Sewing – in a holding pattern

Cool + disconcerting (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
Cool + disconcerting (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

Since Oanh has immersed herself in sewing, and I’m surrounded by adept crafters on Twitter (looking at you, @meganjmcpherson @deborahbrian @kyliebudge @amieoshea), I’ve experienced a renaissance in sewing interest.

It makes learning and doing all new things feel much more do-able when savvy advice is on hand at just about any waking hour.

I’ve become a person who browses fabric and feels clothes to work out what material they’re made of (still not good at this because I’m only on a first name basis with a very narrow range of them). I also turn sleeves and hems around to see how they’re done, and to work out whether I could do it (current track-record is flagging a ‘no’…).

Our fabric pile is building. Being a texture-freak, with a hoarding habit that extends to kitchenware (particularly Japanese) and stationery, this is a road that poses dangers for domestic space and bank accounts.

So, what have we done since you were treated to the pic-post of PJ Birdy?

Masquerade capes, tunics, and masks!

Homemade masquerade (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
Homemade masquerade (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

My SIL had a masquerade party for her 30th, and we decided to make the costumes rather than rent or buy them. This is mostly because we browsed the websites of various costume and party shops.

One would be forgiven for thinking that all women preferred to dress up with their busts spilling out from poorly laced bustiers, or in tight ‘sexy’ nurses’ outfits that look like remainders from the heyday of 1970s soft p0rn.

Because I was resisting either of these looks, something thrifty + low-key was more my style.

We decided to cloak/hood everyone. We were going to be a dressed up as a family of masquerade owls (a la Venice carnivale), but E. declared – with distinct 6-year-old stubbornness – that she was going to be a vampire. One that wore a mask.

The revised plan was for her dad + her to be vampires, and me + G. would be owl-style. My mother said she’d wear a hooded cloak + mask, but didn’t particularly want to be anything.

So, armfuls of cheap’n cheerful dance satin and sale fabric later, the kids were relatively well turned out (pic on left).

E. had a shiny black vampire dress with upstanding collar, teamed with transparent silver cape (Halloween pattern). The mask was partially done by E. and her dad.

G. had a store-bought owl mask and ‘ears’, feather-pattern cape, and plain brown tunic (with rope belt) underneath. The mask lasted all of three minutes once we were at the party.

S. made a full capelet/cape to go with his interpretation of a Venetian festive mask (and requisite fangs) – see top pic.

Several things that struck me during the making of the 3 x adult capes, 2 x children’s capes, 2 x children’s tunic/dress, and 3 x home-decorated masks:

  • Considering we were doing everything from scratch with extremely rudimentary skillsets, it turned out OK. This made me like sewing more because you could see the potential in gaining higher level skills, but what we had also served its purpose.
  • It all happened fairly fast, over a period of 2 weeks all up, but it felt like a lot of time. Just about every evening involved tracing, cutting, pinning, and sewing.
  • Just about all the stuff we made can be re-used for future Halloweens, tweaked slightly (or not).
Owly (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
Owly (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

Having talked about the sewing and solicited strangers’ advice on Twitter (the ultimate measure of immersion…), I’ve inherited fabric stashes (thankyou, @noojies!), and greatly enjoyed the generosity of the sewing community. I’m loving the YouTube tutorials and followed one slavishly in setting my first zipper – it turned out much better than I’d hoped!

My skills are still low-level, but I’m starting to expand my understanding of what makes a good piece of clothing, and how one accounts of the vagaries of the human body.

My most recent project was a dress for E., which was meant to be ‘easy’. It was, in fact, a 7-piece pattern that involved facing and the aforementioned zipper. I wisely bypassed setting in sleeves for the moment. The resulting item is still not completely finished. It’s down to the final hemming and fitting, and it fell by the wayside with my return to full blogging duties at Research Whisperer (and my trying to bank posts here at Banana Lounge).

Excuses, excuses, I know. It will be finished. I just have to make time. Meanwhile, sewing projects are in a holding pattern, even as the idea of sewing and fabric stalking takes up an active part of my work-a-day mind.


2 thoughts on “Sewing – in a holding pattern

  1. oanh 18/02/2013 / 6:53 pm

    But, hang on – I know what E, G & S wore, but what did *you* wear?

    Sewing is a rather consuming hobby, isn’t it? Even when I am not sewing, I am plotting and planning what to sew next, and when I can sew it. I like that I can get things right if I’m just prepared to be methodical (tick!), and accept that I’m not going to make perfect items first up, or even second and sometimes third up. But that I’ll probably get there.

    I am learning to only sew in small snatches of time, to not worry about how long something takes me to sew, and that if I want to stay up late to finish something, I shouldn’t. Because all that will happen is I will make terrible mistakes that I will then have to either accept or spend longer than it took me to make the mistake, to unmake the mistake.

    And I’m also learning that when I feel demoralised by some hard garment sewing, that I should just make some kind of bag. They make me feel so gleeful and accomplished, for so little effort, and then I’m right back to being ready to tackle invisible zippers or “easing in” a sleeve or fitting a bodice etc.

    Hurrah! Looking forward to seeing more makes by you, whatever they be.

  2. Tseen Khoo 18/02/2013 / 9:49 pm

    I wore an ‘owl’ mask (feathered + sequinned by myself – used a Batman mask as the base…!), formal dress + chocolate brown satin hooded cape (to kinda sorta match little G.). No good photos exist. πŸ˜›

    I think your attitude is the track I need to take, too. It’s meant to be a fun hobby that challenges and is fun. It’s not a production line. Things don’t have to be finished in a few days (as long as they get finished!). It’s the perpetual lament of hobbyists but I tihnk not having a dedicated space makes a big difference. For sewing, we use the dining table, which is possibly the most used piece of furniture in the entire house. It is usually covered in drifts of papers, toys, school notices, and overlooked mail. Every time we want to use if for sewing, there’s a clean-up involved (talk about demotivating).

    I’ve promised G. a set of pants made from a vivid insect fabric. I love that fabric. πŸ™‚

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