feeling that I might NOT get those jobs, that I might be lucky just to be an assistant this year. Then what? Will I go back to school? Can I afford that? I think I've jumped into this sewing because it takes my mind off that fear. And the hope that by selling my work, I could have a new passion, a new way to make a living, and be able to go back to school seems so exciting. But I keep finding these road blocks, like cost to get registered to sell in MA (which is one of only 3 states that requires this, btw), possibly the cost of renting a space at a local shop, which was offered to me this week. Do I really want to pursue this? Or do I just want this to be a hobby, making myself clothes. I'm struggling with this decision, but I've decided that I will at least take the first steps and give myself the option. Who knows what will happen in 3 months. Maybe I'll get that job I want and sewing will go back to being a hobby. Maybe my bears and blankets will have a niche and start to sell. I just wish there was some way to see 3 months down the line and know which way I should go. But of course, that's the risk in life. I know risk is supposed to be the fun and unexpected part of life, but I've always hated new and unexpected experiences and tried desperately to prepare myself for them...or avoid them.

Well....this week I'm working on my own projects...just for me. And maybe work on a new project I thought of tonight. We'll see. I just wish I could fall asleep before 3 am.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Feeling Better, Back to Sewing!

Here's my latest project, another bear made from cotton fabric. This time, I chose a really cute green and brown polka dot pattern, and used two pieces of fabric for the face, like I did with the blue polka dot bear. I like the way he has little chipmunk cheeks! He's a little more stuffed than the last few, and he turned out so cute. I think I have enough fabric to make another...maybe not a bear this time. On other news, the voting is over and then I think I am going to learn is to change the needle in my sewing machine so I can make a denim skirt, as well as hem my boyfriends jeans. It should be an interesting project. I think my denim skirt will have a cute ruffle on the bottom! I'm going to look around for a few ideas, and maybe, just maybe, attempt some pockets. :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Apron Giveaway - Go enter!

Over on Oops! I Craft my Pants, a great blog I follow, they are giving away a Flirt Apron, which are super, super cute! There are five chances to enter, so go do it now!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Laws, Patents and Puppies

Well, the past few days have been interesting. As a new crafter, I know almost nothing and have been going into this all blindly. A former coworker suggested that I make taggie blankets, and after making a couple, I thought they were so cute! Like I mentioned before, I found out that a lot of people don't do the loops. So, I learned how to heat seal my ribbon. It's super easy, as it turns just pass the end of the ribbon super quick through a candle flame. It seals the ribbon quickly and easily without chemicals. Well...this turned out to be a futile effort because, after looking around on Etsy and doing more research on why people don't do loops, it turns out that the Taggie Blanket "inventor" is super, uber aggressive with her patent, and will come after anyone who makes a product with ribbon sewn between two pieces of fabric. I read numerous accounts of people who were taken off of Etsy or were sent cease and desist warnings even though they modified their product to only having one loop per side, or having no loops. By the sounds of it, there were patterns and products that were similar back in the 70's, but this woman has somehow managed to bully everyone into not using ribbon whatsoever. I noticed that there are people on Etsy who still sell these products, but from what I read last night (with thoughts of all the money I had spent on this project going down the drain), they will find you, and they will come after you. So I have taken them off my sense risking it. *sigh*
On a similar note, I posted my sewing services on a forum and got a big shock...all children's products must be government tested before being sold. Well, after about, oh, an hour of going, "Wait, what did I miss?!?!" and frantically searching the internet (more thoughts of all my money going down the drain and my time being wasted) I found the law, which states that all natural and synthetic fabrics, including ribbon and polyester stuffing, do NOT need to be tested, because it has been proven that they do not contain lead. Also, it is only childen's pajamas that need to have fire protection and testing. It was a stressful last two days, but I learned one my research, and above all...remain calm.
I found a use for the fleece and ribbon though! My animals! I think my dalmation turned out pretty cute. He has some details on his paws, and his ear are tacked down, though I will probably fiddle a bit with that design element. Unfortunately, the shelter didn't pick up on my donation idea, but the girl I had been talking to was very sweet and agreed to keep posting my little stuffies on the facebook page. :) I also put up some flyers around my apartment building and have been seeing some increased views on my site. I'm hoping someone decides to buy one soon!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Two Project Day

