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Sewing Tuesday 1

Posted on Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Dave!My online sewing classes have started!

I learned to sew when I was pretty young. My grandmother thought it was important that I be able to mend a hole in a shirt or hem a pair of pants, so she taught me the basics. Over the years I've made use of my sewing skills from time to time. Usually to fix a piece of clothing I've ripped up, but sometimes to do something interesting. Like make a Halloween costume...

Dave and Mr. Flibble

Dave as Avitable's MURDER CLOWN!

But I've grown rusty over the years, and the last thing I want to do is embarrass myself in front of my grandmother the next time I have to use her sewing machine.

And sew (heh heh) I signed up for an e-course over at Whipstitch Modern Sewing called "Essential Sewing." It sounded like exactly what I needed to get my confidence back and hone my skills for whatever sewing-related emergencies might come up. The itinerary is surprisingly comprehensive, and takes six weeks to complete (all for the ridiculous bargain price of $179!).

The e-course started with an intro video yesterday.

It's nothing like I thought it would be.

It's actually fun.

That's because Deborah isn't content to just throw out instructions, her videos are all about getting everybody excited about sewing. And she's funny...

Deborah Says SEWING IS FUN! SOOOO... WHAT'S YOUR FANTASY?
NOTE: Deborah doesn't actually say this. I'm paraphrasing.

Students started out by introducing ourselves, talking about our sewing experience, then telling everybody our "sewing fantasy"... what we aspire to do once we've completed the course. My fantasy is to be able to neatly extend sleeves on shirts and jackets when I can't find them in "Tall" sizes (which is all the time). Fingers crossed that Deb will make all my fantasies come true!*

Tonight was the second video where Deborah starts digging into the tools you'll need. Like scissors...

Deborah Says These scissors suck!
NOTE: Deborah doesn't actually say this. I'm paraphrasing again.

Apparently, when it comes to scissors, ideally you want eight long hard inches of steel. I was kind of embarrassed when I had to tell everybody in the class that I'm packin' two inches of soft aluminum... with pink plastic handles...

Dave's Pink Scissors

What I didn't have the guts to share is that my grandmother's sewing machine is like... sixty years old or something. Oh well. It totally works...

Grandma's Sewing Machine

   
From there we went on to learning about irons...

When it comes to irons... you'll want it hot, heavy, and steamy!
NOTE: Deborah doesn't actually say this. She SHOULD though, right?

Oh yeah!

When I signed up for the class, I was excited about becoming a better seamstress seamster(?), but kind of dreading having to do the work to actually get there. But now? After only two videos, I am completely psyched to dig in and learn to sew stuff good!

I've decided to post my progress on Tuesday of each week. THAT aught to be interesting.

In the meanwhile, if you want to join in on the class (or take a look at the classes offered for all experience levels)... click here to visit the Whipstitch e-course page! Then prepare to have your world rocked**.

   

*I'd be dubious, but she wouldn't be the first woman putting videos on the internet that have promised to make my fantasies come true, then delivered on that promise!

**Or at least nicely tailored.

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JoAnn

Posted on Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Dave!I do not intimidate easily.

When you travel as much as I do, you really can't intimidate easily... especially when visiting abroad. Because if you don't speak the language and don't know much about the culture, you just have to dig in as politely as you know how and hope for the best. Otherwise you'll end up hungry... or lost... or worse.

As I mentioned previously, I am taking an awesome basic sewing class from Whipstitch. Up until now, it's been basic stuff like cutting fabric in a straight line and practicing stitching on a sewing machine. But now we're starting to sew actual projects, which means I have to go buy material and thread and supplies and stuff.

Which means a trip to the JoAnn Fabric & Craft Store.

A place that intimidates me more than just about anywhere else on earth.

Mostly because I don't really understand the place or how to shop there, but also because the people there are mean. I don't know if it's because I'm a guy... or because I'm a newbie... or because they just don't like my face... or what. But every time I've gone to JoAnn I end up feeling stupid and embarrassed because everybody there (employees and customers alike) seems annoyed with my questions and total lack of knowledge. To them, sewing is important business, and I guess I'm just wasting their time.

So, after what few projects I've taken on, I've learned to not ask questions when I go to JoAnn.

Instead I just blindly wander around looking for stuff I think I need and hope for the best. Until now I've been sewing for myself, so it doesn't matter if I goof up and I really don't care if my Halloween costume is made wrong. But this time I'm sewing for a class, so I wanted to do things right. When you don't know what you're doing and are too afraid to ask questions, this can take a while.

The first thing I had to do was buy fabric for upcoming projects. The problem is I don't know what kind of fabric to get... and there's tons of it to choose from. Since I don't know any fabrics by name, I decided to shop by feel. "Well this kind of feels like a placemat" or "I guess this is what a tote bag should feel like," I'd say to myself. Who knows whether I ended up getting the right stuff... but I do like the colors I found, so I guess that's something.

After that I tried to buy the accessory stuff that's on my supplies list... and failed miserably. The lesson says drawstring and elastic, but there's like a gazillion different kinds and I have no idea what to get. So I get nothing. I guess I'll have to write the class for help and make another horrible trip to JoAnn next week.

Next up I had to buy thread to match my fabrics. I thought this would be easy, but thread spools come in all kinds of different sizes and shapes. I decide to go for the "traditional" spools that I recognize, but the colors don't match very well. So instead I get these tall skinny spools that have designer colors. Hopefully they fit on my grandmother's machine.

