Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sew What?

WARNING: This post has been rated "D" by the DGAU (Domestic Goddess Association of the Universe), for showing graphic detail of the Domestically Disabled.

If you're a crafty person with a modicum of skill with a needle, read this at your own peril. The author is not responsible for any twitches, eyebrows arched in disbelief, or gobsmacked expressions that may occur while reading this post.


If you're still reading this, let it be known once again that as talented as I am at some artistic media (including music and paint), sewing eludes me. It seems so simple, a child could do it. In fact, children do do it, every day in various countries of the world. (I almost edited that last sentence, but then decided, what the heck? I'll leave it in there for my own base amusement).

Having been unemployed for two months now, my husband and I are trying to find things to do around the house to keep ourselves busy, make things better, and stay out of each other's hair. We rounded up all the partial cans of paint under the stairs and mixed a few together to paint the kitchen a nice, mediterranean-type of yellow -- like a sun-washed, aged stucco found on an old Italian farmhouse. At least, that was the goal; we actually came pretty close.

I think the lingering paint fumes may have had something to do with my next move: "Hey!" I thought to myself. "I have all this material from these old red-and- gold striped curtains, so I'll just use it to make some valances for the kitchen windows."

For those that don't know, I'll repeat again that I am a sewing dunce. I was actually banned from touching the sewing machines in 7th grade Home Ec because I broke two of them. The teacher wasn't sure how I'd managed it, either, but I had to hand-sew my final project, which was an apron. Perhaps that is why I really don't enjoy this particular craft to this day...I didn't own a thimble and got pricked quite a lot. I even used to be pretty upset at the Biblical Eve. I figured that if she hadn't have goofed up in the Garden, then I wouldn't be having to suffer through sewing class in Junior High School because there wouldn't be a need for it.

Fast-forward twentyish years, and here I am attempting this activity once again. I told myself it wasn't that difficult, and to quit being so put off by the idea of sewing. I know lots of people that sew lots of cute things. I should be able to do this, right? Right? So, I get out my little basic sewing machine that I was given a number of years's cute, yellow, and only makes one straight stitch, in the forward direction only. It would appear to be idiot-proof, and yet somehow it was not the case.

After fumbling with the darned thing for about an hour, I got it to actually sew. Yes, I read the directions. Then it took me another hour and a half to cut and pin the fabric I was trying to sew, to make it all even so my valances matched in length. I had three windows to do, so a total of six hems were required. I stabbed myself a few times, but I shook it off because I was sooooo determined to do this, and do it right. I sat down at the little sewing machine, and put my first piece of material in place...and stared at it for a moment. I started sewing...did you know it is very easy to sew a crooked line? I can apparently do those very easily.

I ripped out the first seam, and tried it again. Three hours later, I have one valance completed because I wasn't going to do it over yet again, half of another valance done, and think I'm starting to get the hang of this stuff. The last seam I had completed was moderately straight, and I only had to do it once. Foolish mortal. It was at that point that I broke the sewing machine needle. And lots of thread. (Did you know that it is a very important thing to make sure the "foot" is all the way down before you start to sew? Now I do, too.)

So, after another couple of hours, all three curtain panels are done and I got them hung. It only took me six hours to get these done (an average of one hour per seam). I have two short, straight panels on the side windows, and a bunched version the same depth that is over the larger sink window. Now that I look at them, I can see that they are in desperate need of an iron, but at this point I am too tired to care. I'm gonna have to claim the "domestically disabled" status for this, too. I generally only iron when I'm angry.

Here's a couple of examples of what I finally produced. They're not perfect, but they'll work. It's the principle of the thing, y'know? I made 'em and bled for 'em, so they're staying up there for a while. You'll notice that even though both of these windows are in the same room, the yellow looks different in the two pictures. This is because I have a naked fluorescent bulb perched over the sink that bathes everything in a garish light. Incidentally, the bunched curtain's hem is actually even (I know; will wonders never cease?), it just looks wonky in the picture due to the angle.

I'm thinking those paint fumes must have been pretty darned strong, because a few days later, I decide that the descent into sewing hell hadn't really been all that bad, and decide to attempt a new project. Please select from the following:

Does this look like:

A) a hand puppet that conveniently doubles as a voodoo doll,

B) Gumby had a run-in with an incinerator,

C) a maxi-pad on steroids, or

D) a cloth representation of a 3-yr-old's drawing of an airplane?

I can tell you that it's none of the above, although the maxi-pad is the closest. Because we are unemployed, keeping my son in disposable butt covers is becoming a challenge. I am trying to figure out ways to make a washable, reusable liner for his undies that is both comfortable, but also really absorbent so we don't have accidents in public. Something tells me this first attempt is just a bit off the mark, but it's my first try.

I used old fleece sweatpants as the outer layer, for both his bum's comfort and the "gripping action" of the fleece, similar to how a flannel-board works. I figured it would help the liner to stay in place in his undies. The "wings" are supposed to have snaps set in place, and will lock under his briefs much the same way "wings" do on a feminine product. I lined the bottom with a vinyl fabric, and put the interior of an old pair of training pants and two layers of super-absorbent chamois cloth in the middle.

Next try, I'm going to use part of an old fabric-covered travel baby-changing pad as the water-proof element and fiddle with my proportions a bit. The current prototype hangs out the top and bottom of my son's measurements were a little too generous. I knew you had to allow some extra room for seam-allowances, but didn't know how much. To my credit, though, I stitched the whole mess together inside out, and flipped it right-side out, so all the seams are on the interior of this...thing. What you see is the unfinished bottom where I haven't sewn it all shut yet. You can also see that I am having to repair one of the "wings" which was pulled loose during the flipping portion of the project. A few unflattering terms may have come loose, too, while I was trying to turn it inside out.

Due to all the time I'm spending getting to know my sewing machine (and my seam ripper), I am starting to re-think my original classification of the act of sewing. I no longer think it deserves a place in Dante's Inferno, in a Canto reserved especially for the craftily inept. Although I am far from being competent with a needle and thread, this sewing stuff does show some promise...not including the incinerated Gumby, of course.

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