this post was originally published here on 10 january, 2005. i repeat it every january to help us all get off to a good start for a new year. enjoy!
the beginning of a new year brings with it a host of new seamstresses who received their very first sewing machines for christmas and are ready to get started on their sewing adventures. it can be confusing at first, there are so many choices to make and so many ways to do things, and it seems that many people give up really quickly because their things don't seem "perfect". i'm hoping to fix that.
the first thing i ever sewed on a machine, using a commercial pattern, was a skirt and top that i made when i was in 8th grade. it was a peasant top with raglan sleeves and an elasticized neckline, and a 12 gore skirt with waistband and back zipper. my mother showed me how to thread her sewing machine, gave me a book on sewing, and left me to make my own mess. this was the result (click to enlarge):
now, before we go any further, please take a moment to notice all the flaws. seriously--look it over carefully, get a pen and paper if you need to, make a list. i'll wait.
so, what's wrong with this outfit? why, nothing of course. :) i wore it with pride for several years, i got many compliments on it, and i always felt beautiful when i wore it. this outfit was so popular that other girls paid me to make outfits for them too--even one of the teachers hired me to make an outfit for her daughter.
but why did i just put you thru this??? because, now you will appreciate this picture even more, this is the inside of the skirt, at the waist where the zipper joins the waistband (please please click and enlarge, i don't want you to miss anything):
now let me give you a few more details about this outfit. when mama took me shopping for fabric, the store didn't have enough of the red fabric on one bolt to make the skirt, so i bought some from a different bolt and it wasn't the same dye lot and the reds don't match. i alternated the panels because i thought it wouldn't be so noticeable (but you can clearly see the two different reds, look again at the enlarged pictures). i didn't know what interfacing was, so i skipped that part on the waistband. mama couldn't find the zipper foot, and i didn't know how to use it anyway, so i put the zipper in by hand. i was in a hurry to make the outfit, so i didn't read the part of the book that mentioned edge finishes. all the seam allowances are still raw (and they haven't raveled yet, lo these 30 years). i was also in too much hurry to learn how to gather, so i just pleated the ruffle, by eye and not by measuring, and cut off what was left over. and please notice that the hooks and eyes are sewn on, badly, with baby blue thread.
the top is much better. ;) the lace is not stretchy, but i didn't stitch it on until after the elastic casing was complete, the neckline doesn't actually stretch. the hem is 1/2"--1/4"--3/8"--1/2"--etc. and in the same hurry as with the skirt, i skipped the casing on the sleeve hems so instead of being puffy, they are droopy.
however, i DID read the part about pressing each seam as i sewed it--i'm pretty sure that is the main thing that saved this outfit from that "loving hands at home" look.
what's my point??? it's just this: not knowing how to do something is no reason not to do it. just make something, learn as you go, before you know it you'll be teaching someone else all the tricks of the trade.
i LOVE this outfit, i am still proud of it, proud enough to show it to you here, proud enough to show it in person to anybody i can trap long enough to show it to them. whenever i look at it, i hear the song i listened to when i cut it out, i smell the detergent in the laundry room where i sewed, and i feel my heart pound with joy the way it did when i tried it on for the first time. this outfit made me love myself in a way that i never did again until ella was born.
i could still fit into this outfit before i got pregnant with ella. hey, this summer i might even wear it again. just because.
oh, and that sewing machine? i still have it, and i still use it. it makes some of the best buttonholes i've ever seen.