Lastly I wanted to go drool over proper 8-inch Gingher dressmaker shears and see how they match up to my 2-inch pink Fiskars. My intent was to just look. But they were on sale for 30% off, so I decided to go ahead and get them. The sale shouldn't have been an incentive since it seemed as if EVERYTHING was on sale at JoAnn, but I do love the sexy bastards, so I guess it was worth spending money I don't have...

Gingher Shears

And now it was time to have my bolts of fabric cut. This meant interacting with JoAnn employees, which I dread. The last time I needed some fabric cut, the woman started asking me questions I didn't understand and couldn't answer. Not knowing what to do, I told her "I'll just take the fabric please" which only seemed to piss her off. Apparently the stuff I was buying required special handling or something, and the fact that I didn't know this made me stupid.

This time the lady behind the counter seemed very nice, which was a relief. She didn't pitch me any crap while taking care of my fabric, so I felt confident enough to ask her questions like... "Will these scissors work for a right-handed person when it doesn't say so on the box?"... and "Do you know what in the heck 'Wonder Under' is and where I can get it?"... and "Is this 'Sulky' stuff on my list something I can buy here?" She answered me without eye-rolling or a condescending tone, which was a pleasant surprise.

And so tomorrow I can (hopefully) get caught up with Friday's tote bag project and make me a placemat. Though I didn't buy any of this "interfacing" stuff that I apparently need for the placemat, so I might be screwed there.

Oh well. Tonight I'm going to sleep with my new shears and dream about stuff I can cut with them...

Scissor Sleep

...which may or may not include cutting a bitch. Though I'd then have to worry about how tough the bitch was, because I don't want to dull the blades.

Nothing ruins a sexy pair of new scissors like dull blades.

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Sewing Tuesday 2

Posted on Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Dave!Continuing my adventures with the Whipstitch Essential Sewing E-Course...

TOTE BAG! TOTE BAG, YO!

Last week my sewing class moved past learning what you need to know to sew... to actually sewing stuff. Our first project was a napkin. Mine turned out okay, but it was pretty boring because my grandmother's machine doesn't have any fancy decorative stitches on it. Not content to eat using a boring napkin, I decided to practice sewing in a straight line all over it. After that, the napkin wasn't boring... but it was a little scary, so I threw it away.

The second project we got to tackle was a tote bag.

At first I thought Deborah was insane for expecting her students to go from a napkin to a frickin' tote bag... but her video made it look easy so I was excited to try it.

My first tote bag was made from a light stripey denim-like material with a blue flannel interior. Our instructor can whip out a tote bag in eight minutes... this one took me nearly two hours. Mostly because I had stupidly used stripy fabric which took quite a bit of time to line up perfectly so that everything looked right. Despite how long it took to make, I have to say that it turned out pretty darn sweet. It looks great and is comfortable to carry stuff in, just like a tote bag should be...

StripeyBag

Last night I decided to make another tote bag out of "Duck Canvas." At first I was worried that the sewing machine wouldn't be able to punch through the stuff, but it was no problem at all. This time it took me only a half-hour to finish. The outside is pretty plain... but when you look inside? FANCY!!

StripeyBag

I think it turned out even more awesome than the first one.

And now we're learning all kinds of stuff about fabric which I never knew... stuff I never knew that I needed to know. Things like "grain" and "bias" that I've previously ignored.

What's kind of cool is that I'm learning not only how to make sure future sewing projects will be successful... but why my past projects have failed. I was doing everything all wrong and didn't even realize it.

Who knew?

Now, if you'll excuse me... I've got to make some CONTINUOUS BIAS TAPE! And yes, I actually know what that is now.

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Sewing Tuesday 3

Posted on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Dave!It's been a really tough week to keep up with my sewing classes but, since I ended up coming home so early yesterday, I spent most of last night getting caught up...

...AND PLAYING WITH MY BRAND NEW SEWING MACHINE!!

My dad saw my sewing struggles on my blog and decided to give me an early birthday present... a Brother SE400! It's pretty sweet, does just about everything you could ever want, and sews like a dream with dozens of computer-controled stitches. As if that weren't enough, it can do embroidery as well...

Brother SE400 Sewing and Embroidery Machine

It's going to take a while to figure everything out, but I'm digging it so far!

The first project I had to work on was a "Drawstring Tote Bag." I thought it looked kinda like an army duffle bag, so I decided to buy some cammo fabric and make something I could use in one of my AnySoldier.com care packages. It holds three rolls of toilet paper perfectly...

Sewing: Duffle Drawstring Tube Bag

The next project was a "Relaxing Eye Mask" filled with rice that you can microwave or freeze. I had a big problem trying to get the tie-straps turned inside-out, so I ended up having to make them really huge so I wouldn't get stuck...

Sewing: My Mask an Failed Strap

Still works okay though...

Sewing: Relaxing Eye Mask

The last thing I had to do was practice stitching around shapes appliqué-style. My new sewing machine makes stuff like this a snap because it feeds fabric so beautifully and can make such perfect stitches...

Sewing: My Heart Appliqué!

I may have went a little too dense on the stitch-length though... I burned through a spool of thread in no time flat.

Our next project is an apron with ruffles on it. I have given up all hope of making it look like something a guy like me could wear, as I am not nearly macho enough to pull off ruffles. Oh well... you don't need an apron to heat up a microwave TV dinner, so it's all good.

Now I really should unpack my dirty clothes. Otherwise my next sewing project will have to be a suitcase, because my current one is starting to smell.

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