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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Craft bits

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I was cleaning up my desk at work (because yes, I do have a day job!) when I stumbled upon some craft projects I chose to do over a period of time, but which I had set aside for later.  Okay, I confess, I sort of forgot about them.  They’re the long term projects which were really more about stocking up for something bigger rather than being the project itself.  Like my pressed rose petals.

I had forgotten about my #PaperGarden of #doodledflowers until I stumbled upon them while cleaning up the other day. These #flowers are perfect for #spring #papercrafts. #crafts #craftproject #creating #personalart #embellishments #gothamhicksays #gothMy Paper Flower Garden.  Two years ago, I had thought to start a postcard project that would have meant sending out hand made postcards.  I am still seriously considering redoing this but there are a lot of things in the way.  I had created backgrounds or “blanks” to work on which had been piled together.  Part of the design were this doodled flowers which I have a ton of, both at work and at home– a bunch of colorful layered and doodled flowers I need to cut and draw further.  I am almost afraid to pick up a pen and start drawing again or even a pair of scissors to cut the ones that need cutting.I had found the whole exercise very calming way back when and I long for the repetitive and no-pressure doodling.  Then I remembered, I had cards to make which maybe I will make using these as embellishments.  That’s a new purpose for a project I had started with different intentions.

The only thing is that’s can get deeply engrossed and distracted by the project when I’m into it, but I’m trying to use my time wisely.

Bag idea book. I have always loved bags and a current interest is making fabric clutches.  I actually joined the sewing class at Mood University hoping to be able to sew one together using an electric sewing machine.  The idea has been brewing in my head for almost a year now but has been slow getting to fruition.  I stumbled upon a year old edition of Harper’s Bazaar (click here to subscribe) which was almost half riddled with bag ads.  I had actually started tearing off the pages when I realized that the whole magazine was seemingly dedicated to bags.  So I cut the pages clean with a xacto knife and put them aside to ringbind as a glossy idea bag of sorts.

The idea is to make this a notebook of sorts.  I haven’t quite gotten past the first few pages and am still trying to write around the blank spaces in the ads.  I have always found it helpful to have my ideas in writing.  It might and it might not work.  I might yet transfer selected clipped images into a real notebook in the end, but it’s something I’m working on.

Finally, my first attempt at a purse!  This actually came from a failed attempt at wrapping a plastic canvas “mold” with fabric and fleece interfacing.  It didn’t quite work, so I started to undo it and I was left with a cut piece of fabric with interfacing I couldn’t remove.  In the midst of experimenting and fiddling with my sewing machine (which is pictured on the left), I decided I would try to work on creating a mock purse, or a model, or prototype and just see if I can work this contraption the way I want to.  And voila!  It did work… but that’s another post altogether.

So I’ve been trying to do my own bit of crafting the last couple of weeks, but as always, there just aren’t enough hours in a day to do as much as I would want.  The sewing classes in Mood Fabrics have helped me to refocus on crafting and have sparked a new interest in exploring other channels of creativity. I try to do it a day at a time.  Like trying to keep this corner of my web presence going.. baby steps, I say.

 

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.