Saturday, May 19, 2007

My Thoughts On Sewing Clothes...

OK - so I know that my son is almost 4 years old, but here are some baby photos! Wasn't he cute? Anyway these are photos to illustrate how useful it can sometimes be to know how to sew clothes!

Here we go: the 2 of us just before leaving the hospital (I'm wearing pregnancy clothes - and believe me, by this stage in the game I was pretty tired of them!), at home when he is about a week old (I'm wearing my DH's shirt), and finally - when he is 2 and 3 months old - I am wearing nursing dresses that I made. All I can say - thank goodness I know how sew because I loved these dresses! They were sooo comfortable, light and cool, never wrinkled (great choice of fabric on my part) totally washable (I pre-washed the fabric first so no fears of shrinking!), and, I think they were pretty. I felt good wearing them. Every sleep deprived, nursing Momma should be lucky enough to have at least 1 such dress! The pattern for these 2 dresses are Elizabeth Lee Designs #204 with some slight changes made by me ( . If you know a nursing Momma - I can't recommend these patterns enough!!! I found that it was necessary to make the inside nursing slit much lower for easier access and I put the side ties at a different location, but all in all I was thrilled with this pattern. I even made this dress in a non-nursing version for a friend of mine.

When I had my son, I had no idea, and I mean - NO IDEA whatsoever that my pre-pregnancy clothes would not fit me the day I left the hospital. Never mind the fact that I gained 82 pounds during my pregnancy (yes, you read that right - 82 lbs! I went from 108 pounds up to 190) and my baby weighed 8.2. Never mind the fact that I am the youngest of a big family and have many nieces and nephews - none of my sisters thought to tell me about this little minor detail! Truly it was a shock that I had to leave the hospital in my pregnancy clothes. And, all the photos from the 1st 2 weeks of my son's life - well, I am wearing my husband's shirts because nothing else would fit! Ugh!

Finally, one of my sisters took pity on me and bought me a few nursing tank tops, but they were jersey and showed every spot of wetness, plus were a tiny bit snug - not exactly flattering, but functional and believe me, I was happy to have them. My son was born in June and what I really wanted was some SUMMERY nursing dresses - but I couldn't find one that I really liked AND I just couldn't bring myself to spend that kind of money on a dress that I knew cost a fraction of that to make . So, in between nursing every 2 hours 24/7 (hungry baby!), and running my business (yeah, like most people out there - I do work, I just don't think I've mentioned it before!) I got busy making a few simple nursing clothes. My son was christened at 3 weeks of age and I had my 1st dress completed just in time! Phew! And... thank goodness!!!

A bit of history - have I ever mentioned that I grew up without TV? Or, that I'm from a big family? The TV was disposed of, years before I was born, because Bozo the Clown conflicted with the family dinner time. Mom wasn't about to compete with Bozo - so the TV went out the door. We did have TV periodically (rentals!) - once when my brother was sick from an ear infection, 2X to watch the winter Olympics, and then, finally - sometimes for extended periods in the winter. But - certainly never in the summer.

My Mom was good about finding other things for us all to do - we did many craft projects, loved sliding outdoors, baked goodies, karate lessons, swimming lessons, and for me - 1 winter of sewing and another winter of weaving lessons. Thankfully sewing lessons from a private instructor as I swear my Home Ec teacher hated me because I did things slightly different! I remember how SLOW sewing lessons were - I wanted to make the project that day! Why did I have to spend so much time at the ironing board? Why did I have to learn how to hand sew a nice hem when there was a sewing machine sitting in front of me? As my son likes to ask... why, why, why!? But, the lessons did sink in and today, I am thankful that I have a good, basic background in sewing clothes. Let's just forget about some of the hideous outfits I made which were the cats meow of the day (think knickers with matching vests here!).

I sewed on my Mom's old machine - I think a Kenmore - one that had cams for decorative stitches. Years later, I took a college course on garmet construction. This was a very economical course as it only cost $30 ($10 per credit - a California college and I was a resident). We had full access to MANY industrial machines. Wow! I loved this course! There was a man in the course who signed up for it every time it was offered just to use the machines all semester for $30. He was an excellent sewer - often cutting out 3 dresses at the same time (same pattern, different fabrics) and then set to work production style - sewing them. Unlike home sewing machines that are built to do a variety of stitches, industrial machines usually only do ONE function, but they do it very well, and very fast! And yes, I picked up a few new sewing trick in that class too. And, I think it is important to note, while I was happy to sew at class on these supersonic machines, I was still happy sewing at home on a small, portable sewing machine my Mom had sent to me as a present - she bought it from an Amway catalog and probably paid less than $100 for it. It was a mechanical machine and sewed just fine.

Truly, I am lucky that I have had the learning opportunities that I have had, plus a sister who is an excellent seamstress who, to this day, is always giving me helpful little pointers. Because, believe me, I am not the best garmet sewer out there, but I do know enough to get a result that is satisfactory to me. I can't even say that I am a "steady" garmet sewer -as often I will take BIG breaks in garmet sewing, opting instead to spend my crafty time doing something else. But should the need or desire arise (like needing nursing clothes or needing to make my sons pants because he is sooo thin and long legged, or just enjoying making his PJ's and blankets because he enjoys picking out the fabrics, etc.,) - I know what to do.

I think that people who have the desire to learn to sew should have that opportunity. Some people are lucky enough to have lessons or mentors, others are on their own. And, I suppose, if you don't know how to sew, don't even know if you like to sew, then the task of starting can seem daunting. But, if you don't start - you will never learn. Ummm - just don't start out with fabric that costs a bazillion dollars a yard, ok?

I hope to share some of my sewing skill, such that they are, plus my thoughts on sewing equipment, here on my blog. Maybe, somewhere, somehow, my posts will help someone out along the way.