I was very busy today! I started out making the sample puppy for the shelter project, which hopefully I will hear more about tomorrow. One girl from the shelter posted the puppy on the shelter's facebook page, so hopefully that will get me some exposure, although I can not say that proceeds go to the shelter yet. I'm thinking of working on getting myself out there a bit by making flyers to put up around my apartment building and send to people to pass around to friends and coworkers. I'm also going to look into craft fairs, as long as the fees aren't too expensive. Which they probably are. I'm finding that just being on Etsy does not get you sales. Because a lot of the people on the site are sellers, not buyers. So I need to get people outside the website to visit my online store. Oi.

I went to the fabric store today and got lots of fabric, mostly fleece, to make my animals with, but also to make taggie blankets with. My first one turned out really cute, and I got all excited and posted it in my store, then looked at what other people are offering...and guess what? No one wants loops on their taggies blankets because of entanglement hazards! So now I have to cut my taggies and HEAT SEAL them! With a candle! I'm going to do this next to the sink so I don't start a fire! Well's late and I should be in bed. Goodnight!

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Pattern! Kitteh!

I pitched my idea to someone at the shelter and she's really excited about the project! She is referring me to their director of advancement and thinks I might be able to set up a booth at their event for celebrating successful adoptions! So I made this kitteh *hehe* as a sample for them to look at. It turned out really cute! I really like the idea of working with the shelter. That's all for now!

Getting into the Swing of Things

After making three bears (as you can see in my Etsy shop) I've started to get into a groove. It's the same pattern each time, though I make little tweaks here and there. Last night, I was able to zip though this bear much quicker, and with much more skill, I might add. I've figured out how to get the ears, legs and tail sewn into the seams of the body, rather than stitching them in afterward, which speeds up the process, and makes the bears a little less delicate. I do need to go get some more buttons though. I've started really trusting myself and my sewing machine, which means I don't have to use pins really...I find they get in my way mostly.

I spent quite a bit of time on yesterday, trying to figure out the site, spending some time in the virtual labs. It was interesting and overwhelming. Being new at this and realizing how much work really goes into marketing your product. Whoa! But I had a great idea today. I spend a lot of time checking out the animals that are available at my local animal shelter, where we adopted my cat. They are a really great organization and even though we really can't get a second cat right now, I always find myself going back to their site. Well, I had the idea to make a line of cats and dogs, sort of a variation off my bear model, and donate a portion of the proceeds to the shelter. They do a lot of work through facebook, and have a decent following, so I think it would be a great way to get myself out there and also help out my favorite charity. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why I Hate Bobbin

And perhaps why I should have spent a little more on my sewing machine.

Upon first winding my bobbin, I realized that it didn't seem to wind very much thread before it lost speed, so I just used that amount and changed it often. Then of course this lead to needing to change the bobbin more often than necessary. Now this wouldn't be too bad (just a little annoying but what the hey) if my cheap sewing machine actually worked. I've already found out that a couple little hiccups I've had with the bobbin (mainly the thread getting caught underneath and creating a knot I have to cut out) were caused by my amateurity, and were fixed simply by keeping the thread pushed to the other side (or at least this seems to solve the problem). But this bobbin winding thing is definately a fault in the design of the machine. Basically, I've figured out that the problem seems to be that the knobby the bobbin sits on becomes loose while winding...if I stop, push it down a little, it will run fast for just a second, then slow almost to a stop. This creates for a LOT of frustration, especially since I am doing this very often. Yesterday, I finally just put the bobbin on the winder and wound it myself, which was MUCH more effective. But this takes time. My next mission is to find a way to make this go faster, either by buying a new bobbin winder (do they sell those?) or take my machine to get looked at....which I'm sure is going to cost me. Ugh!!! I remember hating bobbin when I learned to sew, but I couldn't remember why. This is why!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bear #4 is a Success!

