A Stitch at a time

I am a novice sewist.  I used to be afraid of the sewing machine way back when we first got introduced to each other in grade school.  It was a class we called “Work Education” which was a version of “Home Economics”, a class supposed to equip us with skills to be homemakers.

I didn’t do well in sewing.  My pajama project wasn’t even anything close to just tight.  It was totally askew and was beyond repair.  I was almost deathly afraid of how the needle rattled on with a menacing continuous growl to keep going.

Many years later, I have since become bestfriends with needles.  From elaborate cross stitch projects  to actually hand sewing my pant hems, I learned how to sew neatly, giving enough room for my thread to embrace the fabric without unsightly wrinkling.  I used needles extensively in various crafts, like hair ribbons I sewed together, and even in accessories — more so in pieces where I used fabric or ribbons.

After moving to New York from Manila in 2000, I found my crafting interests growing and I explored new ways to make things with my hands.  And then upon the prodding of friends, we enrolled at a sewing class at Mood U over at Mood Fabrics .  I originally went in hoping to learn basic sewing in my hopes to sew bags and clutches in particular.  Fittingly, the first project was a tote.

Spread out over 6 weeks, I worked on getting to know a sewing machine all over again.  I thought threading the machine would be difficult, but by the time I sat in front of the one we had in class, I learned how to do it and now I do it with no diagrams or prompts.  It’s been two years since that class, and I’ve enrolled in at least one other sewing class.  This time, we made a coat.  My end product was actually pretty decent, considering my skill level.

I have always believed that anything can be learned.  At the end of the day, it really boils down to wanting to learn and embracing the process.  One of my early intentions really was that I wanted to make my own clothes.  I have never been a single size all throughout, and some part or other would need alteration.  My curvy figure makes most tops pop in places they shouldn’t.  I thought that the best solution was to learn how to make my own.

I am still learning and have started creating.  I’ve sewn one fabulous evening or special occasion box pleated skirt.  It has required a few alterations, but I have been happy with my second piece.  Right now, I’ hoping to work on some simple pieces I can reproduce I different prints.  Or else patterns can be shortened or lengthened.

I am having fun with Mood Sewciety’s  free sewing patterns which you can find here.

My learning journey as a sewist continues – a stitch at a time.

Mood sewciety

Learning how to sew

Once upon a time I was taught how to use a sewing machine.   This was in high school two lifetimes ago and I actually learned how to thread the manual ones — where you had to put your feet on top of a mono-pedal of sorts and power it.  I wasn’t quite as crafty back then, plus trying to sew jammies as a class project to be graded wasn’t all that interesting.

Fast forward to today.

In the last couple of years, crafting for me has essentially been jewelry and paper crafts.  I am a crafter, not an artist — and I say that with pride.  I like creating things and putting my personal stamp on it.  I actually can do almost professional hand sewing, to the point that I’ve stitched close and embroidered over holes in dress shirts, or successfully hemmed my pants and jacket cuffs.  For some reason, I’ve been drawn to making fabric clutches which I envision as canvases for gemstone and freshwater pearl embellishments, crafted by yours truly.

So the dilemma was actually being able to create that base product.  I thought about the hard case minaudier frames that are available, but that would limit the shape and size of the clutch I would decorate.  (Still an option, though.)  I browsed online and loved the many different cloth clutches available.  How else can you make them besides sewing with a machine?  Of course, there is the option of doing everything by hand, but I’d like to think it would be faster and easier to actually be able to use a sewing machine, and it would guarantee better integrity for the product.  I had a sewing machine in the attic courtesy of my mother-in-law who actually made the bridal party dresses for her daughter more than two decades ago.  But I don’t know how to work that machine.

Then there was the pull of actually being able to sew clothes I could wear.  I am in between losing weight and trying to lose more weight — most of which has worked in my favor, but which has caused me to find myself iffy when it comes to apparel sizing.  At a 36D, I usually land in the Large or 12.  But my body is continuing to shrink even if it’s still flabby, so there are times when I can actually get away with a Medium, depending on the cut and the fabric.  I have enjoyed dressing in more form-fitting clothes — something I used to dread given my shape and size.  (I have to admit, I have great admiration for the plus size women who can carry their figure hugging outfits with such confidence!)

These days, though, I am slowly working my way to a healthier body.  I have actually been told time and again, I am not fat.  (It’s hard to pit that against the repeated subliminal message that I was from the one whose opinion used to matter the most to me.)  I do know I am not a supermodel.

I love to dress in feminine styles.  I have learned to highlight my best features (like the 36D and everything that comes with it! LOL), and to minimize the problem areas.  There is still a “thin bias” that’s very pronounced in the clothing lines that are commercially available, and I often catch myself returning something I had tried on because it looked good on me, but only up to the shoulders, then somehow spelled “not worth it” when it came to the lower portion.

Of late, I’ve been looking at simple pieces that came without sleeves but which could be altered to accommodate lace sleeves.  (Lace is all the rage this spring and summer!)  I’ve also been drawing up plans to create scarves to use as accessories.

My good friend, @ehawkinsillustion (on Instagram) actually encouraged me to learn how to sew.   A fashion illustrator by trade, but a student of fashion design as of this writing, I’ve always admired how she has pursued her passion after acquiring a kick-ass degree in Statistics from the most prestigious university back home in Manila.  (Okay, I’m trying to hold back the fan love here.)

She told me that Mood Fabrics was offering free sewing classes — and they are right in my neighborhood here in Midtown!  I registered, picking the Saturday classes which were the most convenient, and last Saturday was our first of six classes.

nybsaWhile the class is free, they do require you to purchase the sewing kit from their store on the first day of the 6-week class.  Mine came to $144.00 which came in a clear Mood U tote to carry it in.  The class is taught by Benjamin Mach, an Australian fashion designer based in New York and who is in charge of Mood University here in NYC.  He instantly made everyone at ease by introducing himself and having everyone else in class do the same.  (Why are you here?  I said I’m crafty but never really learned how to sew.)

There was a diverse mix of sewer-wannabes, some who are actually into fashion, and some who are into crafts like me — as well as a smattering of people brought in by friends.  (I had two in tow, but only one made it to the first class.)   There were people who wanted to get a refresher course on sewing after having worked with sewing machines while creating Barbie dresses back in their childhood.  We talked about the goodies in our sewing kit and were taught about fabrics that were suitable for the class project which was a fabric tote.  Towards the end of the class, we cut the pattern for our tote and were soon merrily on our way to find the fabrics required.

I was giddy happy — and very excited to be learning something new.  I have always been a student at heart — so much so that when all was said and done and there was no more studying to do, I actually missed the classroom. But this time, I was doubly excited about learning what was being taught because I had definite plans in mind about how I want to utilize the knowledge gained.  I’ll write more about the actual class in a separate post, not necessarily about the class content (well, partly), but more about the experience.

I’m happy to report that this puts me in sync with my craft calendar which I wrote about here, and I’m hoping to keep the rhythm going through the other to-dos on that list.

I’ve always believed that it is never too late to learn anything, because it contributes to our continuing growth.  We don’t stop growing only because we are physically matured — there is so much to learn about and see out there.  I’d take another university course if I had the luxury (and the funds) to do it, but I’ll settle for learning how to sew for now.