Wednesday, May 5, 2010


My dad and mom gave me a sewing machine for Christmas, and I am sad that I haven't mentioned it until now, but here it is. The Brother. See the below photo and read the label, it's the Project Runway edition! Speaking of Project Runway, I have a confession to make. When the show first came on and it seemed like everyone was crazed with PR adrenaline, I totally brushed it off and thought something like, These people are such weirdos, all they do is sit around and watch stupid reality shows. Well, friends, family, countrymen...I'm here to tell you that on a Saturday about a year ago, I was glued to 6 hours of a PR marathon on Lifetime (yep, you read that correctly). I watched the first episode, and I don't know if it was the burst of color in Mood Fabrics or the inflection of Tim's voice when he said, "My rules, your style," but I was hooked for the rest of the afternoon. And then I wanted to buy one of those $250.00 dress forms that would allow me to design and assemble an outfit from the creations in my head with a big smorgasbord of fabric and pins...I just knew a sweet outfit would appear like magic. Little did I know how difficult it would be for me to even sew a straight line on The Brother.
R. in the Real World presents The Brother.
My mom has sewn for years. I think she popped out of the womb and sewing was inherent in her. For years, I watched her sew dresses, curtains, professionally hem pants/skirts with her over-lock machine, etc. She can sew anything. And everything she makes is as close to perfect as it can get; seams are matched, textile designs are matched, no strings are hanging off of the edges. You can imagine my childhood shopping days spent at Gap comparing all the size small white crewneck tee shirts that they had in the store. Which one was longer? Were the seams matched up under the arms? Did the grain of the fabric match on the shirt's side seams? Anyways, I never really thought the sewing bug would hit me, but alas, after making jewelry for over 10 years of my life, I felt a little burned out with the beading and thought I would like to be able to make useful things besides luxury items. It must have been the bad economy that reminded me of the diminishing jewelry sales I was experiencing. At my favorite store on the Downtown Mall, O'Suzannah's, I bought an amazing book called Simple Sewing: Patterns and How-To for 24 Fresh and Easy Projects by Lotta Jansdotter. I have yet to find a sewing class in this town that doesn't conflict with my immediate schedule, but I do want to take a beginner sewing class, just to help me grasp some foundational concepts about sewing. I learn by doing, so when I look at a diagram, it's extremely difficult for me to magically see the whole concept that the instructions are trying to explain in a 2"x2" picture. Instead of taking a sewing class, I have been reading all the projects and their instructions in Simple Sewing and another book by Amy Butler called In Stitches. Most likely, I will continue in this method forevermore, even after attending a sewing class or two. The first thing I ever made on The Brother, besides the obvious trial of all 50 stitch designs it will do on scrap pieces of fabric, was a set of 4 napkins for my friend J.'s birthday , using instructions from Simple Sewing.
My first sewing project! This picture makes me laugh because every time I take a picture of something, this table cloth is in the photo, along with my red salt & pepper shakers...
I made these in February, and honestly, I thought they took forever to complete from start to finish. The seam lines were totally crooked. In a hilarious way. Personally, I thought they resembled a sewing project that a toddler may have done, but I guess this project just goes down in the books as the set of napkins with "character." Then again, it was my very first project...and my super awesome mom wasn't sitting across the kitchen table from me giving me pointers from all her bank of sewing experience.
When I learn new things, I am very ambitious. For instance, as my second sewing project ever, I wanted to make the below "all day tote" from Simple Sewing. Who wouldn't want to make that? It holds a newspaper and a water bottle! It wasn't difficult to make, but the only project I'd ever done with a sewing machine prior to this was hemming the edges of a piece of square-shaped fabric aka the set of 4 napkins.
I have no clue how long it took me to make this bag. I wanted black & white polka dots on the outside, but I loved that pink and green floral print for the liner. In an attempt to bring the warm pinks and greens together in a collaboration with the black & white polka dots and downplay the stark contrast, I satin-stitch-embroidered (by hand, people, no Brother involved on that endeavor) with embroidery floss on some random dots on the front panel pocket and on the back panel of the bag in 3 colors: a light spring green, light pink and a padparadscha/coral shade. Like I said, "character." When assembling the bag with pins prior to stitching it up, I found myself reading through each numerical instruction over and over and over again. Literally. I had already read the whole project about 2 or 3 times prior to even cutting the fabric for the bag, and I would read each step twice, get the pins positioned just right, and then before I surrendered the subject to the powers of The Brother, I would read the instruction one more time and then second guess myself. It was quite the time consuming venture, but now it's all done. All I know is that I can't keep track of how many times I read and reread instructions.
R. in the Real World presents: Jill, the black & white polka dot all-day tote. Even though it's an inanimate object, I couldn't live with myself if I didn't give her a name.
As you can see, my sewing life has overtaken the kitchen table and the ironing board. A lack of workspace causes one to become very creative in how to execute projects...I've noticed myself using the ironing board as counter space when preparing food, maybe if I threw a table cloth or tapestry over it, it'd be a cool buffet for when I have people over for dinner. By the way, I killed a humongo centipede this morning in my apartment. When I saw him, it made me gasp, and then I got really mad that he was even hanging out in my apartment in the first place. I smashed him with an Old Navy flip flop, a very handy and useful implement in my apartment.


D.W. said...

Very impressive Miss R. Your first bag beats my first and last sewing adventure (rainstorm, needle, dental-floss, & a tent) by leaps and colorful bounds. Keep up the good work. And you should totally start charging the centipede rent.

Jessica said...

Awwww, my napkins! I love them. Love you. Such a treasure. Thanks again!!!

bekah said...

fun times, rach! soooo... it's not that hard to make a quilt. i highly recommend this book : Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson- she's freakin' amazing at everything- designing fabric, knitting, and explaining all the whos and whats of quilting. that's where i started. and you seem to be the same sort of seamstress i am :] i don't wait for instruction, i just research it and tackle it. you go girl! and if you don't already check out the noodlehead blog, you should. she makes the most adorable little things- tiny zipper pouches, coffee cozys- i want to BE her when i grow up. and... does some great quilts if you're interested. all thrown together without a pattern, and that's totally how i roll :]

bekah said...

agreed. i soooo need some crafty friends that live nearby. what the heck?!
i am doing well. it's amazing how much a basketball under your shirt changes your ability to do anything productive, atleast your ability to do it in a reasonable amount of time. poppin' out baby boy sometime in the next 2 weeks, then i'll be back to quilting and blogging and everything else i'm missing out on these days :]

Adam and Jill said...

R., you are so talented and such a great friend. The Jill bag is very impressive indeed! I only hope I can someday become half as crafty as you are :)