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This week on BA’s new project…

August 27, 2013

Last week I gave you all the story of how I made two bags… and it was exciting!! (Or maybe it wasn’t, but then, you don’t have to read these ramblings, you know?)

This week we will discuss what happens when I realized that I didn’t have any more fabric to experiment on.  The following happened between a Tuesday night and a Wednesday evening (I don’t keep track of what time it is, as that will generally make me depressed about how little sleep I tend to get in a day):

Spoiler Alert!  I buy this fabric later in the post!

Spoiler Alert! I buy this fabric later in the post!

While making the two bags from the last post, I noticed a few things. The first being that the scissors I was using were absolute crap.  It was a pair of desk scissors that we keep in the apartment, and yes, I know the value of good fabric scissors (I learned that while working at the Stage Company). I knew I had a day off on Wednesday, and I decided that the first thing I was going to do was go get a decent pair of scissors. Well, the third thing I was going to do was get a pair of scissors. The first thing I was going to do was make a shopping list.  Then get gas for the car.  Then buy scissors. Then go wash my clothes.

So I woke up on Wednesday, and the first thing I did was check facebook on my phone… and my email… and Pinterest… and Instagram… You get the picture. The second thing I did (after I remembered my original plan) was Google search “What items will I need for a sewing kit”… and then “basic supplies to start machine sewing”… and then “starter sewing kit”.  After an hour or so I decided that I wasn’t going to be making a shopping list (partly because with all the advice out there I still wasn’t really certain precisely what it was I needed to buy, and partly because I figured there would be people at the store who could help me if I was in a bind), so I hopped in the car with my hampers of laundry and headed to the Fabric Hut (via the gas station).

Now, I chose Fabric Hut in this case simply because I knew where it was.  The JoAnn Fabric in this area is down in the Greenbrier area, which at the time I had not successfully navigated without getting lost. The Fabric Hut, however, is in an area I am far more familiar with, and they have in the past helped me before.  The extent of my going in prior to this day, however, was always for the scene shop at the Stage Company, and I would usually walk in, look around for a minute or two, then find the nearest sales associate and say, “Hi!  They sent the carpenter to buy fabric again!  Do you have something that looks like this?” and show them a scrap of what I was working with at the time. What I did learn from this experience though is that Fabric Hut has very helpful sales associates who NEVER JUDGE YOU.  It’s kind of awesome.

All of the thing I could ever need... or so I thought.  More on that later.

All of the thing I could ever need… or so I thought. More on that later.

At the same time, I was kind of into this being a journey that I was taking alone.  You know- me, a sewing machine, and Google.  (So… alone with the help of the internet… which is not really alone at all…) So for the first time I walked into Fabric Hut with my head held high, carrying the orange and blue bag that I had made earlier, wearing (gasp!) a skirt! And then I doubled back to the door to get a basket, and continued on my way to where I was pretty certain they kept the pins. Luckily, they had not rearranged anything since the last time the scene shop needed a sewing kit, and I found myself in an isle full of both familiar and unfamiliar things. I decided on pins, and a pin cushion (the classic tomato), and a tape measure (as all the ones I had at home were metal and for use with wood), and a set of hand sewing needles just in case.  My dad, when he refurbished the machine, had been thoughtful enough to include a seam ripper.  That was a BRILLIANT idea. I decided that I didn’t need two, however.  Realizing that a thimble was a great idea (as I tend to poke myself trying to get needles through layers), and those square tailor’s chalk thingys had been fun to play with as a kid, I threw those in the basket too.  Now I had one of everything I knew the name for.  Time to look at the unfamiliar stuff. I bought a small ruler with a sliding blue plastic thing as it had instructions on the back, and said it was for marking hems as well as a few other measurements.  After some deliberation I threw in a circular spiked thingy with a blue handle that claimed to be for transferring patterns.  Just in case- it was less than $5, so I figured why not… I’d find a use for it later.

As I was leaving the section of familiar items, I found a table behind the register of clearance items.  Included on the table were a bunch of packets of patterns and a sign saying “Clearance- all patterns 99 cents”.  That got me thinking. With the exception of watching costumers, I had never really seen what was on the inside of a pattern packet.  I mean, I knew there would be weird looking shapes that you put together to make the picture on the front, but I honestly had no idea what was actually in there (really easily ripped paper, it turns out).  I decided, on the spot, that if I was going to learn to sew, I may as well make something that would be useful. (Not that the bags aren’t, but you can really only carry one at a time or risk being called a “bag lady”.) At 99 cents per pattern, I would spend a lot less money (and be able to feel far better about myself if I accidentally destroyed one or two) than at the $15-$20 that was originally marked on the pattern envelope.

Got to love a sale. Especially if you think you might destroy something!  I even got the dress in two different sizes just in case I was way off with my measurements!

Got to love a sale. Especially if you think you might destroy something! I even got the dress in two different sizes just in case I was way off with my measurements!

