Sew trying hard

Week 4 at #MoodU's #IntermediateSewingClass and my #robecoatproject is taking shape thanks to @benjamin_mach and his team of #fabAssistants... Always excited to #learnsomethingnew... #sewingclasses #learningtosew #needleandthread #crafting #moodfabrics

Pardon the pun in the title but I am in the midst of a sewing crisis with my robe/coat project hanging in limbo.   I actually spent a fair amount of Saturday evening on to Sunday morning trying so desperately to make this pattern work — I ruined two sets of one face of the robe but I am NOT giving up.

The project.  We were asked to choose between a skirt, a men’s shirt, a wrap dress and a robe which can be tailor fit into a coat for women.  I chose the robe precisely because I had been wanting to make my own coat for ages but just don’t know the first thing about sewing one.  Part of our enrollment for Mood Design Fabric’s MoodU Intermediate Sewing Class was the pattern for the project we chose.

After taking basic measurements, we determined the correct size according to the patterns which came in a range.  On the second week, we cut the cloth (which I missed) and then on the third and fourth week we started sewing.

Materials.  While I can sometimes take an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out my fabric and the color, this time around, it wasn’t quite as hard being the pink lover that I am.  I had decided early on I would do a heavier fabric because I wanted it to be thick enough to keep me warm, but I couldn’t do anything stretchy as that would be a challenge to sew.  Sometimes having too many choices can be such a hassle because it makes one even more fickle-minded about which one to take.  Fortunately, I opted to go with my other fabric store where there was quite a pool to choose from, but at a reasonably smaller scale.  So pink wool is what I went for.

Cutting the pattern.  This was my first time to work a pattern with a size range, so I was made to do one basic measurement, which was around my bust.  In hindsight, I realize now I should have taken more precise measurements.  I am seriously considering getting the pattern in a smaller size than the one I got, because the shoulders would be too droopy.  On the other hand, this size was comfortable as far as the hip was concerned my pear shape.  I went for the smallest size in the range, so to downsize further would mean getting the next smaller pattern.

We were told to find the correct line pattern for the size and cut away, so cut away I did.

Cutting the fabric.  Very important: Follow the direction of the grain line on the pattern when cutting based on one.

One, I had to overcome my fear of “ruining” the project by cutting it wrong. Two, you need a flat surface (i.e. Cutting table) to lay out the fabric with the pattern on it.  Three, as long as you follow the grain line, you need not follow the cutting diagram (how the pieces should be pinned to the fabric) to the letter.  Four, if you must shorten the project as against the actual length on the pattern, fold the pattern do not cut it.  You never know if you will need the pattern at the longer length.

I am most grateful for the help of Ms. Joyce, the more senior assistant in the class — because she helped me to arrange the pattern pieces to maximize the fabric saved.  She also helped me determine by how much I should shorten the pattern and advised me to fold and pin the excess and cut around it, instead of cutting the pattern to size.  (Just in case I will need the full-size pattern for another project later.)

After pinning the pattern to the fabric, I cut the various pieces required for the project piece I wanted to work on.

Strengthening, reinforcing, edge stitching and all those other nuances of sewing garments.  The advantage of being in a class is that you get the benefit of an actual demonstration beyond the instructions that come with the pattern.  Besides actual demos that are projected onto two large screens to the right and left of the classroom, the assistants are available to give advice and help novice sewers like myself to get things right.  Despite the diagrams and instructions on the pattern guide, there is still a lot that needs figuring out which can be challenging for beginners like me.  Also, the diagrams are a little small and sometimes difficult to discern.

So there are certain “tricks” to preparing the fabric for stitching together, like reinforcing certain portions to ensure that they don’t stretch under the weight of being sewn to another piece.  After trying to stitch the neckline and the front and back of the coat no less than half a dozen times, I finally decided I would do better to baste the pieces by hand which proved helpful.  I am just not quite there yet with sewing pinned pieces together — perhaps in time.

Piecing the project together, as instructed.  This is where I valued the instructions given in the class by people who actually have the  sewing experience to back it up.  There are many ways to work around stumbling blocks which I just wouldn’t be able to do without actual personal instructions or guidance.

I am always nervous after I start putting pressure on the pedal and the machine starts to move.  Like I’ve told my friend, Willa, my seam ripper is now my best friend.  It’s a joke we share with much gusto, along with our newfound passion for learning to see.

So the project isn’t quite finished yet.  I have unstitched the lining and will hopefully get to work on it before the last class.  My coat is beginning to take shape, although there is a lot more tweaking left to be done.  I’m getting there, like I always say…

Back to Sewing School

A few months ago, I enrolled in the Beginner Sewing Class of Mood Fabric’s MoodU.  I took the six week course successfully and came out of it with a refresher in basic machine sewing and a tote bag.  I have always enjoyed learning new things and this was even doubly fulfilling because I came out of it with a new bag to lug around.

Summer came and with impending travel, I missed the succeeding session and decided to wait for the next round of classes.  Last Saturday, we had the first of six new lessons in Advanced Sewing and my sewing bag is back in use.  I do the lessons with a girlfriend and we were both excited to start this weekend routine again.  It’s the build up of the anticipation to being able to do something that gives you a concrete result you can actually use later.

For the first week, we were asked to choose which piece of garment we would take on: a skirt, a wrap dress, a men’s polo shirt or a robe which is the same pattern for a coat.  I picked the latter — because “coat” beckoned to me.

I’ve always found coat shopping a bit of a challenge, and I’ve been wanting to find a nice fitting coat in a more non-traditional fabric.  Another project brewing in my head is jazzing up an existing coat with embroidery or embellishment.  A recent scan of some magazines showed me some garments in painted denim which made me go “hmmmmmmm.”  But first, the robe.

Having measured ourselves and and then trying on the sample pieces of our garment of choice, we were given the pattern of the project we chose in the approximate size.  This class, by the way, is being taught by Benjamin Mach once again, which makes for an additional perk.  I like the way he teaches and the humor he wryly injects in between instruction sessions making the lessons even more enjoyable.  He is assisted by a very eclectic mix of competent sewing teaching assistants who add not only a lot of color but a ton of sewing experience to help us navigate our way through the project.

You receive the pattern in a range of 4 sizes and in several variations of the garment you are trying to make.  The thing is to identify your size and the kind of dashed line referring to it and cut the patterns out.  I didn’t even get to finish cutting my pattern and am going to do that during my lunch break.  There are just too many pieces and I need the room.

This golden girl is getting ready to sew!   Pattern to be cut and fabric to be chosen… must do in the next 5 days before next Saturday’s class.  Can’t wait!

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