Sunday, August 04, 2013

Picking up a good ol' fashioned hobby

Although I dedicate this blog mostly to thinking about pop culture, I have to write about a new hobby I recently picked up.  Last year for Christmas, I got a fairly large present.  When it was wrapped up, I thought it was a Wii and got really excited.  It turned out to be a sewing machine.  "A sewing machine?" you ask.  Yes.  I had been saying for awhile that I wanted to learn how to sew to be self-sufficient.  Not only that, I have often gone into stores, found something I like and one of the following things happened:
  • The fit sucked but looked nice on a hanger.
  • I didn't like the material but I like the cut.
  • I liked something and it fit, but it was too expensive.
  • I liked something but the quality was crap.
  • I found something secondhand that was just too big. get the point.

Sewing seems to be one of those things that our grandmothers had learned out of necessity, but our mothers scorned it when they burned their bras and demanded gender equality.  Why stay at home and learn to sew when there's a whole world out there to conquer?

But in this day and age, the choice to sew is much like any other choice a woman makes.  It's the freedom to choose what to do, right?

I bought a secondhand dress in Berlin back in February in anticipation of learning how to sew.  On me, it looked like a tent since it was about 5 sizes too big.

If you look, it also had these hideous ruffles at the neckline and the sleeves were a bit poofy and again, just too big.  You can't see it in the picture, but there was also some material to tie into a bow or something.  All in all, not exactly a perfect dress.

Although I didn't know how to sew yet, I thought the dress had potential.  Maybe take the sleeves off or turn them into cap sleeves.  Shorten the hemline.  Bring it in to my own size.  How hard could it be?

I discovered a sewing shop around the corner from where I live and I had three friends with sewing machines who also wanted to learn.  Who would've thought this was a thing?  I asked the shop owner if she would give us a private workshop and teach us how to sew, so we spent a Sunday afternoon learning by doing.  We picked out materials in the store and sewed it together to make a top.  It was pretty cool being able to create something unique from a bolt of fabric.  Although I was super psyched about making my own shirt, the shop owner had helped me a lot.  I basically learned how to thread the sewing machine, the different parts of it, different tools needed when sewing, and the basics.  And I picked up some new German words on the way: Oberfadenspannung (needle thread tension), Stichmusterwahlknopf (the knob where you choose your stitching pattern).  Oh, Deutsch!  I also discovered sewing in a straight line is way harder than you think.

My next project was to make a dinosaur-patterned tank top.  I had seen the material in the store and thought it was pretty fun, even if it was geared towards children.  I looked online how to make a pattern, vaguely understood it, and made my own pattern from a tank top I like.  It took me awhile and sure, the different lines where the fabric comes together didn't quite match up, but, success!  I started learning how to sew in a straight line.

I finally decided I should try making that secondhand Berlin dress smaller.  I tried following a tutorial on Jezebel, but didn't have the patience to read through the whole thing while sewing.  I basically just started pinning the dress here and there and had way too much ripping out the ruffles.  (Seriously, taking out material is a great way to let frustration out and is almost as satisfying as hitting the gym.  "Take that, you stupid ruffle!")  I kept being afraid I would screw up, but hey, the dress had only cost me 2.50€.  It took a few tries, but this is what the end product looks like:

It's not quite perfect and there's still room for improvement, but I'm getting better at sewing in a straight line.

The funny thing about learning how to sew is that I've discovered how calming it can be.  I sit there and concentrate so that I actually can block out anything else that I would normally think about.  It might seem like an old-fashioned thing to do, but at the same time, it has a soothing effect that helps with all the modern-day stress.  I'm not nearly at a point where I am confident enough and could sew anything for anyone, but it's definitely something I think I will continue to do, if not to actually create cool things, but to just sort of relax a little bit and feel like I'm being self-sufficient. 

1 comment:

Dug said...

I recently got a pint-sized sewing machine (~$25 bucks) and have been using it to take in too-big dress shirts, adjust overly baggy board shorts, repair ripped seams, hem pants & shorts, etc. It's incredibly useful, I agree. Your work on that dress is pretty impressive.