I am SO excited that my bear is finally a success! After 4 tries, I finally did it! This bear was patterned after my first and favorite childhood bear, Pookie.

This was my first bear, taken from the pattern for Baby Pip bear. I didn't like this one...he looked like an angry mouse and was geared more toward a sturdier fabric. My second try is from the post below, where I simply drew a freehand bear, again in pieces, and sewed them together. This was a bit rough and not what I was looking for either. My third attempt was also not quite what I wanted. This was just two pieces of fabric, in a bear shape, sewn together. Again, I had a different vision in my head.

For my fourth try, I took my childhood favorite and traced the pieces of his body that I could make out on sheets of paper. I then used these as templates. This actually worked out really well! With just a little time spent to make out where his seams were, I was able to determine how to make exactly the bear I wanted. The head is three pieces, two in the back and one in the front, and the body is made up of four pieces, first sewn together, then sewn to the head.

For the face, I hand stitched felt buttons for eyes and nose. I didn't add a mouth, as my original doesn't have one either. I also handstitched the ears, arms, legs and tail. The final step was to stuff the bear and sew the bottom (two pieces machine sewn to the bottom of the back of the bear, then hand stitched closed after stuffing). And that's about it. I'm really excited to start making these now that I have it figured out. :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My First Teddy Bear

I tried making my first teddy bear yesterday...I didn't finish him because he looked so mishapen and he has no legs. Hahaha. I will definately post a much longer explaination about the pattern I tried that I didn't end up liking because the head looked like an angry mouse, and how this little guy came to be, and hopefully my second attempt at a teddy bear. However, that won't be now. I just got back from the walk-in clinic and found out I have a raging ear infection with an ear drum stretched to the point of bursting. I had a dizzy spell after she looked in my ear, which she says happens to people, but I'm not sure if it was that or being told that the bacteria in my ear could chew a hole through my ear drum....yuck! In any case, I'm going back to bed. But I wanted to share my quirky-cute bear that I made last night.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Just some thoughts

I was walking to the train today on my way home and my back started tweaking. With every step I could feel a click on my right side. My first thought was, "How am I going to walk the 2 miles I need to walk in order to get home?" I was really tempted to hail a cab, which would most likely cost me over $30...something I probably should not be doing. Knowing that I just spent $60 on my month's worth of train rides, I decided to walk through the pain, get some exercise and save some money.

On a side note, I found my new favorite snack place, Berry Line. They sell frozen yogurt with rotating flavors and tons of delicious toppings! They use natural ingredients, and the frozen yogurt isn't the super sweet, almost ice cream can really taste the sourness of the yogurt. Also, the fruit they add on top is fresh and yummy! I suggest anyone in the Boston area go find one of their stores and give them a try!

Back to my walk...I was thinking as I started my second mile how hard it is for me to finish just one mile on a treadmill, but I can do 3 miles if I have a destination. It feels much easier to walk for longer periods when I know there's an endpoint. It gives me motivation...I can see my apartment building up ahead and I know I just have a walk a little bit more. But whenever I walk on the treadmill, I give up. I guess a little of that has to do with necessity, but it reminds me why sewing has become such an exciting thing for me. I put a lot of work into it, but there's an endpoint. A very real, useful, tangible product of my work. It motivates me to get up and get going.

