Friday, August 16, 2013

How to Get Started

So, since I had never really sewn before, I decided I needed to start small.  Very small.  This was back in May; I figured I had plenty of time to fail or change my mind before deciding to go back to the wedding shop and buy one of the gowns I had tried on. 
My Friend from the wedding shop dressing room had emailed me the photos, which I forwarded to my mom, sister, and another friend.  There was no clear winner.  And, while it was fun to try those gowns on, the photos helped me see that I wasn't that ecstatic about how they looked from an outside perspective.
Back to my decision to make my own dress.  My mom thought I was crazy--"Why on earth would you want to do that!?" (I think she was kind of panicking).  

My sister actually said, "You'll just feel obligated to wear it, even when it comes out lopsided!"  (Seriously, did you really just say that?  but I did laugh, 'cause it was kind of funny.)  

didn't let them sway me, for the reasons I discussed in my first post.  But I realized I was taking a pretty big risk, so I didn't immediately throw all caution to the wind.
Instead, I marched to the nearest fabric store, a chain hobby shop which actually has quite a lot of fabric, mostly cotton prints (probably for quilting, but what do I know? nothing about quilting, that's for sure), and bought about a yard each of three different on-sale fabrics, and a spool of tulle.  I also found some fusible seam binding which I thought looked interesting, so I decided to try it out.  Oh, and some elastic.  And, some Velcro.  And, some hooks and eyes.  And what do you think I did? 
I measured my daughter's (let's just call her Little Miss) American Girl Doll (named Amanda) and started figuring out how to make skirts.  This is when I discovered sewing blogs. 

I mean, really, there's a whole 'nother world out there I never knew existed!  (Well, I guess you, lovely readers, are a part of this world, so you already know this.  For me, it was a huge revelation!) 

I learned so much from reading smart sewing blogs.  Every day I discovered another one.  I was so captivated by Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing, I decided I needed to start from the beginning and get caught up to the present.  That only took about three months.  I have so many favorites that I can't really list them all here.  But these are the tutorials I used for learning how to make gathered skirts:  Gertie, Adventures in Dressmaking, and By Hand London.

I made three straight skirts:

Amanda's Straight Skirt #1
{This photo is not the best,
but it gives a sense of the fabric's color, sparkle,  and sheerness}

Amanda's Straight Skirt #2

{The third straight skirt is identical to the second, only longer, so I didn't include the photo here.}

a short gathered skirt:

and a tutu skirt:

Amanda's tutu skirt
{we're still finding glitter all over the house!}

and then I cut up an old t-shirt of mine and made a tube top.  That was an all-day effort, and then some.  But, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn't.  The short, gathered skirt I think came out the best. 

I was glad I had impulse-bought the seam tape, because at this point I really didn't remember how to use the sewing machine, and adding that on top of learning how to make a skirt (three, no less) would have been a little much. 

Also, it turns out that (other than the gathering stiches, and attaching the waistbands, which I did by hand) it was easier to manipulate the small pieces of fabric at the ironing board than it might have been at the sewing machine.  Plus, as inexperienced as I was, I think the seams and hems came out straighter than I could have done with a needle and thread.  The seam tape actually gave a nice firm edge to turn the fabric over for the hem, for example. 

I don't think I'll ever use that stuff on a garment for people, though.  That wouldn't really be "sewing," would it?  More like, "gluing."

Little Miss was so delighted!  I did all of this while she was at school, and didn't tell her about it, so it was a total surprise when she came home.  I never expected how much she would love those little skirts! 

Little Miss decided that Amanda was going on a date.  (I asked her, "how old is Amanda?  I thought she was just a baby!  At least, she was last week."  Apparently, Amanda was sixteen that day.)  I realized suddenly that those new little outfits expanded her play imagination opportunities A LOT.  And that made me really happy!

What do you think I did next, readers?  Next post I'll talk about how I turned those (admittedly still very) new skills into some people clothes.

I'm curious, readers, if you are sewists, how did you get started?  Was it intimidating, or did you charge right into it with confidence?  What inspired you, and what inspires you today?

I'm not honestly sure what led me to think I could undertake this project; I guess I just sort of knew it was the right thing for me, for no rational reason!

P.S.:  Although I plan to include tutorials in future posts, I'm not the best person to teach basic sewing skills, as I'm still learning myself.  One of my favorite go-to resources is Tilly's Learn to Sew resources on her awesome blog Tilly and the Buttons.  She starts from the very beginning--a very good place to start--with how to set up your sewing machine.  To me, that was one of the most intimidating parts.  Thankfully, my soon-to-be husband, The Pilot, knows how to sew and got it all set up for me.  (Sigh!  He can do everything.)

Till next time!--Ayana

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