September is National Sewing Month so I decided a while back that I would tackle sewing for my blog project this month. I had dreams of completing two projects - a sleep mask and a iPad holder made of pre-quilted material. What I didn't dream about is the obstacles I'd encounter. But I did learn lots of lessons!
I have sewn in the past and I own a sewing machine. When I was 17 I sewed a sleeveless maxi dress with lots of help from my mother and it was decent enough that I got compliments on it. My next sewing adventure was making a reversible fabric purse in my 20's. Then about 10 years later I made a pair of pajama bottoms. And that's really my entire experience with a sewing machine up to September 2015. So when I sat down to get started on the sleep mask I didn't have a lot of experience or a lot of luck. I initially put the layers of the mask together incorrectly. Then I sewed the elastic on backwards. Even when I got those things correct, I was still having problems. But I plugged away trying several times until, one night as I was sewing, I heard a crunching noise. I found out that not only had I broken my needle but also the tension on the machine seemed to be off so the bobbin thread was breaking.
The next day I took my machine to a local sewing store to be cleaned and looked at. It was missing a foot and missing the screw to correct the tension issue I was having. I ended up buying a new machine. I had never been a huge fan of the old one (it was purchased online about 12 years ago) and I sadly didn't take very good care of it as I carted it around in my moves to different cities. So I figured for an few extra dollars I should just start fresh. My new machine came with a carry bag, a very good warranty, a free cleaning within a year of purchase and a 45 minute hands-on lesson on how to use it. Score!
With my new machine in hand (that's it to the left, all set up with my OttLite lamps), I also decided to start fresh with a new project. I will still make a sleep mask because I use one every night, but I wanted to start with something that would be larger. So I picked a dress for my 7 year old daughter.
You might be thinking "A dress? You couldn't make a little sleep mask and you're tacking a dress?!" My theory was that I'd made a dress before and I purposely didn't pick one with a zipper (one thing at a time). The dress does have cap sleeves which are new to me. However after talking to so many people for our What Inspires blog, I've learned that if you don't try something you're never going to learn how to do anything new.
The pattern I chose was Simplicity It's So Easy Pattern 1146. It has two dress styles and I purchased fabric for both with hopes that the first one would go well and I would want to tackle the second one. My daughter loves wearing a dress so having too many dresses is a good thing in our house.
The first thing I did was to read the directions. Twice. That's another tip I've received from our interviews -- make sure you read instructions. I felt pretty confident after reading so I got to cutting out my pattern. Now there are many different theories on how to cut a pattern and also on how you can cut out the fabric without cutting out the pattern in case you want to make the pattern in another size. Tilly and the Buttons had an easy to understand method that I filed away for later use. I'm really not that advanced at this point though so this time I just stuck to what I knew.
Having the correct tools makes any experience more enjoyable and this is especially true for sewing. Having a machine that operated correctly was a great start. I got a seam ripper, for the mistakes, and a sewing gauge, so I could do the hem and neckline. I also had my OttLite lamps, the 3.5" LED Magnifier with Clip and Stand and the LED Cone Clip Lamp, which were perfect for what I needed. The Cone Clip gave me the extra light I needed to see the stitches I was sewing and the flexible neck let me move the light right where I needed it. The magnifier was great for threading the needle and when I was sewing small areas. I wear glasses and as the years go on I find that my vision isn't as great as it used to be when I made that first dress years ago. Having enough lighting and magnification for the small details made sewing less stressful. The picture on the right is without any magnification (left side of picture) and with magnification from the 3.5" LED Magnifier (right side of picture) as I was sewing badges on my daughter's Girl Scout sash. As you can see, with the 3.5" LED Magnifier I was able to really see where my needle was on the flag badge so I could sew on the edges.
Between having the right tools, working when I wasn't exhausted, correcting my mistakes and taking my time, it took me about two and a half weeks to complete my daughter's dress. That's a picture of the finished dress at the bottom of the page.
I made plenty of mistakes. I sewed the loops for the buttons on backwards the first time and when I first sewed the neckline it was wonky. Even after resewing it it's a little wonky. But that's okay. It's a learning experience and it didn't ruin the dress. I also did things right and I found that sewing at a slower pace and having all the right tools and lighting made the experience more enjoyable for me. And my daughter loved the dress, which made me feel good. I will definitely sew more things and I will take my time. So stay tuned -- I still owe you the instructions on that sleep mask and an iPad holder!
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