Monday, February 25, 2008

back in business

Hark! What have we here?!?

Egads, it's a serger and a sewing machine, both in working order!

That poor serger is certainly not new, as you can probably tell from the sex-ay brown and orange decals. It was given to me (!!!) by a great lady I used to work with, because she bought a new one and knew I did not have one at all. I have sewn probably hundreds of thousands of stitches on it over the past 3 years, until a couple of weeks ago when it finally just quit forming stitches. I could get it to work for a few inches of sewing, and then threads would break, and I was making more of a mess than anything. So I put it away and figured it was probably just finally dead.

But then I went back to old finishing methods (pinking, mock-french seams, double turned hems), and while those methods are fine, mostly I find them tedious and less-than-professional. Plus, I want to finish up a bunch of things for my etsy shop and without serging, they just don't look as nice nor will they hold up as well in the wash. Yick.

So I figured I'd bite the bullet and take it in for a tuneup. I had some birthday money left, and figured I'd just use it for the machine. If it required more than a tuneup, well, then I'd have to learn to live without a serger. But I was able to accept the $80-$100 it would cost to get the machine working again.

I took it in on Friday to the shop where I used to work. All the ladies working there are my old friends, and they said they'd try to get it toward the front of the line (the usual wait for machine repair is anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months - there aren't very many places to take machines around here so they get very busy). Turns out the woman who fixes sergers (also an old friend) took a look at it right away on Friday, determined that it did not need a full tuneup, adjusted a few things, cleaned all the fuzz and gunk out, and only charged me $20 for 1/2 hour of labor. I had the machine back on my sewing table by Saturday afternoon.

Sometimes I feel very blessed, indeed.

Since I had been fully prepared to spend close to $100 but did not, I felt justified in picking up a few cuts of calico for Daughter's Easter dress. This was no small expenditure (what is UP with $10 per yard for freaking calico?) but I think I will end up coming in at about the same cost as a store-bought holiday dress. I think it will be short-sleeved with a gathered skirt, with the main dress made from the dots and maybe the neckline and sleeve edges bound with the stripe, cut on the bias. We'll see.

I apologize for the lack of photos and lack of project talk in general around here. I thought 2008 would be a bigger year for making stuff, but I've felt very unfocused so far. There are lots of irons in the fire, but I keep flitting from one thing to another and not getting very far. Over the weekend I was reading two mind-blowing sewing blogs and I did start to feel a spark of inspiration and energy returning. Check them out and see if they don't get your creative juices flowing:

Laura's Sewing Room

Hungry Zombie Couture

These ladies can literally make themselves any garment they want. Go back through the archives and just look at the gorgeous wardrobes they have created. I wish I had someone to show me some of the wonderful tips and tricks and methods they use. I know zilch, for example, about lining/underlining, different methods for stabilizing fabrics, or resizing commercial patterns to fit me (or Daughter). I don't even know a lot about the different types of fabrics out there and how to use them appropriately (yes, I worked in a fabric shop but it was all calico for quilting). Some older ladies used to come into the shop when I was working and ask what happened to the tricot and stretch laces - they were looking for supplies to make their own underwear. Goodness, I wouldn't know the first thing about making undergarments.

So I ask those of you who sew reasonably well: who taught you? Did you take a class (or classes)? Did you learn from your mom? Your grandma? Do you just read books, or the internet, or subscribe to sewing magazines? And if you do know and use advanced methods, where do you find your materials? Because I am stuck with Joann's, Joann's, or Joann's...which I find ridiculous for a place like Buffalo. We are not so backwater that we couldn't handle one or two different fabric stores. Sheesh. There is always the internet, and sometimes the deals there are awesome, but I do like to fondle my fabrics before purchase, don't you?

I sort of have the wild idea that I might like to audit some classes at Buffalo State College. They offer textile classes and some fashion design, as far as I know, and I might be able to learn a lot that way. But more than that I wish I had an older grandma-type who could sit me down and just take me through some projects the right way, with care and patience and good materials.
I mean, I don't want to short-change my mom, who taught me all the basics and still helps me out here and there. I guess I'm just looking for some more advanced stuff.

Le sigh. I daydream. I guess I can ponder all this further while I dive into the giant ironing pile that awaits me.


Karen said...

Glad you have your machines back in working order and that it was a CHEAP FIX!!! Awesome.

And that blue checked cherry fabric sitting on your sewing table? I have that fabric also. It's eery how often we buy the same fabrics and patterns.

Regarding sewing your own undies- Kwik Sew and Otto have some fairly simple undergarment patterns. I've tried one and it was a little brief-ish in style but not too hard (for the girl, not me). Isn't lingerie elastic available at Joann's? If not, I know that some of the ladies on Sewing Mamas buy it online.

Can't wait to see what you do with the new fabric.

Morning Glory said...

My first sewing experience was in 7th grade Home Ec class. We made aprons. My mother sewed but I don't remember her teaching me. I began to read patterns and use them, and then I progressed to more difficult and detailed patterns over time.

There isn't a pattern that I'm afraid to try, but I don't like alterations or custom sewing for other people.

Pam said...

I loved this post:) My mom taught my sister and I how to sew. I don't remember her actually giving us lessons, it was just a part of her life so it became a part of our life. My sister had no patience for sewing and fully expected to pull the finished garment straight from the envelope the pattern came in. Needless to say, she doesn't sew anymore.

My mom is a whiz at sewing. She never used straight pins - she'd just lay butter knives on top of the pattern and cut out the fabric. She hated to poke holes in the pattern with the pins. She has such a steady hand. She could adjust a pattern to fit anyone and has made more then her share of robes and pj's for her grandkids without anything but the picture in head. She made all of our prom dresses, bridesmaids gowns, halloween costumes and as kids she sewed the majority of our clothes. She also knitted, so we had plenty of handmade sweaters and blankets.

Sorry for such a long comment:) It just got me thinking about all the things I've learned from my mom and how much she loves sewing for us.

Shannon said...

I just stumbled across this post and I wanted to say thank you for such kind words.

I've looked through your blog and the outfits you are sewing up for your daughter are adorable.

In terms of how I learned to sew. Well, I just did. One day I decided I was going to sew and I did. I find a lot of times people hold themselves back because they are scared to make a mistake. I guess I'm fearless (or daft) because I will try anything - even if it doesn't work out the way I expect, at least I have another learning experience under my belt. As for improving my skills, I love anything vintage - old sewing books and old patterns are a wealth of information. I learned more using old (50s and 60s) patterns than I ever learned from anything modern. The old patterns contain amazing techniques and fabulous dressmaker details - they can't be beat!