Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dress Mess

I got a little bit ahead of myself today.

I was so excited about successfully making a skirt that I thought, "Now that I can sew, why don't I make a dress?"  I figured a dress would be easy because I already know how to make the skirt part so I would just have to make a skirt, add a bodice and - BAM - beautiful homemade dress.  I pictured myself wearing it to the bridal shower I am throwing for one of my cousins-in-law.  All of the aunts would show up to the bridal shower and say, "What a beautiful dress!  Where did you get it?"  Then I would smile modestly and say, "Actually, I made it myself."  They'd turn to each other and say, "Wow, she cooks, she cleans, and she sews her own clothes? Rex Lee certainly found himself a gem of a wife."  I have this strangely insatiable need to impress my in-laws, but then again who doesn't?

So...the dress was supposed to be easy.  Um, it isn't.  It turned out I was acting like a first grader who just learned how to add saying, "Gee whiz, I can do math!  Bring on the Calculus!"  No no, little first grader.  You're skipping a few steps.

First of all, I thought my skirt had a lot of pieces.  It had nine.  My dress has eighteen.  It's a challenge just to keep track of all of the pieces I cut out and know which ones were which.  I took lots of time to cut out the pieces precisely so that I could line them up right.  I pinned them well and began to stich, and then my sewing machine threw a tantrum.

I've never seen a sewing machine freak out like that.  It was possessed.  It started crinkling my fabric, dropping stitches, and making weird hopping motions.  Seriously - the needle would hop a few inches forward or backward for seemingly no apparent reason.  I said the only logical thing to say in this situation:  "Ummm...Mom?"

My mom came and gave it a try, but the machine wouldn't behave for her either.  We finally discovered it was because I was trying to make my dress out of jersey knit fabric.  I liked how drapey it was, but my life would  have been easier if I just picked cotton.  My mom thought that we might have to buy a new machine for that type of fabric, and obviously we couldn't do that.  I texted my mother-in-law and asked her if she knew of any relatives who are good at sewing and might be able to solve my problem.  She responded with, "All the people I would tell you to call are dead."  Oh, okay.  Not exactly helpful.

I turned to Google for advice, which might have been cheating because they definitely didn't have Google in the fifties.  I was desperate, though, so you're going to have to forgive me.  Google told me that I could buy a special needle that would work on jersey knit, so I ventured out to Hobby Lobby to track down the special needle.

Once I had the special needle, the sewing machine stopped being angry (phew!).  The next problem I'm encountering is the fact that I don't know what half of the parts of the bodice are.  Interfacing?  Stay-stitching?  Edge-tape?  Selvages?  Learning to sew is like learning a new language.

I'm lucky I have my mom to help far I'm pretty frustrated.   Maybe I should stick to skirts, especially the types that don't have pockets.

Friday, July 19, 2013


This is my finest hour.  This is my new greatest accomplishment.  It's better than graduating from college with high honors, it's better than marrying the perfect husband, it's better than getting my book published, and it's better than acing that lab practical during freshman year.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit.  Let's be realistic: nothing will ever beat acing a KAMSC lab practical.  ;-)

The truth of the matter is, today I finished sewing my very own article of clothing.  When I started, my fabric was in a giant square,  but somehow I coaxed it into becoming a wearable skirt.  I feel so cool right now.

My fifties housewife books tell me that sewing is necessary, like washing dishes or mopping your floor.  If it's just a necessary part of life, then how come it makes me feel so awesome for accomplishing it?!

Actually, come to think of it, I remember being pretty excited the first time I emptied the dishwasher all by myself.  That seems a little different, though, since I was six.  Also, after I did that my mom was so proud of me that she said from then on emptying the dishwasher could be my very own household chore.  It became less exciting really fast.  Ha ha.

What if I get as good at sewing as I am at emptying out the dishwasher??  Maybe this will be my new career.  I'll become a super famous fashion designer, and the skirt I just sewed will be a vintage "Christine Webb original" worth millions!  I mean, imagine how much people would pay for Vera Wang's first dress or Ralph Lauren's first polo.  This skirt is pretty much an investment in my retirement.  It's an "antique of the future."  When I'm ready to retire, I'll sell it for ten million dollars and then buy a summer home in Fiji.  Someone will write my biography and say, "Christine Webb had humble beginnings as a seamstress.  She was inspired to sew one day when she saw a discarded school print in the dollar bin at Wal-Mart and thought, 'I could make a skirt for teaching out of that.'  From then on, the legend was born.  A skirt that cost one dollar to make is now the most prized piece in the fashion world.  Many people have tried to make replicas, but no one can make the pockets as crooked as they are on the true original.  Christine originally claimed that it was a mistake because she was bad at making pockets, but after much coaxing from fashion critics she has finally admitted that it is possible the crooked pockets were just part of her creative genius."