I got two rejection notices for teaching positions yesterday. Even though they're just two of the 26 I have on this particular job site, they're just glaring at me, saying, "Not good enough." I know that's a really crummy attitude to have, but I can't help it. The worst part is, they don't even let you take the jobs that didn't hire you off your page. So I have this whole list of possible jobs that I've submitted or am being reviewed for, then those two "NOT HIRED." I wish they would just take them off the list. Keep things positive. :)

That's all for now. I'm cooking up ideas for things to make next...I want to try to make some stuffed animals or blankets for babies that I could maybe sell on Etsy....we'll see. First, I have to learn to replace the needle so I can hem my boyfriend's jeans and make myself a jean skirt.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Big mistakes can yield positive results

Instead of going into a really long rant about how I almost ruined my dress by cutting a hole in the top just above the elastic lace and nearly scrapped the whole thing altogether, I'm going to write a quick explaination and then eat some dinner.

Today I finally felt well enough to start working on finishing my first dress, which I can't say is my favorite, but that's because I made a lot of changes that led to mistakes that led to it not fitting exactly how I wanted it. I hemmed the bottom (very easy), took the top in a couple inches (hence the line down the back of the dress) and then started on the ruffle. I looked at a tutorial video on how to do this, and it was just as easy as she had said. I simply cut the fabric 3 times the length of the neckline (hemming that as well) and then sewed it on using a scrunch every inch. It worked really well and I'm very happy with how it turned out. It added the little extra to the neckline that I was looking for, and it doesn't look like an amateur did it...which of course, is exactly what happened. And being an amateur is exactly why I almost killed my dress and gave up the project as a bad job.

My boyfriend agreed with me that the straps were frumpy and needed to be thinned. I did this by folding over more fabric and sort of sewing a new hemline along the arms. I just eyeballed this, and one was slightly bigger than the other. *sigh* I went back and fixed that too. I wasn't feeling quite as good as I thought I was, and was getting pretty darn frustrated at this point. I quickly (seriously, have never sewn that fast!) folded over the left side and made it even with the right side and thought I was finished. After taking pictures, I decided the waistline was too low and wasn't as flattering as I would like....still.
And here is where I started half-assing the job, made a big mistake and got really, really pissed off.
I eyeballed about an inch of fabric, folding from the bustline to the waistline, and sewing them together. I did this quickly, then started cutting away the extra material. Well, I not only eyeballed just a bit too much fabric, but I also cut a hole just above the elastic lace. Argh! At this point, I threw caution to the wind and just start going at it witht the sewing machine!
Well, all turned out ok. I ended up with a dress that is a bit lower cut than I had expected, but it is definately more flattering than before. You can't really see where the hole was, but don't look on the inside of my's a hot mess. I'll probably need a cami to go under this one, at least when I'm in a more professional place. I like it though. It feels good, and maybe it will be like the blue floral skirt. A bitch to make that feels great to wear.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My first dress and a little stress

Yesterday, despite the fact that I was sick, lacking any energy or motivation, I decided to get started on my first dress. I bought a See & Sew pattern from Joann Fabrics and an abstract black, white and red stretchy fabric. I figured since it was a pattern I'd be able to whip it out quickly with little to no alterations needed. *sigh* Boy, was I naive.

First off, I had this silly idea that I could make different folds in the fabric to leave a more whole scrap piece. Of course, I forgot that the pattern needs to stay vertical and I made my first cut so the pattern was horizontal. No worries, I bought enough fabric this time to make up for mistakes. I cut new top pieces and began to sew. The dress was fast and easy, and even though I was feeling worse as the night wore on, I kept sewing. I was a woman with a mission and no amount of sore throat, aches or stomach cramps were going to stop me! That was, until I tried on my finished product.

Hello frumpy! The neckline that looked sooooo cute on the pattern packaging looked boxy and frumpy on me. I obviously didn't need to use the larger size, especially with such stretchy fabric. Not only that, but the waist was about 4 inches too low and was so loose it looked like I had no waist. I found the energy, after some dinner cooked by my very patient and caring boyfriend, to add some pretty elastic lace from the store in Cambridge to the waistline of my dress. Here, I think, is when I really began feeling like poo. I accidentally sewed the waistline to about 2 inches of the bust line. Frustrated, feeling yuckier by the minute, I carefully snipped the stitching out and redid that section of the waistband. Tried the dress a little better around the waist, but the top still looked two sizes too big and way too boring. Exhaustion setting in, I gave up for the night and decided to make some alterations, hopefully in the way of a cute neckline and taking in the waist a bit more, another day.

