There is always this interesting point when acquiring a new hobby of trying to work out where you sit in the “beginner – intermediate – advanced – expert” scale.
I would consider myself a beginner in sewing terms. But when I read things geared towards beginners, they seemed to be geared towards people who don’t even know which way is up on a sewing machine. I am aware of the fact that I have weird sewing experience. It is not the common experience of most home sewers to have been part and parcel of a home sweatshop or to have threaded industrial sewing machines almost before one could read.
I know this does not really matter, except for trying to find projects that are within my skills and that I might want to do. I never previously took up garment sewing because so much of it – for beginners – involved skirts and dresses. And I don’t wear either very often.
What drove me to finally sew clothes was Sewaholic’s Thurlow trouser pattern. Yes, I’m well aware launching into sewing trousers is possibly a huge beginner mistake. Advice for beginners always includes: Choose something within your skill level. Yes, I struggled with the trousers and, yes, I did plenty of things wrong. But that’s okay, because if I hadn’t sewed the trouser pattern, I doubt I would have started anything at all. I didn’t know fly front zippers were hard. I just did it.
There is a good reason behind the advice to pick something easy, manageable and within your skill level. Because if it becomes all too hard, you may well give up and never touch sewing again, which is fair enough (the reasoning for the advice, not the giving up). But consider this: it is also worth while to (this above all) know yourself. I know me pretty well. I’ve been hanging out with me for many years now, and I reckon we get on okay. I know I’m stubborn, persistent and not prone to discouragement when I fail. (Well, that’s not quite true. I am prone to feeling discouraged, but rarely does such discouragement lead me to give up.) Plus, I like challenges. Lastly, I want to make things I will wear, things that are useful, not things that will languish and rebuke me for the waste. I hate waste.
Wanting to sew the Thurlow trousers (though I wasn’t silly about it; I made the shorts) spurred me onto doing a few simpler projects that I would not have done if the target trousers weren’t in sight. My Thurlow shorts are not a complete disaster (just mostly). But I now know what my shortcomings are and where I need to learn more techniques. As a result, I have more motivation to attempt less ambitious projects to develop my skills so I can make the Thurlow trousers again.
Since the shorts, I have made my partner a very well-constructed (even if I say so myself) bag: the Two Zip Hipster bag by Erin Erickson.
The instructions are excellent, particularly the zipper instructions. The hardest part was picking out suitable fabric that I thought my Partner would like. I have plans to make myself one of these bags. It will be a lot more crazy-colourful. Matter of fact, I’ve picked out the fabric already (that part was easy): multiple primary coloured childish flower shapes, and bright sunshine yellow lining. Just like all the other lawyers are sporting in court this Spring court season. Ha.
I have also made Pattern 1A from Simple Modern Sewing.
This is not a dress wearable by me. On me, it looks pretty much like it does on the hanger – shapeless – except that those gathers at the waistband do give me shape: a pregnant belly shape. When I paraded in front of my Partner for his opinion, he said, “Is there something you’re not telling me?” and we laughed. (In Partner’s defence, I had already told him that it was too big. And then I entered, stage left.)
Construction of this dress went smoothly. I had decided I would follow instructions to the letter, rather than messing with it. I should have messed with it. The two things I was skeptical of turned out to be the two least positive parts of sewing this dress up: (1) The Strap and (2) that gathered skirt.
I struggled almightily with turning the smaller (hidden) straps, even with Helen‘s wonderfully patient assistance. The fabric frayed like it much preferred to be bits of thread. I gave up and used ribbon. For the longer strap, I did succeed in turning the inside out tube rightside out. But it took me almost an hour. Next time, I do straps my way (which also happens to be Erin Erickson’s and Nicole Mallalieu’s way, in case you don’t trust my expertise.)
All is not lost. I love this fabric (despite its preference for being bits of thread): it is a linen mix of some kind that means it does not wrinkle so much. When I am feeling patient I will unpick that skirt and salvage almost a metre and a half of fabric, with which to make something I might actually wear.
Next on the sewing table (already cut): a Sorbetto top . I need some summery tops that I can wear to work. After that, an Alma blouse. After that, a boned satin evening gown with full skirt (kidding).
I’m trying to pick projects that will both advance my skills and that I will wear. At the same time, however, this is supposed to be fun. It’s a hobby after all! So I am also bouncing around like crazy, collecting patterns and with so many plans inside my head I’m a bit dizzy. I need to document, more clearly, a sewing plan. I started writing down what I want to make. It is so laughably ambitious that I will save it for another post. I may even have to make it a Page. You have been warned.