Today I dusted off my old 1960’s Singer sewing machine and decided to learn to sew. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to sew. As a child I longed to make my own clothes, but without the means I found myself stapling together garments to create a specific look. Yes, staples – shaking my head! As I grew older, my desire to create custom clothing only grew. I would dream up an outfit and then go out on the town trying to find it, only to continually be let down that it didn’t seem to exist. This lent itself to hand stitching clothing, whether it was to create a new piece or alter an existing item.
So yesterday when I decided the time had come, I hopped on my bike and peddled my way up to the local Fabric store and sewing studio. This was the first of many lessons – most local fabric stores are focused on knitting and quilting, very little garment fabric. Luckily the lady was really nice and taught me about invisible zippers before sending me off on an hour and a half bike ride to the far end of town for the holy grail of fabric stores, Colorado Fabrics. Apparently the largest one between Chicago and LA and it just happened to be on my bike trail. Go figure!
About halfway in my back started to get stiff and all I could think about was there was no way possible I’d be able to ride back. Though I peddled on. The entire way an off-road bike trail thanks to the awesomeness of living in Denver. When I arrived utterly exhausted, I found myself in an expansive store filled with just about any fabric you could dream up – silks, linens, knits, flannels, quick dry, rain, etc. If you’ve read my other blogs you’ll know I’m a bit of tomboy with a closet filled with tools, though here I was ooh’ing and awe’ing in the land of fabric.
I found myself trying to stock up on as much fabric and zippers as I could think of a project for given the thought of riding my bike there again sounded like torture. Surprisingly, loaded up with fabrics I was able to will myself back on the bike and get going. The way back would only be an hour and with an impending rain storm, I was on fire trying to get home in time since I didn’t pack a rain coat. For the most part the trail is manageable, slight ups and downs, but there’s a section where you go under the freeway and the climb back up is an absolute killer.
With my hour plus each way focused on huffing and puffing my way across town, I had plenty of time to get lost in thoughts and couldn’t help but be amazed at how much our bodies can accomplish when we need them to perform. Sure if I had a car I’d happily have drove it. Like really, who rides 1.5 hours on a bike to run an errand!?!? Likewise if I had an income, I’d happily have rented a car to drive down or used a taxi. All I can say is our bodies are awesome. Though the ride time plus the two stores ate up the entire day and I pretty much just went to the gym and then called it a night. After 26 miles on the bike, I slept like a baby.
This morning I bounced out of bed a little before 6:00am. Fabric in hand, today would be the day! As if all the hassle of the prior day wasn’t enough, the sewing machine my mother gave me (previously her mother’s) hadn’t been touched in 20 years. So step one was reading tutorials on how to oil an old sewing machine, then an hour or so of dismantling and oiling. All set? Nope. Sewing machines have a bottom thread and a top thread that come together to create the stitch. The bottom thread for the life of itself wouldn’t come up to join the top thread, which is critical to start sewing.
Although I’m taking to sewing late in life, I come from a long line of sewers. My great grandmother sewed professionally at a mattress factory. Her daughter, my grandmother, sewed many of her children’s clothes. Her daughter, my mother, sewed much of our clothes growing up. My sister, sews clothes for her children’s and even has her own Etsy store selling her pieces. Soo… after spending over an hour futzing with the needle, I felt really lucky that I had a sister to reach out to who knows sewing machines inside and out.
With a fluke May blizzard falling in the background (thank goodness yesterday was warm!), I did FaceTime with my sister as she sat in her toasty southernly warmth. She patiently watched me thread the machine, rethread the machine, thread the bobbin, rethread the bobbin, over and over again until we could finally get the darn thing to work. Turns out the needle had been put in backward and fixing its position got me back in gear. Half the day was gone at this point and admittedly I was a bit frustrated from spending so many hours just trying to get the darn machine to work.
Much like my attempts to find a dress I’d dreamed up at the local department store, I couldn’t find it this time in the pattern selections. Soo… my first sewing machine project would also be a custom pattern created by me. OMG. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t ever do things the easy way – like taking a sewing class or using a pattern. Though no, just not wired like that I guess. Anyhow, so I set off hand creating the pattern. The bottom part of the skirt was easy. I just cut a long piece of fabric for the skirt so I only had to sew one seam and the hem. Then I cut fabric the exact same size for the lining, sewing the seam and hem.
Finally everything was going so easy! Well, that is until I started on the top. So… when doing a first project without a pattern, I’d recommend not doing a cowl neck and not doing cap sleeves. Of course the design I had in my head required them both, so be it. I cut two pieces of fabric, one for the front and one for the back. It took quite a bit of time pinning and re-pinning in the mirror to try to figure out how to get the angle of the body, wider at shoulders, narrower at tummy. Then how to make the cowl deep in the front but flat in the back. Then how to get the cap sleeves to have the right size openings and be equal. Not the easiest first project I could have chose…
But at the end of the day when I finished, it was such a cool accomplishment. Yesterday I proved to myself my body can do more than I imagined. Today I proved to myself my brain can do more than I imagined. So I guess the moral is, it’s never too late to learn and you can do anything you set your sights on. So stop waiting, start doing!