That other day is NOT today. I spent most of the night being sick and didn't get to bed until 3 am as a result. Still have a horrible sore throat and just feeling exhausted this morning...or should I say, afternoon. My new dress will have to wait until I am a little more coherent, or I may end up sewing the hemline to the neckline, and end up ripping it to pieces in frustration.

On the job front, I've applied for yet another 3 teaching positions, as per the unemployment requirements. Still haven't received my first check from them. Must call if I don't in the next couple of days. I'm still surprised by the fact that you can be an assistant teacher or paraprofessional with no degree or license, yet they want a Master's degree just to be a first year teacher. As I have my Bachelor's, I seem to fit somewhere in the middle. I applied for both, hoping I will get the latter rather than the former. I also got a call about an infant/toddler position from someone who found my resume online. Must call her back too. I don't look forward to saying, "Thank you for calling me but I can't do toddlers, my body can't handle it anymore." I'm hoping she won't laugh at me. At the ripe ol' age of 25, I already have physical ailments preventing me from doing work. *sigh* I swear if I hear a sentence that starts with the phrase, "You're too young to be worrying about..." I will throw a tantrum. Actually, I MUST be old enough to worry about back problems, arthritis, fertility, etc because I already am. Don't judge a book by its publishing date, people.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's Getting Steamy

Our bedroom has been taken over by un-ironed and wrinkly shirts. Being at home a lot, I've been filling up some of that time with cleaning and tidying, but no matter how much I clean, I can't find a place to put the giant pile of un-ironed dress shirts. My seven year old iron has recently been leaving little presents of iron deposits on my boyfriend's shirts, leading to a big build up of things to be ironed in the closet, on the dresser, over the chairs...and so on and so forth. So although I usually tell him not to buy things just because they are on sale, I immediately said YES to the steamer.

And I swear it wasn't just because I needed it for my new pink skirt.

Speaking of which, this is my most recent sewing project, and I finished it with mixed emotions. I had these grand dreams about this skirt, flowy and girly, with its beautiful pink floral print, which,, according to Clinton and Stacy on one of my favorite shows "What Not to Wear," should be very flattering because the size of the print should match the size of the person. In most stores, you find small, dainty prints, and the larger, bolder prints are either ugly or really expensive. With this new skirt, I was able to create something that was beautiful, affordable, and fit "The Rules." Well...I had some good times and some frustrating times with this one. I got the waistband issue all figured out. I went to a store in Cambridge that, while they have very outdated fabric and smells like the merchandise has been there since they were in style (probably early to mid 90s), they have a plethora of lace, edging and elastic. Did you know that you can make your own JCrew underwear? Well with the elastic sold there, YOU CAN! In any case, I found some super cheap elastic and lace, and this mimics the elastic in one of my favorite Ann Taylor skirts. This time, the waist was easy and turned out great. I pinned the elastic, stretched out, along the fabric, where I left lots of room unlike last time. Once pinned and in the right place, I folded it over and sewed it in. The elastic is sewn together at one end, creating a one-piece band, but is not sewn into the fabric, so there is room to stretch and gather naturally.

I wanted this skirt to be different than the last two, which are fuller and flowy and don't fit very close to the body. I tried doing some pleats, but didn't like that, and didn't have enough material to add a ruffle. So after trying it on, I made it a little snug around the hips and flaring out more at the bottom. It was a subtle change but enough for me to feel like I wasn't making the same skirt in another fabric. I did this by trying it on and pinning it on each side to the snugness I wanted, then sewing the sides together. The material is a bit heavier and more coarse than the last two, which meant after washing it, it came out extremely wrinkly. And here is where the steamer comes in.

