Tote happy

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the sixth and last class of Mood Fabrics‘ Beginner Adult Sewing Class.  I walked away with my own tote, and I proudly went around Manhattan carrying it a week later.  I feel brave enough now to think of other sewing projects apart from the usual mending and crafting I had in mind initially.  I am “sew” happy! Lol

While I had tweeted and instagrammed the weekly class on social media, I had really hoped to provide a more detailed post here.  Now that the tote is done, I have something to show for it.

Schedules are provided in the Mood U section of their website.  There are several schedules offered, but with a full time job that doesn’t see me leaving my desk until closer  to or after 6pm, the weekend classes were the most convenient.  You will be asked to commit to a 90-minute class for 6 weeks.  The good news is, should you find yourself unable to attend the class you signed up for in a particular week, you can arrange to switch to a class on a different schedule to keep up or catch up with the work.    The class proceeds at a very learner-friendly pace so you really don’t end up losing out on much if this happens.   It’s not one of those courses where missing one class would mean having to start from the beginning again.

While the class is free, they will require you to grab a sewing kit which costs $144. This includes the generic sewing notions you will need, as well as the pattern for the tote bag project and a sewing bible.

You will also have to purchase fabric for the project itself separately.  Depending on which one you choose, that can be another $20 or $50.  The good news is, class enrollment will entitle you to a 10% discount coupon on fabric if you choose to purchase your fabrics at Mood, but the coupon expires by the following class.

The class instructor is Benjamin Mach who heads Mood U in New York.  He is assisted by four others who roam the class ready to answer questions or assist you as needed.  On the first day of class, Ben asked us to introduce ourselves and tell the class why we were there.

It was a very interesting mix of men and women of all ages and persuasions.  Some came because a friend had invited them over like my friend, Willa.  There were a couple or two.  I heard my mother used to sew” and “I used to sew doll clothes as a child” quite a couple of times.  As for me, my reason for being there was that I have always been crafty and had wanted to start sewing but didn’t really know how to use an electric sewing machine.  I’ve also been continually frustrated by pieces of clothing that I love when it comes to one part but which are total disasters for my body type as a whole.  Can I put that sleeve on this blouse?  Can I fix up that sleeveless swing shirt with a lace sleeve, perhaps?  I figured that if I cannot find the correct fit, I might as well pull the piece together myself.

Mood U NYC sewing class

On a personal note, crafting to me has always been a continuous learning process.  It’s not about operating machines or just using materials– there is always a lot to be learned from people who are actually good at doing their thing and who impart that knowledge to others.  Videos are great, and I have a learned a lot off of YouTube and the many artists and teachers there.  However, actual hands on learning is still the best.  It gives me a chance to see the demonstration up close and ask questions and have my work critiqued by people who actually know what they are doing.

So I met my instructor and the class and we went through the contents of my sewing kit.  The plastic tote bag the kit comes in, by the way, is not sold separately and is reportedly quite a much sought after souvenir item from the store.  But back to the sewing kit.

Much of the contents of my kit are not alien to me, save for the awl (which I didn’t expect was used in sewing — but which I had encountered in jewelry making) .  Each piece was explained to us and the the fabric requirements of the project enumerated. Fabric swatches

For the tote, we needed a yard each of the outer fabric (self), a canvas layer to provide structure (no, we didn’t talk about interfacing but it essentially serves this purpose) and finally, the lining.  I chose to use canvas or a denim fabric for all three layers, and while it made my tote a bit weighty, it provided the “body” I was looking for.  We cut our pattern out of the sheet and were told to come back to class the following week with our fabric.
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You won’t believe how much time I actually spent trying to choose the fabric.  I browsed the home fabrics on the ground floor of Mood but found them a tad pricey for my taste, and as a crafter, I know better than to splurge on my first attempt at something I am still learning.  I hied off to one of my fabric suppliers on 39th street, Fabrics for Less, — now known as Chic Fabrics — where I was able to get some embroidered denim for $7 (!) a yard.  I had some leftover canvass freebie for the interfacing, and I chose another free scrap for the lining.

On Week 2, we were taught how to pin the pattern onto the fabric and cut them.  I’m not as brave as some who went straight to cutting without tracing the pattern onto the fabric.  I’m still quite the novice at this so I pinned it, traced the pattern and I cut.  There were essentially two pieces each of the self and the canvas and the lining, and what should’ve been four pieces of straps.  I only did 2.  But that’s another story.

I liked being able to bring my work home because it allowed me to work at my own pace and redo things if needed.  It took some getting used to using a sewing machine, so there were a lot of do overs for me with the “flatlining” which we did in Week 3, and the piecing together throughout the whole process.  While I could’ve done the project on my own, it helped to have the means to get a more knowledgeable opinion on how things were done from people who actually knew how to sew.

It was basically “basting” with the sewing machine to put the canvas and self together before joining the two sides.  (Or that’s my take on it.)  Each step was demo’ed by Ben from two screens projected on each side of the room, using a mini-version of the tote, after which we were given time to work on that part of the project we had on our plate for that particular lesson.

Doing the straps for me on Week 4 was rather challenging because I had misread the pattern and misunderstood the instructions, and was left with enough pieces for only one strap.  When I finally sat down at home to work on it, I completely messed up the first quartet of straps and ended up cutting a whole new set of pieces for the straps altogether.  It made for more practice with the sewing machine — which was good — and better-looking (read: Passable) straps for the final piece.

As Week 5 came, it was getting more and more exciting as I saw the bits and pieces making up my tote bag take form before my very eyes.  We were taught to piece together the body of the bag and to add the straps, as well as piece the lining.  This wasn’t quite as difficult as doing the straps, believe me.  Since the two sides of the tote were already flatlined, it was a matter of sewing those sides together into an almost whole.  “Almost,” because we were still left with the lining piece which was saved for last.

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On Week 6, we sewed the pockets onto the lining, and then the lining onto the now almost complete “tote”.  Voila!

Seeing my tote come together was a very fulfilling experience, given that I created it not without a half dozen or so do-overs and improvisation.  I’ve always enjoyed creating things and this was doubly rewarding because I was learning along the way.  While my sewing machine at home was different from the one we used in class (which was much fancier, of course!) —  learning the basics of sewing was quite the experience.  You can easily learn how to operate the sewing machine, but there are techniques and steps that you can only learn from a hands-0n class like the one offered by Mood U.

I highly recommend this class to both beginners and novice crafters who want to be able to create things with the use of sewing machines.  The next class is no longer free but I’m going to sign up for that in the fall.

Finished Product

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