Graduation Day

“Pomp and Circumstance” swells in the background.  Da, da da da dum dum, da, da da da, dummmm.  It’s time for real fabric.  I know, I can hardly believe it myself.  All growed up, right before your very eyes.

Time to begin my first sewing project.  The task in front of me is to turn this gorgeous William Morris charm pack by Moda into something resembling a quilt.

I was fortunate enough to pick up this beauty at the 2017 Quilt Market in St. Louis.  Quilt Market absolutely merits its own full post…I attended classes, met cool people (Tula Pink!), and learned a ton.  But for now, I’ll just say that the spring market’s Schoolhouse Series opened with an amazing presentation by Jenny Lister of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum about their collaboration with Moda on the William Morris fabric line.  Incredibly cool stuff.  And we even got to take home some of this gorgeous new line…score!

So, time to put it to good use.  The plan is to keep it simple:  stitch the squares together.  The color pattern is mine to play with, so step one is figuring out the layout.  This part of the process was both incredibly freeing and a bit overwhelming…I’m all about freedom within form, but this presented a whole lot of freedom with very little form to guide me.  As our design wall hadn’t yet arrived (it’s here now, though!), I used our cutting table to start playing around.

I seemed to be naturally going with a color-sorting theme, so I went with it.  Kind of a fun way to modernize some more traditional prints.

But now, to sew it together.  Molar gnashing commences.  Please don’t let me screw up this gorgeous fabric…please don’t let me screw up this gorgeous fabric…please don’t…

As if she’s heard my internal monologue, Anne has introduced me to what is surely about to become my new best friend:  the seam ripper.  Somehow I didn’t fully realize that anything that could be sewed could just as easily be unsewed, courtesy of said seam ripper.  This is comforting.

Here goes.

I grab two squares, line them up face to face, and bring them to the machine with the back of the fabric facing me.  I line up the square with the 1/4″ guide, lower the foot, and press a button to get the needle in place.  (Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about?  Because we’re living moment to moment here, folks.)

And I sew them together!  And the first set is done!  And no fingers nor machines nor pieces of fabric were harmed in the making of this quilt.

Thus far.

Fabric!

Fabric!  I’m so excited and terrified and think I might sew through a finger.  Anne makes me take Mr. Pointer Finger and try to stuff him under the needle, claiming that it would be pretty darn difficult to accidentally sew myself in.  Point taken.

Today’s task is to continue the line theme but on fabric.  So step 1 is to thread the needle.  Lucky for me, we chose Baby Lock Presto machines here at The Create Workspace and they have self-threading needles.  Yup, you read that right.  Needles that thread THEMSELVES.  We’re living in the future, folks.

How does this sorcery work?  The kind engineers at Baby Lock have made this incredibly simple, even for those of us with spatial relations issues (ahem).  Once the spool is tucked into its little home, you literally wind the thread through the numbers on the machine.  It’s like a maze, but with the correct path all laid out for you.

The final step, number 9 (number 9…number 9…number 9…no Beatles fans here?  Just me?), is a big lever on the side of the machine.  One big push of the lever and the machine pops the thread through the needle’s eye, with a small loop sticking out the opposite side.  All one has to do is grab that small loop and pull it through.

Donesie!  One of my larger middle school sewing crises thoroughly averted from here on out.  Oh, and the bobbin?  Drop it in.  Done.

And now, fabric.  Anne procured me a perfect starting piece:  a scrap of quilting cotton with stripes ¼” wide.  The goal is to sew right down the center of the stripe without wavering.  I pick a light stripe at the center of the scrap and set to work.

First line goes reasonably well.  A bit wavy, but hey, it’s my first go and I didn’t sew my finger in (I know, Anne, I know).  Full of newfound and ill-placed confidence, I go for one of the red stripes.  Here’s the thing:  it’s a lot harder to stay straight without that lovely contrasted border between the green and red to serve as a guide.  Light red next to dark red presents a bit of a challenge.

Nevertheless, I persevere.  Ok, not the straightest lines in the universe, but a step forward on this novice’s journey.  Onward!

Lines!

No more stalling, time to face the machine.  I’ve procrastinated nicely, starting by making myself my new favorite morning treat:  a cappuccino made with Fairlife chocolate milk (yes, I know, but don’t knock it till you try it).

But now even that is gone, so it is time to begin.

Anne has kindly agreed to take me on as her student and has suggested that we start slow.  I knew I liked her.

So task one is to work on straight lines.  Anne’s tactic here is no thread, no fabric.  This feels a bit like the “Friends” episode where Phoebe wants Joey to learn guitar without an actual guitar.

Anyway, we’re starting today with just the machine’s needle and a small piece of lined paper.  The goal is to keep the settings at low and slow, just working on control.  Follow the lines on paper and let the track of tiny holes show you how you’re doing.

Ok, so this is a brilliant way to begin.  My first few attempts felt like I was back in high school driver ed, afraid to give a powerful machine too much gas.  I stopped to ask Anne if I could ruin a sewing machine with too many starts and stops, grinding down those lovely gears.  She told me to just keep going.

Line by line by line by line.  Slow going and I’m nowhere near perfect on those lines, but I’m at least getting a feel for the machine.  By the end of our session, we even took it up to medium (ludicrous speed will have to wait), and I didn’t die.  Though I may have hyperventilated a bit.  Mostly my eyes just teared up a lot.  I think this is the result of not blinking ever.  Have I mentioned I’m a bit of a perfectionist?

Anyway, paper now thoroughly lined.  Next.

And so it begins…

The sewing machine has arrived.

It’s staring me down.  Like, “You think you can handle me?  Really?”

And so my sewing adventures begin.  In fairness, they began many (many, many, many) years ago, back in 7th grade’s mandatory home ec class.

Me in seventh grade (I’m rocking the awesome pink suit.)

We learned the basic ropes of our very basic machines and had to complete two projects from patterns we were allowed to select ourselves:  in my case, that was a pair of red tartan plaid pajama shorts and a smallish brown teddy bear.  (I feel like maybe the teddy bear had some sort of pouch situation?  To hold the pajama shorts?  More research needed.)  My vague memories suggest that it was not something I excelled at.  I feel like I recall trouble with bobbins?  Does that even make sense?

So, memory lane now walked, here we are in 2017 with me returning the sewing machine’s stare.  Why?  Well, it’s mostly Anne’s fault.  She’s a fantastic sewer and quilter extraordinaire, she’s founded Ethol House Quilting Company, and she’s totally inspired me with her creations.

Second, here at The Create Workspace, we’re converting an area of our studio to provide sewing and quilting facilities for walk-in visits, classes, and camps.  So I figured it’s time to walk the walk.  And, if that wasn’t enough, I want to learn how to make clothes.  I’ve become enamored of gorgeous fabrics from the likes of Free Spirit, Cloud 9, and Birch, and I’m dying to create with them.  Oh, and hello cosplay!  Sooooooo into this.

It’s true; I’m actually Leslie Knope IRL

And that catches us up.  Join me here for my adventures as I attempt to re-learn to sew.  Whether I can inspire you fellow beginners or provide chuckles for you experienced folks, I look forward to sharing the journey together.