The steamer arrived in just two days (thanks to Amazon Prime!). My boyfriend was really excited to use it, but found at first that it took some time. This was a little disappointing, as we were hoping that it would shave some time off the routine. After about an hour, however, he got in a groove and found it to be very easy and quick. My skirt, I must say, was probably the most problematic of all the garments. I blame this on the fabric. I have found that I gravitate towards pattern first and texture once I get home. Hopefully, next time I will spend a little more time making sure I like the fabric's feel and not just the look. But anyway, after two full steam sessions, it is mostly wrinkle free and looks great. I think I'll get past the coarse texture because it is pretty flattering, and a great pattern. I'm hoping I will still be able to find a fabric to make a matching shirt, as in my previous post I told you how the matching shirt was a big failure. Good thing I have a couple tanks in my dresser that match! This project required a bit more time focusing on fit, and a LOT more time ironing out the wrinkles. Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. Next...I'll be making my first dress. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Some Failures

I have to admire my former students in their creative efforts. Even when things don't look exactly like they want them to, they go with the flow. They're proud of their work and just love taking part in the experience. I, however, am not that easy going.

So I had my first sewing failure. The last time I went to the fabric store, I got this great pink floral print to make into another skirt, and a pink cotton fabric to make a matching shirt. The last two shirts I've made were of very stretchy material, a jersey type, and they are super comfy! I knew I would need to make some allowances for not having stretch, but unfortunately I underestimated just how much. My first attempt was far too small, and I also stuck myself with pins trying to pry it off my chest...not fun. So I took some measurements and started over, only this time it ended up WAY too big on top, but a bit too tight near the bottom. And by that time I was out of fabric. UGH!

A couple days later, my boyfriend brought home some cake mix, and that became my next project. I've been baking for a while now and I really enjoy it, but I've been trying to make things that are healthier, as I've mentioned before I'm trying to lose a few. I looked up this great recipe for cutting out oil and eggs ( I've also tried using butter substitutes in my frosting, though I've found that it doesn't stand up as well as butter. It just doesn't stay as firm. Well, this time my boyfriend wanted me to try using Splenda instead of sugar in the frosting. Let me tell you, you CAN'T change more than one element in a recipe without doing some kind of research or planning (like with the pink shirt!). Using Brummel & Brown buttery spread and Splenda gave me a very thin icing that was waaaaaaaay too sweet. So at 10pm, we rushed to the grocery store, picked up some confectioners sugar, more B&B, and some shortening and tried again. The Brummel & Brown (combined with a very hot night and a not so effective AC) was still pretty droopy, so my basket weave technique looks pretty sad. But I must say, my boyfriend's addition of strawberries and kiwis added a great element. Ultimately, cake is cake and we really enjoyed it! But by now the thing, even though it's in the refrigerator, is melting and gooey and not very appealing.

So lessons learned? Plan. Don't change too many elements. And when mistakes happen, enjoy the spoils.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Project 2

This is my second outfit. I used another tank I like to get the neckline, adding some lace on my own. This took the longest to sew, but added some nice puckering that gives it a little more dimension. The skirt was a NIGHTMARE to make! I bought the last of the fabric, but didn't realize how shear it was. I ended up using some old jersey sheets to line it, which added to the process. Then the waistband...I sewed the band then tried to insert the elastic. BAD IDEA. Took me nearly an hour and a half, a crocheting needle, some thread and a lot of swearing. But, there it is, super comfy and fits me just right. Which is difficult these days, as I am on hormone therapy for my endometriosis to hopefully preserve my fertility, and like anyone who has ever been on lots of hormones will know, it does more than make you an emotional mess. I've been in a somewhat faux menopause in my 20s and gained weight that has proven difficult to lose. Which is another reason why I really like this whole making my own clothes thing. I don't have to search forever to find something that is cute and flattering!