So I immediately walked over into the fleece section (which had large piles I could hide behind) and used my phone to Google search “how to get the right sized pattern”.  After going back and looking at the patterns twice (wandering around the store a bit in the meantime), I discovered that there were measurements written on the pattern envelope.  They were just tucked into the pattern, as they were printed on the top flap.  Kicking myself for not trying to open the pattern earlier, I started reading, and realized that these people expect you to know your measurements- like- in inches. Now, I had just picked up the tape measure, but it was in a sealed case.  Then I remembered.  I have a 12′ tape measure on my keys from when I used to go to Lowes and need to know what size lumber I was getting. Back to the fleece section! I had started wondering a bit if the staff was wondering what I was up to, but they didn’t seem to have fitting rooms at the fabric hut (makes sense as it’s really all just potential clothing), and no one else in the store seemed to be measuring themselves out in the open.  A few quick checks with the tape measure and I was back to the clearance table, all the time whispering my measurements so I wouldn’t forget them, and hoping no one thought I was going crazy.

I figured out on the first pattern that I was either a size 14 or 16.  The second pattern said the same thing.  When the third pattern said the same thing again, I decided that patterns were not like the mall, and that the store you were in didn’t have much determination on your size. So I started sorting through to find some clothes that I figured looked both interesting, and extremely easy.  Luckily for the latter, there were actually patterns marked “EASY!”.

See?  It must not be hard!

See? It must not be hard!

After finding 3-4, I suddenly realized there were odd letters on the front.  Apparently, unbeknownst to me, and the couple of sites from Google that would load on my phone, once you have your size, you need to have the correct pattern size. A few simple leaps in logic (kick-started by finding all of the copies of one pattern that I could and comparing the covers) finally had me on the correct path.  I got what I figured was some easy projects to start myself off, and then realized that if I was going to make these, I would need fabric.

Luckily, I remembered reading online that the back of the pattern told you everything you needed to buy for the project, and how much of it.  When I flipped the first pattern over and started trying to read what was back there, I was at first reminded of Pre-Calculus class, where we would have to look up all these sine and cosine and tangent equation answers on these huge charts in the back of our book.  After a few moments of absolute panic I realized that there were letters there too!  Apparently the letters told you which skirt or dress or shirt you would be making based on the picture, and from there the charts got much easier.

This looks like a really hard math problem at first, second, AND third glance.

This looks like a really hard math problem at first, second, AND third glance.

I went through and decided on a plan or which items I was going to create, and in what order, and headed back to the fabric.  I had never really shopped for fabric based on colors and patterns before, and I have to say- it was a whole lot of fun! I found a whole bunch of fabirc in what I hoped was the correct type they were talking about in the patterns (deciding that the ones that took what seemed to be “thin stretchy stuff” would wait for later), I headed for the cutting table.  Then back to the fabric.  Then back to the cutting table.  As I was reading through the patterns again I noticed a small note about notions.  Unlike the definition I was used to, this apparently means buttons and zippers and stuff like that.  So I got some of those too.  Finally, I was down to the last thing I needed- interfacing.  I walked around the store a few times trying to remember what the heck that was.  I remembered hearing about it while I was making those large drops in the costume shop.  And that’s when it hit me.  There had been an intern there who had ironed some white stuff without using another piece of fabric over it, and it made the iron sticky!  I was looking for white sticky stuff! (Note- I am not the most mature person, so this made me giggle a little.  I also wan’t about to ask a sales associate where they keep the white sticky stuff.) Luckily I happened to pass by it near the elastic, and then remembered that I needed some of that too.  Figuring that for my purposes all of the interfacing was probably the same (or I’d figure it out later) I grabbed the first one that I found in the correct size bolt, and headed back to the cutting table.

The lady at the cutting table this time was really nice!  She asked me what I was doing, and I told her about my teaching myself to sew, and how excited I was about the cheap patterns, and she was all about it.  She told me that was a great way to start.  She was about to check me out when I remembered one more thing.  The reason I had entered the store in the first place.  I spent 2 hours in Fabric Hut, and I almost left without buying a pair of scissors!

When I finally checked out (with both scissors and snips), I had two very big bags, and the sales associate wished me luck, and reminded me to not get too frustrated as this was supposed to be fun! I remembered reading online that you were supposed to wash your fabric before using it (and I still needed to do laundry anyway), so I headed to the laundromat- via Lowes. You see, I needed a place to keep all this new stuff.  When I had made a sewing kit for the Stage Company, I had put it all in a tackle box, and that seemed to work well.  So on the way back with all my stuff I went and got a decently priced tackle box that looked like it would fit all my new stuff, plus the stuff that my dad had sent with the machine (which for those of you who are keeping score, included thread and bobbins). Because you can teach a carpenter to sew, but you can’t take the carpenter out of the sewer.  (Or something like that!)

Next week on my new sewing adventures: Lessons in skirt making, or Patterns, Ahoy!

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