Yep, that's pretty much how it's going to go.  Or, you know, I might just sew some more fun clothes for work.  Whichever.  I'm not picky.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pockets are from the Devil

We don't know exactly who invented pockets, but if I could meet them I would really like to punch them in the face. 

My books say that pockets have been around since the 1500's, so it's going to be hard for me to figure out exactly who invented them and even harder for me to punch that person in the face.

If you've been following along, you know I'm attempting to sew my own skirt.  (Check out my first post about that by clicking here.)  Well, I've run into a snag.  That snag is called "pockets."

Why do we need pockets, really?  I can keep everything I want in my purse.  Plus, if you put too much in your pockets then it makes your legs look all bulgy.  Also, it's a waste of material.  If we take all of the material that people have used to make useless pockets and put it together, I bet we could clothe a whole third world country.  I'll call it "The Pocket Plan" and win a Nobel Prize.

Unfortunately I can't start that project today, because my mom is insisting that I make pockets for my new skirt.  She says I'll regret it if I don't (which totally isn't true).  You might think making a pocket would be easy.  I thought so at first too.  It's not.  It has to have a curved edge to go in front (because heaven forbid we have a straight-edged pocket), and it has to do all of these folds in the back to make it functional but also lie flat.  It's advanced fabric origami. 

Maybe the Devil himself invented pockets.  I'd believe it.  He thought to himself, "Ha ha HA!  This is a brilliant plan!  I will encourage people to make pockets, which will waste loads of material.  It will also frustrate people to the point where they give up their seamstress dreams!  Hundreds of attempts people will make at becoming productive members of society have just been thwarted!  Also, people can keep all kinds of evil things in these pockets...knives, money (the root of all evil), pictures of crime scenes, those weird little porn cards you get on the streets of's perfect!" 

I really think it would be better for all involved if I just skip the pockets.  I've tried about five times now, ripped out seams every time, and had to start again.  I've gotten nowhere on this skirt after hours of working on it.  I don't even have two pieces sewn together! My mom doesn't even get how to do it, and she's awesome at sewing.  She says that the pattern is really poorly written.  I say that pockets are from the devil.  You know, one of those tomato/tomahto things.

If I ever finish this skirt, I'm going to be PUMPED.  Also, I will never again attempt to make pockets.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sew Simple

I have spent most of this project working on honing my cooking and cleaning skills.  I cannot believe I have neglected a different, very important branch of housewifery - sewing!  There are entire chapters about it in my fifties books,  but I've just kind of skipped over them.  Now that I'm back in Michigan, though, I have time to develop those skills.  My mom is an AWESOME seamstress, and she offered to teach me!  Woot!

As my first project in my quest to become a master seamstress, I decided to make a skirt.  That has to be pretty easy, right?  It's basically a piece of material wrapped around your waist, and then you just sew a seam up the back.  Maybe add a button or two if you're feeling crafty.

HAHAHAHA no.  That's not how it is.  I haven't even sewn a stich yet, and I'm already horrible at sewing.  When I bought my pattern to make a skirt, I chose one from a brand called "Sew Simple."  I thought, "Perfect!  This will be great for a beginner like me.  Plus, I like the play on words."

I opened my pattern to get started, and it pretty much went downhill from there.  First of all, they have all the directions in three languages.  What??  They did not do that in the fifties, I'm pretty sure.  There are pages and pages of directions that I don't understand a word of - and that's just the English directions.

Do you know what "basting" fabric is?  Because I don't.  I know how to baste a turkey...but I have a sneaking suspicion that it's not the same thing.  What is a "selvage"?  What do all of these little triangles mean?  Am I sure I'm on the English pages?!

I decided to skip the written directions and just try to follow the pictures.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.  I turned to the picture directions and looked at step 1, which had about a zillion parts.  I started with step 1A, the very first step, and here's what it is:

 That's it.  No explanations or anything.  What does it meeeeeean???  It's like looking at ancient Sanskrit.  I'm picturing this hanging in a futuristic museum.  A school group walks by, and the teacher says, "Okay kids.  Back in the olden days, women had to make their own clothes.  They did this by a process called 'sewing.'  A few hundred years ago, back in the 1950's, women could look at these strange markings and somehow know how to make a skirt out of it."  The kids would look up in awe, except for the one squirrelly kid who's probably on a futuristic GameBoy or something.  The future is bound to still have squirrely kids.  Anyway, the teacher would continue: "Women nowadays just program their fashion needs into an iFashion box, and their clothes come out.  Jimmy!  Put away your HoloGame!  Anyway, before we had iFashion boxes, this is what people had to do.  They had to follow the secret code directions to figure out how to make things for themselves to wear."
My mom helped me cut out the material into the appropriate shapes (did you know a skirt takes NINE pieces of material??  WHAT??), and by that time it was 10:00 PM and I gave up for the night.  I have to go back tonight and keep working on it.  Making clothes is way trickier than I expected.  Now I see why people just go to the mall.