Turning Green and Guilt Tripping

I’ve officially started my course this week, with my first classes on pattern making and garment construction. It is hte first time since I was 13 (about 1993, for anyone who’s counting) that I’ve been taking any sort of formal sewing instruction, so I’m curious to find out just how many bad habits I’ve picked up along the way. Given that the product of the 1993 high school textile classes was a rather hideous appliqued tracksuit top with matching pants and a great story about a friend sewing through her thumb, I have higher hopes for what I learn from this round.

The start of classes has rather neatly coincided with finishing my cleaning operation on Ethel’s innards. There is still work to be done tarting up her outer appearance, but she is now officially gunk free, and has a fully cleaned and re-assembled bobbin winder. It’s also just in time for her younger sister to start acting up, making unfortunate noises and shorting out her light on a regular basis, so I’m quite excited at the thought of having a straight stitch machine online that doesn’t require me to treadle. How I’ll cope with button holing when baby Singer gives up at last I do not know – I might just find myself forced to splurge for a new machine, heaven forbid. In the mean time, I’ve decided it’s time to give a photographic update on Ethel’s progress. Please excuse the shoddy photography once again – phone cameras have their limitations.

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And now that I’ve done all that work, I have a bit of a confession to make. I’m coveting new industrial machines. It’s all the fault of my class. I’ve had a taste of life with automatic thread cutting, of a setting that means you always finish with the needle out of the fabric, of speed control settings, of computerisation. And I’m left wondering if I can jury-rig some kind of steam punk creation onto the venerable Ethel to bring her into the modern age in style. I know that all sorts of things were done to these machine heads, making them look like something straight out of Jules Verne, but the truth is, I just want a shiny new Juki to play with for my own. And with redundancy rearing it’s head at work, I’m thinking pay out could contribute to one. But then I think of Ethel, and the guilt kicks in. Because she does the work just as well. She’s just lacking in the bells, whistles, and computerisation. And the shiny. Perhaps this weekend will see her get some of that back, though. I have plans to see what car polish and elbow grease can do for her. If they can create auto features, I’ll be truly surprised, but here’s hoping for a steam punk miracle intervention.

And now with added sewing! (sort of)

I made a skirt over the weekend. I was going to make something much more complicated, but when I sat down with my fabric and pattern, I discovered that I wasn’t in the mood for fiddling. So I pulled out a piece of navy ponti that I’d had lying around for years, left over from not just one just 2 other projects, and figured out that, with some ingenuity, I had more than enough fabric to make a short-ish yoked skirt, with some pleats front and back for interest. Something like this, but with a yoke instead of a waistband, and no tabs.

I love the look of pleats. But I’m terrible at making them. I just get so frustrated with the whole process. Plus I hate ironing, and it’s essential to good pleats. So why I thought I would be in the mood to form 4 separate locations with pleats I do not know, but I was kind of making this skirt up as I went along and it seemed like it would be fine. After half an hour of cutting, half an hour on the yoke, fifteen minutes on the zip, and 3 hours on the pleats, it was ready to try on.

And now you learn the reason(s) why there are no photos to go with this post. I was a diligent blogger, and I documented the process throughout – or the bits that didn’t involve me gritting my teeth, swearing, or throwing parts of the skirt across the room. I’d topstitched the pleats to keep them flat over my butt – the perils of hips and pleats – and had also decided that, if my legs were better, I wouldn’t have bothered with the yoke at all, and would have just gone with a pleated mini (although that did run the risk of looking a little too much like a netball skirt, triggering traumatic memories of primary school sports days). I’d worked it all by eye and measuring and chalking the fabric, rather than crafting a pattern and I thought it looked pretty darn good, let me tell you. Slightly off with the pleat alignement, but matching off-ness in all locations to therefore potentially passing as deliberate. So far so awesome, yes?

Or at least I thought so until I stopped focussing on the details and had a look at the overall product. It looked a little…big. I tried to ignore it when I was pinning the yoke to the pleated section. I told myself it was just the I usually work with skirts that are much longer. But when I finished the zip and tried it on at last, I discovered that I was right to doubt the sizing. Somewhere between me measuring and cutting the fabric, it had grown four inches. As in I could easily put another 4 pleats in the skirt. I know, I pinned them to see. And I know ponti is a knit, so the laws of cutting and fitting are different, but – FOUR WHOLE INCHES!!! That’s 10cm for the meterically minded. That’s a whole lot to be off by. So now I’m faced with a decision. Do I bother with sitting down and unpicking the whole thing, adding pleats, adjusting the yoke, and remaking it all, or do I just write it off?

The only consolation here is that at least I thought to try it on before hemming. Because then I really would have thrown my toys out of the cot, let me tell you. And as the toys in question are sewing machines and scissors, it’s probably just as well that I didn’t… And what is the lesson I’m taking away from all of this? Fit earlier in the process? Measure twice, cut once? Follow a pattern properly? Well yes, I guess, but not really, no. More along the lines of “if you can’t front up to a Burda pattern because you don’t feel like cutting out 10 pieces plus interfacing, you probably shouldn’t be sewing that day.”