Project 1

This is my very first project, sewn on my very first sewing machine. I used a tank top I already new I liked and traced roughly around it. The first time, however, I made it a bit too small, not leaving much room for hemming and stitching. But the second attempt turned out pretty great. Feels wonderful and made just for me. The skirt was easy enough. I measured my waist where I wanted it to sit, then added about 20 inches to the bottom hem and cut diagonally to there. The waist is elastic because, hello! It's comfortable and way easier than learning to sew a zipper, which I WILL try later in the summer.

This is the cheap-o sewing machine I found on Amazon that inspired me to sew my own clothes. I have only used the straight and zig-zag stitches so far. I've been really excited about making different outfits, but not motivated enough to explore different stitches. I'm sure I will as the summer goes on.

Why I Decided to Sew

I started sewing because I bought a sewing machine. And I bought a sewing machine because I needed to hem a pair of pants and my hand stitching is oh-so-not straight! But...that's not quite right. I bought a sewing machine because going to a tailor gets expensive (and I found a sewing machine for under $60), and I had a lot of time on my hands. And I've had a lot of time on my hands for months now. Why? Well...that begins my story.

About six months ago, I was helping a child in my toddler class wash his hands, and as I was standing up, I felt this pop in my back. I suddenly could not walk or sit or move, really, without terrible pain. I burst into tears in front of my students, my coworkers, a parent and a student teacher. I had to be taken on a stretcher to the ER, the most embarrassing part of which wasn't my kids asking me if I was ok, or crying while being lifted onto the stretcher, or even knowing that people were watching me as I was being wheeled out of the huge building I work in and out into the rain. The really embarrassing part was that I didn't even do much and suddenly I was so utterly useless.

This isn't the first time I've had some big health issue for no reason. In high school I had strange poppings and pain in my lower back and hips, making me miss a good chunk of my senior year leading my dance team. I was told many times that I was young and shouldn't have back problems. Nine months of diagnostics later, I found out dance was exactly what caused the injury to my SI joint, making my hips too flexible and causing misallignment. So I had to quit that passion. I've had many bouts of multiple bilateral kidney stones that weren't caused by diet, as well as recurring ovarian cysts on both sides. I couldn't explain why I was always in pain and throwing up and staying home. I later found out that not only did I have endometriosis, a condition that causes pain, cysts and infertility, but I also suffered from medulary sponge kidneys and renal tubular acidosis. This is what caused my almost 30 kidney stones in just 3 years.

Of course, I'm not writing this blog to complain and bitch and say, "Oh poor me!" I think I've done enough of that to my poor boyfriend over the last five months. A month of that I couldn't leave my own bed, get dressed on my own, even bend down to get a pot and cook myself some lunch. They determined I had no spinal or disk damage, but had worn out the muscles in my back during the three years I had spent teaching toddlers. Over the next four months, I went to physical therapy, building up the muscles in my back and was overjoyed when I was cleared to go back. However, my company, which is closing the child care center I work at later in the year, put me in the first wave of teachers to be laid off.

So here I home. With lots of time on my hands. Once again, I feel that my body has told me I have to give up one of my passions: teaching young children. And this leads me back to sewing, and this blog. I had a hard time finding things to do during those four months at home, and put a lot of time and effort into my jobs search for the fall. After a lot of soul searching, and reflection on what put me in the position I was in, I decided not to look into child care anymore and commit to looking for the kindergarten or first grade position I had longed for since I graduated from college. I found that this search goes much, much slower. So when my new pants were too long and my pathetic hand stitching didn't cut it, I bought a sewing machine. A fire lit under my butt and I thought, "Hey! I don't have to sit around all day, watching bad television and lamenting over my situation. I can sew!"

And "sew" I did. I've decided to create a new passion, and rekindle an old one as well: writing. This is my blog documenting my efforts to better myself and learn a trade that I never thought I would use. I've had a little bit of training as a kid, but for the most part, I am winging it. Looking here and there, picking up techniques online and in books and hoping that I can turn this into a real hobby. And of course, venting my frustrations on the internet. :)